Knowledge, Morality, and Causality in a 'Luckless' Society

The Case of the Chewong in the Malaysian Rain Forest

in Social Analysis

In the absence of concepts that correspond to those of chance, luck, or fortune, how do people account for seemingly random desirable or undesirable events that occur? In this article, an examination is made of the Chewong—a hunting, gathering, shifting, and cultivating group of people in the Malaysian rain forest—and their theory of causality. It is argued that cause is a universal category of human understanding, but that an understanding of cause cannot be separated from a wider examination of the ontology and cosmology in each case. Chewong maintain that the occurrence of specific events may be traced to the correct application of relevant knowledge, that is, knowledge predicated upon a mutuality between humans and a variety of nonhuman beings that guides daily interaction between them.