‘Behaving like a Jakun!’ A case study of conflict, ‘othering’ and indigenous knowledge in the Orang Asli of Tasik Chini
Journal: Journal of Sociology and Development
Publisher: St Augustine University of Tanzania
This paper discusses the findings of a condensed ethnographic study of the indigenous Jakun Orang Asli of Tasik Chini in West Malaysia. The title of the paper refers to a Malay verbal chastisement in making derogatory associations of the Jakun with barbarous and uncouth behaviour. This in turn is heavily implicated in the bangsa ‘race’/ethnic politics of contemporary Malaysia and the socio-political pre-eminence of the Malay bumiputera (‘sons of the soil’) majority in contrast to the historically oppressed and the contemporary marginalized position of Orang Asli indigenous people. The aforementioned perjorative saying is here deconstructed through an analysis of traditional forms of social interaction in localised conflict resolution among the Jakun, who culturally gravitate towards indigenous forms of peaceful negotiation and democratic dialogue. The efficacy of this preferred approach is discussed in relation to the devastatingly damaging incursions of big industry into their traditional territories connected to Government-mandated social and economic development policies. The Jakun people’s struggles to find effective strategies to resist the destruction of their environment is integrally bound up with their traditional way of life and beliefs, which are explored through binaries reflecting the confluence of the ‘old’ and the ‘new’.