Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

Helliwell, Christine, 2000, Restoring the Balance: "Marriage Exchange" in a Borneo Community

Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

Helliwell, Christine, 2000, Restoring the Balance: "Marriage Exchange" in a Borneo Community

Article excerpt

The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 1(1) :37-53.

This paper examines the practice of the transfer of wealth (buis) upon marriage among the Gerai, a Dayak community of the northern part of the Ketapang regency in West Kalimantan. The most important social unit in this community is the "rice group," ideally a co-residential group consisting of a stem family, whose members produce rice on behalf of the group, share rights in the product, and take responsibility for each other's well-being. The buis is a substantial collection of wealth including gold, pigs, and other items which are handed over by the husband to the wife in the "major" wedding ceremony called sabat, which takes place only after their oldest child reaches puberty. The buis is not considered a "payment," but rather marks the husband's recognition of the work (including childbirth) which the wife performs during the marriage on behalf of the rice group. To classify it as "bridewealth" or "dowry" is clearly problematic: in terms of Goody's (1973) set of distinctions between bridewealth and dowry (in terms of content, recipients, givers, returnability, time of payment, and use), the buis could be classified as bridewealth according to two variables, as dowry according to another two, and as neither or both according to the remaining three. …

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