The Semai Culture

Topics: Agriculture, Peace, Culture Pages: 7 (2420 words) Published: July 15, 2012
ANT 101 (ADL1219E)


JUNE 10, 2012

The world is filled with all different types of people. Different races, beliefs, characters and moral standards. We are all apart of a big melting pot, all bringing something new to the pot learning how to co exists with something that’s not the normal for us. For this reason I am taking the time to explore a culture outside of my own, the Semai culture. The Semai is a very unique group of people; the most interesting thing about them is there belief in non-violence. Along this journey into the minds of the Semai people we will explore the cultures primary mode of substance and how it effect there everyday living. I will analyze and evaluate the impact that the primary mode of subsistence as it pertains to economic organization and gender relation. Then we will discuss the cultures views on kinship. We will also touch the subject of there beliefs and values, and there thoughts against violence. Concluding with a compare and contrast of how I live in my culture today vs. how the Semai cultures are currently living. As we begin, I remind you to keep and open mind that not every thing that is normal and common to us is normal and common to all cultures. The Semai culture found mostly in the densely forested central mountains of Malay Peninsula, in Malaysia, Southeast Asia. They are some time called the cousin group of the Btsisi’. The Semai people are traditionally known as foraging, horticulturalist, some one who practices horticulture is a nonmechanized, nonintensive form of plant cultivation performed nonrepetitively on a plot of land; in contrast, agriculture is intensive cultivation using irrigation, fertilizers, and possibly plows repetitively on a plot of land (Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010).  The Semai people gain their substance through hunting, trapping, and fishing and some swidden. (Fabbro, 1978, pg. 69) they also use techniques like the slash and burn for cultivation. The slash and burn technquie is exactly like it sounds because this is exactly the method people use. The first thing people do is cut down or "slash" a small parcel of forest. Not all the trees are cut down; some are left standing to provide shade and seeds for reforesting once the land are abandoned. The trees and undergrowth are slashed and left to dry. Then, about a month later, just before the rainy season begins, people burn the fields (Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010). This helps to enrich there soil ensure better crop reproduction. There is some division of labor in Semai society but mainly in relation to hunting which is a male activity. Men woman and children help to clear the forest for agriculture. Men and women too old to hunt supplement the diet by fishing. Domestic activities such as basket weaving or carrying water are performed by women. Both men and women plant crops but only women harvest the rice. Both sexes cook and win-now grain. There does not appear to be any specialization of labor in Semai society; even the headman must gain his own substance (Fabbro, 1978, pg. 69-70). The Semai people live with there nuclear families in groups called bands. There are no real authority figures among the Semai culture. Conflict resolutions do exist however, during a dispute only one of the two parties involved are punan (the idea of making someone unhappy, especially by frustrating desires, increasing the probably of that person to suffer physical injurers). The person who was wrong has to options he can one punan the person who wronged him or two ask for compensation. The offender normally pays, if it a case where both parties involved feels as though they are just, they seek the advice of an elder. Even though the elders are highly respected among this culture there advice during a dispute can go unheard if one of the parties involved in the dispute things the elders rational is unfair. Then the issue goes...

References: Fabbro, D. (1978). Peaceful Societies: An Introduction. Journal of Peace Research. Vol. 15, pgs. 67-83. from Sage Publications LTD.
Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010). Cultural anthropology. San Diego, Bridgepoint Education, Inc. 
Peaceful (n.d.). Peaceful Societies: Alternatives to Violence and War. Retrieved August 29, 2011, from
Robarchek, C. & Robarchek, C. (1998). Reciprocities and Realities: World Views, Peacefulness and Violence among Semai and Waorani. Aggressive Behavior. Vol. 24, pgs. 123-133. from EBSCO Host.
Sorensen, M. (2007). Competing Discourses of Aggression and Peacefulness. Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice. Vol. 19, pgs. 603-609.from EBSCO Host
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