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Title: Rice, work and community among the Kelabit of Sarawak, East Malaysia.
Author: Janowski, Monica Rachel Hughes.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3589 1526
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 1991
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This thesis is about the Kelabit, a tribal group living in the interior of the Fourth Division of Sarawak, East Malaysia. They are agriculturalists, growing rice as their symbolically focal crop, and also rely on hunting and gathering. For the Kelabit, the strength of human life is indicated through success in the production of rice and in the reproduction of human beings. Both of these can only be achieved through being 'big people', full adults, in the basic social unit, the hearth-group. The strength of one's life is indicated through on~s performance as 'big person' within the hearth group. This involves maintaining this group as a viable unit through the production of rice and the reproduction of children; the two are brought together through the successful performance of the rice meal within the hearth-group. The holding of such rice meals creates and confirms the prestige of the 'big people' who provide them. The hearth-group may be said to exist at levels above the basic one; at irau, feasts, the rice meal which is held, Which constructs the highest level of the hearthgroup by providing for the entire Kelabit population, generates differential prestige between the 'big people' of different base-level hearth-groups. The nature of the 'life' which is expressed through the performance of the rice meal is made explicit at it. The rice meal, although described as such, includes other foods besides rice; it cannot be a rice meal, in fact, without them. These foods are paradigmatically wild. There is a complementary opposition between rice, produced by human labour, and other foods, Which reproduce without human help. Both sides of the opposition are essential, although it is the rice which is explicitly valued and which stands for the entire complementary opposition. The couple, whose achievements are celebrated at . all rice meals but particularly at feasts, stands for rice itself, the key symbol of humanity, but also, through the association at one level of men with the wild, for the combination of rice with the wild which is essential to the construction of human society. In order to discuss the above thesis, I focus on Kelabit notions of food production and consumption. I look at rice-growing, at how it is marked as 'special' compared to other agricultural activities, and at how it is contrasted to hunting and gathering. I examine the attributes of the couple, the 'big people' of the hearthgroup who are responsible for food production and consumption at the rice meal, and at how these attributes are the basis of prestige generation in Kelabit society. I look at the structure of the rice meal and in particular at feasts, irau, super-rice meals, at which the complementary opposition between rice and wild foods and the nature of human life, which is associated with the nature of the couple, is most clearly stated.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Agriculturalist tribes