Rural Development and Social Science Research: Case Studies from Borneo. (Book Reviews: General)

By Wilder, W. D. | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Rural Development and Social Science Research: Case Studies from Borneo. (Book Reviews: General)


Wilder, W. D., Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


KING, VICTOR T. (ed.). Rural development and social science research: case studies from Borneo (Borneo Res. Counc. Proc. 6). xiii, 359 pp., maps, tables, bibliogr. Phillips, ME: Borneo Research Council, 1999. $35.00 (paper)

The eleven chapters (written by a total of twenty-one contributors) that make up this well-prepared and well-edited volume are strongly empirical and, as the title makes plain, they focus quite closely on certain parts of Borneo. In fact, they pertain mostly to Sarawak and, secondarily, to Sabah and to the Kayan-Mentarang Nature Reserve in the remote interior of northern East Kalimantan. On the other hand, the two end-essays, by King and Appell, can stand independently and ought to be of general interest to readers looking for comparative views on rural Third World development.

As the editor explains in his introductory chapter, it was his original intention to organize a panel at a Borneo Research Council conference in Brunei in 1996 'to draw together recent research on the application of social science knowledge and methods to development planning, implementation, and evaluation in Borneo', that is, anthropological and social scientific inputs into (a) engineered social change, and (b) evaluation of local responses to the horizons cleared by planned development (pp. 3-4). However, the papers submitted to the 1996 meeting did not quite fulfil this aim and so the published volume incorporates additional papers to bring the volume closer to its goal. Taken together, the chapters in the published volume cover crucial aspects of development: forest conservation, nutrition, the introduction of roads, rural co-operatives, craft enterprises, local workers in commercial logging, problems of traditional wet-rice ecosystems and land rights, and rural peoples' perceptions of modern environmen tal changes. For the most part, they focus not only on specific kinds of development but also on the ways and means of making more effective and appropriate the contributions of social scientists to those developments.

A striking example of foresight in development through the blending of advanced technology and local knowledge is found in the chapter by Momberg et al., in which we see how villagers in and near a 1.4 million hectare Indonesian nature reserve (Kayan-Mentarang) produce their own maps of zones and resources (with knowledge prevailing before the demarcation of the reserve). …

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