We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

Small Sacrifices

Religious Change and Cultural Identity among the Ngaju of Indonesia

Anne Schiller

Publication Date - May 1997

ISBN: 9780195095586

192 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Retail Price to Students: $73.00


Small Sacrifices is an ethnographic study of Ngaju Dayaks, rain forest dwellers of the remote interior region of Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Like many indigenous peoples throughout the world, the Ngaju have recently been affected by exposure to world religions, by improvements in transportation and communication, by new demands on family-based production, and by other factors pertaining to their growing incorporation into an expanding state system in an era of rapid political and economic change. The Ngaju response to these pressures, Anne Schiller contends, is most clearly seen in the religious sphere. Over the past two decades, many Ngaju have taken to recasting and reinterpreting their indigenous religion, known formerly as Kaharingan, and now as Hindu Kaharingan. Paradoxically, this process of religious change involves the codification of religious belief and the standardization of ritual. It also includes efforts to distinguish "religious practices" from other "customs." These developments figure importantly in the construction of modern Ngaju identity. The author focuses especially on the form and content of tiwah, an elaborate ritual of secondary treatment of the dead, with multiple and complex meanings for Hindu Kaharingan Ngaju, as well as for those who have converted to Christianity or Islam.


"The book appeals to a broad audience with interests in religion, ethnicity, nationalism, social change, and so forth. Written eloguently and drawing on engaging episodes, it would also make a good textbook, paired with Schiller's ethnographic film on tiwah, 'Borneo: Beyond the Grave.'"--Religious Studies Review

Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    The Ngaju "Death Cult"
    The "Ngaju" People and the Ngaju Region
    Tiwah and the Issue of Ritual Acceptability
    Kaharingan Ritual and Ngaju Identity
    Some Implications of Religious Change in Central Kalimantan
    2. Death Begins
    The Rituals Today
    The Three Stages of Mortuary Ritual
    Souls and Life Forces
    Ritual Specialists
    The Mortuary Cycle: Death and Primary Treatment
    The Mortuary Cycle: Informing the Deceased
    Journey to the Village of Souls
    Preparations for Tiwah
    The Start of Tiwah
    Ritual Specialists at Tiwah
    The Cosmos Unlocked: Souls and Remains Are Treated
    Order and Anti-Order in Natural and Supernatural Worlds.
    Transgression of Hadat
    The Origin of Hadat
    Hadat and the Inhabitants of Upper- and Lowerworlds
    Hadat and the Jungle-Dwelling Beings