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Title: Chewong modes of thought
Author: Howell, Signe
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1981
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This is an ethnographic study of the Chewong, a small group of aboriginal people who live in the tropical rain forest of peninsular Malaysia. They are shifting cultivators, hunters and gatherers. After an introductory chapter in which language, history, ecology, economy, demography, and kinship are briefly examined, the main body of the thesis is presented in three parts. In Part Two, "Relationships", I suggest that a lack of hierarchy on the political level is only one manifestation of a fundamental egalitarian value system permeating Chewong beliefs and practices. Not only are no humans imbued with a higher status than any other, but also the numerous superhuman beings who inhabit the Chewong universe are not regarded as superior to human beings, nor to one another. In Part Three, "Consciousness and Relativity", the discussion focuses upon Chewong conceptionsof what it means to be human. This includes an evaluation of their concepts of soul, its relationship to the body, and other aspects of the individual. These concepts are then contrasted with Chewong ideas about the rest of nature as well as the superhuman beings. The suggested conclusion is that although there is an envisaged unity of nature (including human beings) and supernature, consciousness is nevertheless species-bound. Part Four, "Rules and Classification" first examines the implications of the numerous rules which govern Chewong behaviour. These are seen to constitue their moral universe and to form a theory of causality. The issue of symbolic classification is then addressed. Taking those rules which refer to animals, an attempt is made to determine explicit or implicit principles which might account for the allocation of specific animals to specific rules. The data are also subjected to a Principal Components Analysis. No underlying principles were found. In view of this it is concluded that membership of a class is due only to contingent circumstances.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Chewong (Malaysian people) Philosophy Religion