News and Reviews
When a Tristan Islander passes away, everyone in the community pauses to show respect for the deceased, whether or not they were members of the immediate family. Dawn Repetto posted a cemeteries page on the Tristan website last Thursday to provide, with her story and pictures, some insights into the ways the Islanders handle deaths and burials.
The island flag is lowered to half-staff when someone dies, and if the death occurs during a weekday, workers will pause at their jobs. The Albatross Bar closes for the evening and any celebrations planned for the day are cancelled, unless the family of the deceased makes an exception. Young women will visit island homes to gather flowers which the women will then use to make wreaths.
Relatives and friends will attend a funeral service at the Camogli Hospital, after which the corpse is carried in a Land Rover to the St. Mary’s Church, with the mourners following behind. After the memorial service in the church, the deceased is taken to the newest of the three island cemetery for internment. When the formal services are over, the Islanders visit in the home of the deceased, seeking to comfort the family. Ms. Repetto writes, “As with any event on Tristan, the community pulls together whatever the occasion and this keeps us strong.”
The author continues her report by describing the history of the cemeteries at the Settlement, plus efforts made from 2009 through 2014 to restore them. Fortunately, she also provides many good photos along with her story. For Cemetery No. 1, with burials dating from 1822 – 1923, one of the major restoration problems was that, although the Islanders knew who was buried in it, there was a lot of uncertainty as to exactly which grave belonged to which ancestor. To address the problem, the people erected a plaque indicating the names of all the forebears buried in the graveyard. A small white cross was then placed at each grave.
Identifying gravesites in Cemetery No. 2, with burials from 1923 – 1975, did not pose such problems. The restorers found only two graves that they were unable to identify. Cemetery No. 3, from 1975 – current, just needed a few plaques. In 1995, while Alan Walters was serving as Administrator on the island, he prepared a map of the graves in the island cemeteries, and his map proved highly useful to the contemporary Islanders committed to restoring the graveyards.
When the work was completed, some elderly Islanders were invited to check out the cemeteries and make sure all the wooden grave markers were correct. After everything was approved, permanent plaques were ordered from a firm in Cape Town. Groups of Islanders pitched in to clean up the two older cemeteries by removing unwanted brush, debris, and long grass.
Many of the older graves had headstones made of the soft, volcanic stone found on the island but they are not very long-lasting, so the plots today are marked with marble imported from South Africa. Ms. Repetto indicates that the cemetery does look better, but she admits that she has a personal preference for the ones made from the softer, native stone.
An unusual problem occurred at the grave of William Glass, the founder of the Settlement on the island. He was the unofficial “Governor” of the colony until his death in 1853. Members of his family, who had moved to the U.S., had sent a headstone for his grave in the decade after his death. In late October 2014, the cemetery restoration group learned that the top of the headstone for Mr. Glass had broken in half. The restoration group has epoxied the two pieces back together, and they plan to reinforce it with an iron or a concrete backing.
Ms. Repetto concludes her report by writing that the “Island community takes great pride in the island cemeteries and visits them every weekend with flowers.” She argues that the Islanders had not forgotten their ancestors, but the disruptions caused by the volcanic eruption in 1961, the temporary exile to the UK, and the deaths of elders had caused younger people to lose their knowledge of who was actually buried where. She opines that, with the two older cemeteries now restored, the Islanders will care for them the same as they do the present cemetery.
When a group of about 15 Malay men visited the Batek village of Kampung Ki Ying, the women quickly fled into the forest. Though it was only days before the 2013 national election in Malaysia, the women feared that such groups of visitors sometimes were only intent on attacking and raping. This time, the visitors were representatives of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. They were seeking votes. They handed out bags of food and announced that the following day, a high-ranking politician from their party would visit the village.
The next morning, a large number of motor vehicles adorned with the blue flags of the Barisan Nasional party arrived and the visitors set up chairs in the village hall so the highly-ranked politician could give his speech. The Barisan supporters, wearing shirts sporting the Barisan logo, set up the flags of the party around the village and especially in the village hall—to establish a suitable environment for the visiting luminary.
The dignitaries sat at the front of the hall—a Muslim imam from a nearby Malay village, the politician, the village headman, and a village elder. After introductory remarks by a local politician, the Batek headman rose to speak. A charismatic figure in his own right, instead of uttering the usual face-saving platitudes that people are supposed to make on occasions such as that, the headman expressed disappointment about the lack of development in the village.
The politician was visibly irritated at what had been said, despite the fact that the headman had spoken politely. He tried to deliver his prepared speech anyway by telling his listeners how their lives had been improved by the government, and he asked for the votes of the Batek villagers. The headman replied that 5,000 rubber trees, promised to the village five years before, had never come. No one in the village would vote for Barisan until the rubber trees had been delivered.
The stubbornness and unforgiving attitude of the headman enraged the politician. He hollered at his followers that they were all leaving—immediately. Everyone quickly fled from the hall, the visitors to their motor vehicles, the Batek back into their homes. They ignored the lunch boxes that had been brought by the visitors—the residents suspected that they might have been filled with poisoned food anyway.
