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Title: The Rotinese : a study of the social organisation of an Eastern Indonesian people
Author: Fox, James J.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1968
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This thesis is an ethnographic study of some of the principal social categories of the Rotinese, a population of approximately 100,000 living in the Timor area of Eastern Indonesia. Roti, the home land of the Rotinese where over 70,000 Rotinese still live, is a small island with a relatively high populatian density. Unlike other islands in Indonesia , Roti, the southernmost island of the archipelago is a dry land with few natural springs and subject to an irregular and inadequate monsoon rain. Because of this lack of water, the Rotinese are tappers of the lontar or palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer L.). Yet they also cultivate rice, which is for them a prestige food, in both wet and dry rice fields, as well as a variety of mixed crops, including millet, sorghum and maize in well-fenced fields and gardens and they keep herds of water buffalo, sheep, goats, and horses which roam freely on unfenced land. Traditionally, the island of Roti is divided into eighteen self-ruling domains. From the early records of the Dutch East India Company, it is evident that most of these domains have existed as independent states for well over 250 years. In modern Indonesia, these same domains remain the administrative units of the island. Each domain is governed by its own Lord, who together with the lords of the various clans that make up the domain, presides at a flourishing court and makes decisions based upon the customary usage of that domain. Discourse and dispute are the first loves of the Rotinese. Rotinese society is hierarchical, with fixed classes of nobles and commoners. Nobles are ranked in status and belong to one of two clans, the clan of the Male-Lord and the clan of the Female or Sister-Lord. The Male-Lord who presides at court is the highest noble of the domain and is its political head, but he shares his temporal power with a Female-Lord or Lord-fetor. A dignitary, the Head of the Earth, of a commoner clan, traditionally regarded as the oldest clan of the domain, is the Male-Lord's ritual superior and, at court, is the traditional authority on customary usage. Each named clan recognized at court is distinguished by its separate traditions, rights, and privileges. Clans are compared to trees and like trees are of different size. Noble clans with their named lineages (or 'branches') are far more differentiated than are commoner clans. Some clans are highly exogamous for reasons of status or size; some are preferably exogamous; while other clans, not larger than small lineages, are strictly exogamous. A child's membership within his lineage is established by his father's payment of his mother's bridewealth. A woman, for whom bridewealth is not paid, contributes children to her brother's lineage. Marriage on Roti is not prescriptive, but the Rotinese do have alliances (described as the 'tying' of various kinds of bonds) and they do have preferred forms of cross-cousin marriage. The clans of the Male and Female Lords should, it is felt, be joined in alliance but each domain has its own special alliances between particular groups. Women, ranked according to the status of their lineage and their clan, are accorded different levels of bridewealth and are exchanged among descent groups to the formation of alliances. Alliances, once established, endure for three generations and the former wife-givers, a person's matrilateral affines, are his obligationary ritual protectors throughout his life. A person's a matrilateral affines are spoken of as the 'roots' by which a person grows and prospers; these all important relations are described by a variety of metaphors involving the imagery of planting and growing. The prefatory remarks outline some of the problems considered in the thesis: the concern with the control of water and women; the equation frequently drawn between women, water, and the moon; the distinction between marriageable and unmarriageable women; the categories of male and female as used to order society; the problem of dyadic and triadic classification and the pervasive metaphor of plant and tree. Chapter I is a general introduction, describing the island of Roti and ita political divisions, the distribution of the population and the linguistic position of Rotinese with its many dialects. The Botinese, in fact, possess two languages: an ordinary language and a ritual or poetic language. The ritual language, used on formal occasions, is based on an ordered pairing of all words and expressions. This language of dualism with its established corpus of chants and sayings is a collective expression of Rotinose wisdom. On the basis of statements in both ordinary and ritual language, Chapter I offers an analysis of the primary co-ordinates of the symbolic order and of the Rotinese concepts of order and perfection. Chapter II is a study of Rotinese modes of livelihood: the classification of the 'nine seeds' or crops of the Botinese, the male and female lontar palm, the various sacrificial corporations that organise work in the fields and the annual agricultural cycle. The lontar palm is given special attention because of its crucial importance to subsistence and also because of the symbolism it provides. Chapter II includes a discussion of the use of fencing in the establishment of land ownership or membership in a field corporation. The structure of the sacrificial corporations that control water is shown to be analogous to the structure of power and authority in the domain. The first half of Chapter III provides an examination of Rotinese ideas about the structure of the domain: the nature of social classes, the place of ritual authority, the division of temporal power, the structure of the court and the quality of 'maleness' which hierarchically orders the society. The second half of this chapter considers in detail the organization of a single domain, that of Termanu. A summarry is made of the principal legends of each clan and the rights and privileges these legends are said to validate. The ideal structure of the domain is compared with the actual existing organisation. The first half of Chapterr IV offers an analysis of the subdivisions of the clan: the lineages that regulate marriage and the individual property holding houses found scattered wherever there is sufficient water to maintain a household. The role of women and the incorporation of clients is also discussed. The second half of this chapter again deals with the domain of Termanu: the subdivisions of its clans and lineages. Detailed data are provided on the incorporation of a single client line and on a village area of the domain. Chapter V is an examination of marriage and alliance among the Rotinese. Agnatic relations are distinguished from affinal relations, particularly the matrilateral relations of the former wife-givers. Rotineae ideas on marriage are discussed as is the all important ritual role of the mother's brother. Finally the Rotinese relatioship terminology is considered as a system of reference, address and sentiment. Onoe appendix gives the ritual names of the island of Roti and its domains, while another appendixc gives two variant legends which argue the ritual ownership of a source of water in Baä, a small domain of central Roti. The thesis includes a comprehensive bibliography of Roti and a brief additional bibliography of other works used in the preparation of the thesis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethnology ; Social structure ; Social life and customs ; Indonesia ; Roti Island ; Roti Island (Indonesia)