Money, magic and fear : identity and exchange amongst the Orang Suku Laut (sea nomads) and other groups of Riau and Batam, Indonesia.
The central focus of my thesis is the symbolism of money and the power it holds in the Riau archipelago and Batam of Indonesia to affect the nature of social relationships. These social relationships in turn affect the different forms of exchange that take place in the archipelago. In particular, I am exploring the meaning and moral implications of monetary and commercial exchanges in contrast to exchanges of other kinds that take place between the Orang Suku Laut and other Malay and non-Malay communities. The Orang Suku Laut are regarded as the Orang asli Melayu (indigenous Malays) of Riau. Yet in the interaction between the Malays and Orang Suku Laut, there exists much fear between them with constant accusations of being poisoned and harmed by one and the other through practices of magic and witchcraft. This stems from the Malays' perception of the Orang Suku Laut as a "dangerous, dirty and unprogressive people. " The Orang Suku Laut are regarded as preferring a life of nomadism, and one without a religious orientation towards Islam, as opposed to a life of sedentism guided by the Islamic religion. This thesis explores how this self and other perceptions which have shaped the image of the Orang Suku Laut, have become enmeshed in the exchange economy of the Orang Suku Laut and the Malays.