The Life of the Longhouse: An Archaeology of Ethnicity

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Overview

For two centuries, travellers were amazed at the massive buildings found along the rivers that flow from the mountainous interior of Borneo. They concentrated hundreds of people under one roof, in the middle of empty rainforests. There was no practical necessity for this arrangement, and it remains a mystery. Peter Metcalf provides an answer by showing the historical context, using both oral histories and colonial records. The key factor was a pre-modern trading system that funneled rare and exotic jungle products to China via the ancient coastal city of Brunei. Meanwhile the elite manufactured goods traded upriver shaped the political and religious institutions of longhouse society. However, the apparent permanence of longhouses was an illusion. In historical terms, longhouse communities were both mobile and labile, and the patterns of ethnicity they created more closely resemble the contemporary world than any stereotype of “tribal” societies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107407565
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/13/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Metcalf is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia. His research in Borneo spans thirty years, and he is the author of many books and articles.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: the problem: ethnicity and community; Part I. Longhouses: 1. Longhouses; 2. Longhouse communities; 3. The coming of the Brooke Raj; Part II. Longhouses and Leaders: 4. Aban Jau's career; 5. Aban Jau's successors; Part III. Longhouses and Trade: 6. The sultan's fence; 7. Pre-modern upriver trade; Part IV. Longhouse Populations: 8. The linguistic data; 9. Disease, slavery, assimilation, annihilation; Part V. Longhouses and Ritual: 10. The ritual consensus; 11. The ritual operator; 12. The impresarios of the ancestors; Part VI. Longhouses and the State: 13. Longhouses during the Raj; 14. Longhouses after the Raj; Conclusion: the general and the particular.
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