The two visiting anthropologists recording this incident, Ivan Tacey and Diana Riboli, went with their Batek hosts. They were stopped briefly by a couple Malay police officers, but then were allowed to accompany the headman back to his home. He asked his visitors to immediately leave the village and return to Kaula Lumpur—he feared for their safety. While they were on the road back to the capital, he called to tell them that after they had left, he had fled his home and sought refuge in the forest. Shortly after he had fled, three policemen had visited the village looking for him.
Fearing reprisals from the Malays, most of the other villagers also left. They divided into three separate groups and sought temporary refuge at camps in the forest that were located next to cave entrances. The Batek kept calling the authors until days after the election, until after the Barisan party had been returned to power, when they felt safe enough to return back to their village. The authors then also felt it was safe to return to Kampung Ki Ying.
Tacey and Riboli, in a remarkably engaging article about Batek anti-violence, use the story to illustrate their points about the development of the Batek approaches to maintaining peacefulness in their communities. They argue that the Batek, like the other aboriginal Orang Asli societies in Malaysia, are subject to what they call “structural violence,” consisting of discrimination, marginalization, poverty, poor health conditions, abuses, and lack of basic human and legal rights.
These current conditions have combined, in the minds of the Batek, with the folk memories of extreme persecution and slavery at the hands of the Malays over the ages, abuses which continued into the 20th century when whole communities were destroyed. This fear of Malay terrorism promotes their very strong fear of outsiders—especially of the Muslim Malays. Their justifiable fears still foster one of their strategies for self-protection and anti-violence—hiding out in the forest, especially near the entrances to caves.
Caves had provided sanctuaries from large-scale violence 50 years ago, during the British war against the Communist Insurgency, and they might do so again. Further, the Batek view caves as being filled with mostly hostile non-human beings. But when faced with extreme emergency situations, such as this incident when they angered the politician and feared his reprisals, they apparently were able to reverse their conceptions of the beings dwelling in the caves from possible persecutors into potential protectors.
In any case, instead of arguing that the Batek avoid violence due to ethical or religious reasons, the authors point out that they are simply pragmatic. The Malays are far more numerous than they are—to openly resist them would be suicidal. Despite at times fantasizing about violence, the authors conclude, “their fundamental ethical principles, which represent important components of their cultural identity, are indeed ‘anti-violent’ in nature (p.210).”
This important article, the opening piece in a special issue of the Journal of Aggression, Conflict, and Peace Research devoted to “Hunter-Gatherer Aggression and Peace,” includes a very detailed explanation of the background and development of what the authors refer to as “anti-violence.” They define it as an active and strategic approach to counteracting violence.
The authors make it clear that the two different Batek groups—Tacey and Riboli explain the differences between the Batek Dè’ and the Batek Tanum—are still subject to “countless acts of violence and terror (p. 204).” The dramatic episode that they personally witnessed was clearly just a mild version of the ones the villagers contend with.
The authors carefully review a variety of factors that arguably contribute to peacefulness in the Batek society, such as their social sanctions prohibiting aggression, their placing values on individual freedom and personal autonomy, and their ways of instilling their values into their children.
Tacey and Riboli mention the explanations for the peacefulness of different hunter-gatherer societies posited by scholars, but the thrust of this article is to analyze the Malaysian social and political conditions in which the Batek live. The authors provide a fascinating focus on the quite effective strategies used by the Batek for surviving in the face of Malay structural violence.
Tacey, Ivan and Diana Riboli. 2014. “Violence, Fear and Anti-violence: The Batek of Peninsular Malaysia.” Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research 6(4): 203-215
News and reviews of publications relating to peaceful societies—and sometimes to related topics—are normally posted here on Thursday mornings (U.S. time) and are kept on this page for one week. Older news and reviews for 2014 are listed below, and ones from previous years are listed on the News and Reviews 2004-2005 page, the 2006 page, the 2007 page, the 2008 page, the 2009 page, the 2010 page, the 2011 page, the 2012 page and the 2013 page. All stories are also included in the News and Reviews Subject Listing. Recent ones are listed at the bottom of each society entry in the Encyclopedia of Selected Peaceful Societies, after the heading: Updates: News and Reviews. News and reviews about peacefulness in general are referred to from the bottom of the Facts page, while news stories about this website are linked from the About This Website page. News and Reviews can also be found with the Google search bar.
