The Semai Culture
ANT 101 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
The Semai are a semi sedentary people living in the center of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. This group is mostly popular for their non-violence. The Semai are horticulturalists who have a gift economy.
II. Body paragraph #1 – Economic organization The Semai subsist on the cultivation of manioc and rice, plus fishing, hunting, and trade in so called minor forest products, such as rattan.
B. The more traditional Semai live in small, isolated camps on mountain slopes at high altitudes and grow mainly mountain rice, millet, and maize.
1. Semai environments are characterized by pristine montane rainforest with numerous river-systems; surrounding with exceptionally rich biodiversity.
C. Semai hunts and provides their own food.
III. Body paragraph #2 – Beliefs and Values
The Semai are largely animists, but many of them prefer Christianity. Many of the minorities that profess Christianity are likely to believe in their old beliefs which are witchcraft. The Semai main festival is the Genggulang. It is a festive ritual to appease land spirits for a good harvest and is still observed in many places where the people worship the rice spirit. In this ritual, the spirits are offered sacrificial chickens, flowers, and unhusked rice. Now, the festival has lost much of its religious meaning. The Genggulang festival has become more of a cultural event. The Semai tend to be unconcerned and skeptical about religious dogma. For example, people describing life after death almost always conclude by saying, “That’s just a story of bygone days. I don’t believe it.”
The Semai is well known for their non-violent culture. They proclaim themselves to be nonviolent people who do not get angry or hit others. Dentan, R. (1968). The Semai see themselves as non-aggressive, dependent, and nurtant. If a...
References: Dentan, R. (1968). The Semai: A Nonviolent People of Malaysia. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Gerco, K. (2002). Cultural contact and Semai cultural identity.
Dentan, R., Endicott, K., Gomes, A.G. & Hooker, M.B. (1997) Malaysia and the “Original People”: A Case Study of the impact of Developmental on indigenous Peoples. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
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