Demotion as Value

Rank Infraction among the Ngadha in Flores, Indonesia

in Social Analysis
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Abstract

A plausible reading by Joel Robbins of Louis Dumont as a value pluralist serves as the point of departure for this article. The value discrepancies in focus here are two fundamentally different ideological constructs. One manifests as a social organization characterized by hereditary rank based on notions of purity. The other echoes notions of a more egalitarian social order. The first is rooted in the cosmo-mythical past, the second in a much more recent discourse. The social organization premised on rank and purity is rapidly losing ground—in part due to the influence of ‘the modern’, but even more so because its internal logic works against it. Empirically, the article centers on a complex ritual in which the opposing values are triggered, producing profound emotional turmoil.

Contributor Notes

Olaf H. Smedal is a Professor in the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen. Some four and a half years of field research in Indonesia resulted in Order and Difference (1989) and a series of articles and book chapters on social organization, kinship, language, hierarchy of values, economic change, and aesthetic expressions among two ethnic groups in Indonesia. He edited the Norwegian-language textbook Mellom himmel og jord: Tradisjoner, teorier og tendenser i sosialantropologien (2000, with Finn Sivert Nielsen) and wrote the introductory chapter to the first anthology on kinship in Norway, Blod—tykkere enn vann? (2001). With Knut M. Rio, he edited Hierarchy: Persistence and Transformation in Social Formations (2009), and he has been the editor of the Norwegian Journal of Anthropology. At present he is pursuing research on migration processes in Indonesia and on local effects of the massive political and economic changes in the country since the fall of President Suharto in 1999.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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