November 13, 2014. Celebrations for Fipa Babies
November 13, 2014. Botswana Persecutes the G/wi
November 6, 2014. Hutterite Children Use iPads
November 6, 2014. Domestic Violence among the Tahitians
October 30, 2014. Monsters in an Inuit Community
October 30, 2014. How the Semai Repel Cockroaches [journal article review]
October 23, 2014. Amish Volunteer Firefighters
October 23, 2014. Revitalizing Zapotec Language and Culture [journal article review]
October 16, 2014. Nubian Resettlements May Move Forward
October 16, 2014. Tristan Lobsters Accepted by the EU
October 9, 2014. Electricity in a Ladakhi Village
October 9, 2014. Gathering Non-Timber Forest Products [journal article review]
October 2, 2014. Horse Manure
October 2, 2014. Gender Inequality among the Lepchas [journal article review]
September 25, 2014. Deaths of Pregnant Fipa Women
September 25, 2014. The Ju/’hoansi Address Global Climate Change
September 18, 2014. The Fate of the Lost Franklin Expedition
September 18, 2014. The Trap of Rural Thailand [journal article review]
September 11, 2014. The Ladakh Project: An Audiovisual Mashup
September 11, 2014. The Peaceful Ju/’hoansi Mistreat their Dogs
September 4, 2014. Amish Hate Crimes Convictions Reversed
September 4, 2014. The Baybayin of the Buid
August 28, 2014. Inuit Plural Marriages
August 28, 2014. Zapotec Women Push Changes [online magazine article review]
August 21, 2014. Violence in a Yanadi Community
August 21, 2014. Frog Woman and Her Moral Code [anthology chapter review]
August 14, 2014. San Hunters Versus Botswana
August 14, 2014. Conflict Resolution and Gender Equality in Lepcha Society [book review]
August 7, 2014. Amish Self Concepts—Prisoners Relate their Experiences
August 7, 2014. Inuit Self Concepts—Are They Satisfied with Life? [journal article review]
July 31, 2014. Conviction for Corruption Upheld against Flosse
July 31, 2014. Uses and Customs in Oaxaca [online magazine article review]
July 24, 2014. Schooling for the Semai
July 24, 2014. Political, Religious, and Community Tensions in Ladakh [journal article review]
July 17, 2014. Rural Thai Children Threatened by Absence of Parents
July 17, 2014. Official Concern for Birhor Wanes
July 10, 2014. Police Remove Yanadi before Modi Visit
July 10, 2014. Children Learn to Be Peaceful the Batek Way [anthology chapter review]
July 3, 2014. Amish Volunteerism
July 3, 2014. Birthday Wishes for Glenn Paige
June 26, 2014. Atlas of Inuit Trails
June 26, 2014. The Challenges of Lepcha Identity [journal article review]
June 19, 2014. Nubians Waiting for Fair Treatment
June 19, 2014. Homeless Fipa Children
June 12, 2014. Huarime Festival in a Piaroa Community
June 12, 2014. Soups and Such from Hutterite Kitchens
June 5, 2014. Zapotec Affected by Wind Project
June 5, 2014. Reports of Violence in Thai High Schools [journal article review]
May 29, 2014. The Birhor and the Bees
May 29, 2014. Traditional Ways on Huahine
May 22, 2014. Lancaster County Amish Consider Leaving
May 22, 2014. Rat Hunting Holiday on Tristan
May 15, 2014. Ladakh Makes the Effort to Vote
May 15, 2014. A Visitor on Ifaluk
May 8, 2014. Yanadi Abandon Traditions, Modernize
May 8, 2014. Inuit Sale of Game Meat Questioned—and Defended
May 1, 2014. Paliyans Proud to Vote
May 1, 2014. A San Complains about Rotten Treatment
April 24, 2014. Birhor Boycott National Elections
April 24, 2014. Kadar Boycott National Elections
April 17, 2014. Hutterite Colony in Japan
April 17, 2014. Raging Violence, Nubians Versus Arabs
April 10, 2014. Paliyans Exploited in Tamil Nadu
April 10, 2014. Storytelling Preserves Traditions of the Lepchas
March 27, 2014. Presentation on Tristan Coming to Toronto Area Library
March 27, 2014. Philippine Conference Promotes Indigenous Languages
March 20, 2014. Proposed Port Threatens Yanadi Villages
March 20, 2014. A Jewish Scholar Visits an Amish Family
March 13, 2014. Seminar Presentation on Rural Thai Culture
March 13, 2014. Ladakh Political Status Challenged
March 6, 2014. Inuit Languages Celebrated
March 6, 2014. Rules for Maintaining a Peaceful Society [journal article review]
February 27, 2014. Zapotec Linguistics Analysis
February 27, 2014. Schooling for the Lepchas
February 20, 2014. Endangered Species and the San
February 20, 2014. Drive-by Horse Shooting
February 13, 2014. Nubians Recognized in Egyptian Constitution
February 13, 2014. Inuit Sex Trafficking
February 6, 2014. The Semai of Pos Betau
February 6, 2014. New Dictionary for Ju/’hoansi Children
January 30, 2014. Preserving Lepcha Culture
January 30, 2014. Rural Thai Culture of Rice Farming
January 23, 2014. Hutterite Colony School Burns Down
January 23, 2014. Batek Suffering from Logging
January 16, 2014. The Tamaraw and the Buid
January 16, 2014. G/wi are Being “Treated Like Dogs”
January 9, 2014. Central California Zapotec Festival
January 9, 2014. Birhor Poverty Finds Relief in a Picnic
January 2, 2014. A Semai Christmas
January 2, 2014. Nubian Recognition in New Egyptian Constitution