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By Roxana Waterson

The Toraja inhabit the mountainous highlands of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and are popular for his or her dramatic structure, their strange cliff burials, and their flamboyant ceremonial existence. Paths and Rivers deals an surprisingly deep and wide photograph of the Sa?‚'dan Toraja as a society in dynamic transition over the process the earlier century.

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Extra resources for Paths and rivers: Sa'dan Toraja society in transformation

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The final chapter in this section seeks to assess the impacts of the Dutch colonial period, for although this was very short, spanning a mere thirty-five years, in retrospect the full extent of these changes could only be appreciated later. Part Two, ‘A House Society’, focuses on concepts of kinship, structured around houses as sites of origin. I argue that Toraja society provides an excellent opportunity to explore the potentials of Lévi-Strauss’s (1983) concept of ‘House Societies’ as a means toward a better understanding of the workings of kinship systems in Indonesia.

But as anthropologists we may rightly seek the broadest possible definition of ‘historical action’. There is much to be learned about the workings of any society from an understanding of how the past is put to use in the present. The inclusion of individual narratives and memories is also important to the development of a richer and more nuanced picture of the past. Larson (2000) has vividly made this point in his exploration of the effects of the slave trade on processes of state formation in Madagascar from the late eighteenth century – concerns which have some resonances with my own in the following chapters, for Toraja too still carry historical memories of a brief but intense period when they were threatened with enslavement, when some of their own chiefs willingly became local instruments of a commercial network of trade in human beings that was at one time spread across the archipelago.

This is almost certainly the longest and most elaborate epic cycle ever created (Macknight 2003:351 note 4). Political devolution in Indonesia since the fall of Suharto has produced a new surge of interest in La Galigo, as cultural heritage not only of South Sulawesi but of the world. The latter volume (the product of an international seminar held in 2002) proudly attests to this. International interest was also aroused by the world premiere in Singapore, in March 2004, of the theatrical production ‘I La Galigo’, produced by renowned American choreographer Robert Wilson in collaboration with Bugis scholars and artistes.

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