Holly Smith

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Russell, Susan D.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Dayak (Indonesian people)--Rites and ceremonies; Toraja (Indonesian people)--Rites and ceremonies; Chants; Mambai (Indonesian people)--Rites and ceremonies; Indonesia--Social life and customs


The purpose of this thesis is to examine the structural and semantic similarity of ritual chants among three Indonesian groups from the islands of Kalimantan, Timor and Sulawesi. Previous research, as described by James J. Fox and others in 1980 and 1988 has demonstrated such similarities among eastern Indonesian groups. This is not a hermeneutic analysis. The structural and semantic contents of these chants will be examined to see if they can be plotted along the transformational schema espoused by Rita S. Kipp and Susan Rodgers in 1985. The semantic comparison will be limited because of the reliance on English translations. The three cultural groups included in this study (the Dayak, the Toraja, and the Mambai) represent three different cultural lifeways. The culture, history, and ritual chants for each group are examined, with particular attention given to rituals concerning agriculture and death. Fox in his 1980 and 1988 works, has demonstrated a similarity among eastern Indonesian groups in the structural patterns used in their ritual chants. This method of examining chant structure will be applied to the Eastern Indonesian Mambai and Toraja and to the East Malaysian Dayaks in order to determine the similarity of chant structure. Using a schema suggested by Kipp and Rodgers in 1985, the present study examines the semantic and structural qualities of Dayak ritual language. The results of this study show that, although the three cultures examined are quite different in their ethnic background and in the elaborations of their ritual life, they are remarkably similar in regard to agriculture and death ceremonies and the chants associated with them. The surface differences among the three groups fits into the transformational schema along with the history of each group. Thus, the Toraja are seen to be similar to the Dayak and similar to the Mambai in differing aspects. This is shown in regard to ritual chants and the history of these three groups.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [176]-179)


v, 194 pages




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