Indonesian Sea Nomads: Money, Magic and Fear of the Orang by Cynthia Chou

By Cynthia Chou

The Orang Suku Laut contemplate themselves indigenous Malays. but their interplay with others who name themselves Malays is characterized on either side through worry of destructive magic and witchcraft. The nomadic Orang Suku Laut think that the Qur'an comprises parts of black magic, whereas the settled Malays give some thought to the nomads risky, soiled and backward. on the centre of this research, according to first-hand anthropological information, is the symbolism of cash and the strong impact it has on social relationships in the Riau archipelago. the 1st significant booklet on those maritime nomadic groups, the publication additionally provides clean views on anthropological debates on trade platforms, tribality and hierarchy. It additionally characterises the various methods of being Malay within the area and demanding situations the existing tendency to equate Malay identification with the Islamic religion.

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Indonesian Sea Nomads: Money, Magic and Fear of the Orang Suku Laut (Routledgecurzon-Iias Asian Studies Series)

The Orang Suku Laut give some thought to themselves indigenous Malays. but their interplay with others who name themselves Malays is characterized on each side through worry of destructive magic and witchcraft. The nomadic Orang Suku Laut think that the Qur'an includes parts of black magic, whereas the settled Malays ponder the nomads harmful, soiled and backward.

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The Orang Laut refer to themselves as asli Melayu, and view the aristocrats as Melayu dagang (foreign Malays). By the same logic used by the aristocrats, they argue that it is one’s patrilineal descent that determines whether one is a foreign or indigenous Malay in Riau. Further rifts prevail in the relationships among the non-aristocrat Malays themselves. The Orang Laut support their claim of aboriginality through orally transmitted history from their ancestors. Below is a collection of narratives told by the Orang Laut.

19 Thirdly, the islands including Penyengat in the Malay World were in fact opened up by the sea-faring activities of the Orang Laut who thus claim ownership of the area that they have settled. This undoubtedly challenges the Malays’ notion of Penyengat’s centrality in the Malay World. The Orang Laut dismiss Penyengat as a privileged centre of authority, nor do they believe that Raja Hamidah played a pivotal role in the establishment of Riau. The stories tol by the Orang Laut of their history must be contrasted with those told orally by the Malays.

Parallels can be drawn with Anderson’s (1972) study of the Javanese tradition. He mentioned the ruler’s need to concentrate around himself things and people endowed with unusual power so that the power of these things would be absorbed and added to himself. The loss of these things and people would be interpreted as a diminution of the king’s power and perhaps signal an impending collapse of the dynasty. Unlike the Javanese case, the constant INDONESIAN SEA NOMADS 31 contact with these things in Penyengat does not mean a direct absorption or addition of power for the pure Malays.

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