Old ways - new ways : Talang Mamak of Tiga Balai, Inderagiri Hulu, Propinsi Riau, Sumatra
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In this thesis I place detailed descriptions of Talang Mamak lives in an historically reconstructed context which focuses upon the Talang Mamak's status as debt-bondsmen of the Sultans of the kingdom of Inderagiri (1509-1963). Information about current Talang Mamak lives is presented in the form of five life-histories, or biographies, in which both local issues (development; deforestation; drought; crime; relationships with wider, Muslim, society; debt- management; ) and local practices (leadership, rice-farming, rubber cultivation and tapping, cock-fighting, shamanism, marriage, etc) are described in terms of the biographical subjects' experiences of them. Preceding the life-histories and forming a context in which they can be understood, is an historical reconstruction of Minangkabau and Malay settlements along the Inderagiri river, the establishment of the kingdom of Inderagiri and its relationship with the Dutch and the Republic of Indonesia. In this history I re-describe both the well-documented Minangkabau and the as-yet undocumented Talang Mamak, in terms of relationships between rulers and their debt-bondsmen subjects and show that forms of social organisation such as matrilineal inheritance, duolocal residence and bride-price were enforced, by rulers, upon their debt-bondsmen subjects as a means of maintaining and manipulating social inequalities. After the five life-histories, by way of a conclusion, I suggest that the `culture' of many isolated, non-Muslim groups on both sides of the Straits of Melaka, including Talang Mamak and Kubu in Sumatra, and Semai and Temuan in Malaysia, can be best understood in terms of their economic relationships with Malay and Minangkabau rulers and recent changes to these ties introduced by modern nation-states. Using this perspective I reject the label `Proto- Malay' which has been customarily used to describe isolated non-Muslim populations in Sumatra, such as Talang Mamak, and in Malaysia, such as Semai, in terms of so-called ethnic characteristics. I propose that what these groups of people have in common is not an ascribed ethnicity but rather similar historical relationships with Muslim kingdoms who they served as debt-bondsmen.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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