Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

"A Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures. Contributions to a National Ethnography of Brunei by UBD Sociology-Anthropology Students", South East Asia

Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

"A Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures. Contributions to a National Ethnography of Brunei by UBD Sociology-Anthropology Students", South East Asia

Article excerpt

Walker, Anthony R., "A Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures. Contributions to a National ethnography of Brunei by UBD Sociology-Anthropology students", South East Asia. A Multi-disciplinary Journal 10 (2010): 11-38.

Universiti Brunei Darussalam was approaching its thirtieth anniversary during 2017 as this review was written. The review comprises, in fact, a revisiting and elaboration of some notes written for the Editor of BRB in 2011 as an opinion on a submission. To my chagrin, 1 came to understand that my detailed dissection of Anthony Walker's synopsis of one of his ten selected student contributions--one which has unusual interest for me, being relevant both to official promotion of Islam and the concomitant demotion of separate ethnicities--was read as a rejection. To my relief, the piece has found a place in in a UBD journal.

While I would stand by my queries about Lizawati bte Suhaili's contribution, (1) especially on the subject of Dusun religion, which she is said to classify under the problematic twin terms of "animo-theistic," it is imperative to remember that the synopses presented to us are the end-product of a several-layered process of filtering, subject to some possible pitfalls: (1) Anthony Walker with enormous dedication read and classified a total of 76 student research exercises before he could (2) select a sample of the best for publication, having no doubt had, in some cases, (3) to grasp and present a usable meaning amidst a thicket of obscure English, despite (4) often being unable to draw on a personal fund of knowledge about the subject of an exercise, yet having (5) to keep his synopsis of it at a modest length. This was below 2 pages for a xviii+74 page contribution in the case of Lizawati--the text of which, like the others, is not accessible to readers for their own perusal and assessment. In these highly demanding circumstances it is hardly reprehensible if Walker stands by his wholesome response to Lizawati's unamended text for South East Asia. Certainly the study bears worthy marks of its origin as a fourth-year research exercise and may deserve the editor's very light critical touch in comparison with his discussion of several other contributions. Any anxiety that he may lack a sufficient understanding of Dusun culture in Ukong (not least the role of priestesses and their interaction with their spirit familiars, the derato), must be balanced by highest praise for this enterprise as a whole, which not only aimed to promote (by showcasing) ethnographic research on Brunei in the mould of a more British-associated type of "social anthropology," but may serve in retrospect as a memorial to a single phase in UBD's development. This phase was already showing signs of being overshadowed by the more Borneo-focused and conceptual approach of the new Institute of Asian Studies as Sociology/Anthropology began to lose its founding heavy-weights: Allen Maxwell, Frank Fanselow and Anthony Walker himself. (2)

At this point I will list the remaining four of Walker's batch of 4th year research exercises: 1. Traditional medical practices (and their association with spirit beliefs) in Brunei Malay society. (Illustrated.) 2. A Kedayan village study (Kampong Madang). (Illustrated.) 3. A village-based Kedayan community study (Kampong Bukit Panggal) with special reference to kinship and residence rules. …

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