Spirits Captured in Stone: Shamanism and Traditional Medicine among the Taman of Borneo

By Jay H. Bernstein | Go to book overview

Appendix C:

Field Methods

I first contacted the Taman in September 1984 and conducted research among them from December 1985 to May 1986, August 1986 to January 1987, and August 1987 to January 1988. I first studied a Taman village located on the Kapuas River, devoting most of my effort to language and vocabulary. I soon changed my focus to the Sibau Taman, however. Most of the cases described in this book occurred in Sibau Hilir, the largest Taman village (its population was 1,057 in 1987). However, in the course of my studies, I collected data on illness and traditional medicine in every Taman village except Eko Tambai. (This village, located on the Kapuas River between Melapi and Siut, was unusual in that living among the villagers were two U.S. missionaries and their families.) I also conducted research in the nearby Malay town of Putussibau and adjacent hamlets. I began my research using the Indonesian language, but I made an effort to learn Taman (kada banuaka'), and eventually I was able to converse in this language and understand the conversations of others.

I strove to include in my study people representing a large range of village society. My prime informants included men, women, and children; elderly and young; headmen, shop owners, hunters, and common farmers; high school graduates and people who had never been to school.

I collected from each interview subject general data about household and kinship. Through the study of family life, I identified cases of illness and curing. By studying these cases and interviewing folk healers as well as patients and their families, I developed vocabulary lists about illness and medicine. With improved understanding of Taman culture gained through participant observation, I was able to develop a set of questions to elicit concepts about the causes, cures, and associations of the various diseases. These questions were put to a range of informants. In a similar manner I also questioned informants about kinds of medicines and the different spirits. (With the help of informants, I developed interview protocols in Taman.) The purpose of these questions was to discover the conceptual basis of Taman eth

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