2013 Student-Faculty Fellows Program: Hamline University
Movement, Mobility, Migration:
The Dynamics of Change in a Northern Toraja Village
Mentor: Elizabeth Coville, Anthropology
Students: Richmond Fiksdal ’14, Melanie Nomura, ’13
In considering how “modernity” and “tradition” are combined, one needs to think about the shifting everyday ways of being and people’s changing interpretations of experience. Both student projects capture this: Ms. Nomura’s through discovering how balance and what she calls modesty are “overlapping and embodied in different and compelling ways;” and Mr. Fiksdal’s through highlighting the continuities between the ritual specialists in charge of rice cultivation in the past and the farmers’ co-ops of the present. In addition, both projects point to local and situational variation, and to broader issues of significance beyond relatively small and out-of-the-way locations. The changes in agricultural policy (from the Green Revolution to the current environmentally sustainable approach) are being played out in local ways throughout Indonesia, elsewhere in Asia, and indeed all over the world. Ms. Nomura’s attention to what might be called cultural styles of interaction and self-presentation (verbal and nonverbal) has great relevance for understanding communication in an increasingly interconnected world.
The Green Revolution, a worldwide initiative to raise agricultural production, changed the organization of labor and time in rural areas of the Toraja highlands of Sulawesi (Indonesia), through the implementation of national policies. In the process, the local spiritual authority, indo’ padang, who traditionally made decisions on when to plant and harvest was replaced by farmers’ co-operatives that are organized locally and supported through government policies. This shift has led to new technologies, altered farming practices, and, consequently, changed the traditional culture associated with the planting and harvesting of rice.
During a month-long research experience in Indonesia, I discovered several interesting patterns of difference in Torajan society. This is evident in everyday bodily movement in both the town of Rantepao and the mountain village of Awan, in the way things are carried by both humans and motorbikes, in the traditional dance forms in Toraja (and Bali), and in manifestations of modesty and sense of balance. I plan to continue this study based on themes of modesty and balance as it is evidenced in individual agency, emotions and politeness among the Toraja.