Bookshelf Spotlight: Minangkabau Culture & Identity

Featured University Of Hawai’i Press Publishing

* The Minangkabau Response to Dutch Colonial Rule in the Nineteenth Century

The Minangkabau Response to Dutch Colonial Rule in the Nineteenth Century


by Elizabeth E. Graves
University Of Hawai’i Press, 2010

“Despite the considerable expansion of scholarly studies of Minangkabau society in recent years, the paucity of historical research on West Sumatra is still notable. Especially is this so for the nineteenth century, where, apart from the new perspectives provided in Christine Dobbin’s series of articles on the Padri Wars, virtually nothing has been published during the past decade. A significant study dealing with this period that certainly merited publication was the 1971 University of Wisconsin dissertation of Elizabeth E. Graves, which, following her revision, we are now pleased to bring out in our Monograph Series. In this revision Dr. Graves was not able to draw on Dobbin’s work and other germane material published during the last few years, but most of the data she has marshaled and analyzed cannot be found in other published sources, and there is no doubt that her monograph fills many of the extensive gaps in our knowledge of nineteenth century Minangkabau society and its interaction with Dutch political and economic power. Moreover, those familiar with Taufik Abdullah’s classic study, Schools and Politics: The Kaum Muda in West Sumatra (1927-1933), will find an excellent complement in her chapters on the development of secular education during this earlier period.

“In publishing this study, the Cornell Modern Indonesia Project is confident that it provides an important addition to the regional dimension of Indonesian history and illuminating insights into the shaping of nineteenth century Minangkabau society and the way its character set the stage for better known developments in the present century.” -George McT. Kahin

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Featured Books

* Constituting the Minangkabau
* Between Individualism and Mutual Help: Social Security and Natural Resources in a Minangkabau Village
* Matriliny and Migration: Evolving Minangkabau Traditions in Indonesia
* Minangkabau Social Formations: Indonesian Peasants and the World-Economy
* Theater & Martial Arts In West Sumatra: Randai & Silek of the Minangkabau

Constituting the Minangkabau


by Joel S. Kahn
Berg Publishers, 1993

This account of culture and society in the villages of West Sumatra, Indonesia, during the period of Dutch colonialism is based on materials collected from the colonial archives, local Indonesian newspapers and recent fieldwork in Malaysia and Indonesia. The author argues that the impact of colonial land-grabbing and political control led to the formation of a peasant economy in the period.

At the same time, the author tackles issues in the recent anthropological debates about ethnography and culture to argue that this period also witnessed the construction of what we now call ‘Minangkabau Culture’ – a process that involved western ethnographers, colonial officials and Minangkabau intellectuals in an often conflicted process of modern cultural transformation.

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Between Individualism and Mutual Help: Social Security and Natural Resources in a Minangkabau Village


by Renske Biezeveld
Eburon Publishers, Delft, 2004

This book deals with the role of natural resources for social security and livelihood in a Minangkabau village in West Sumatra. First of all it touches on problems of property rights; an analysis of communal land rights in this matrilineal society, the clash between adat and state law and perceived changes therein.

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Matriliny and Migration: Evolving Minangkabau Traditions in Indonesia


by Tsuyoshi Kato
Equinox Publishing, 2007; First published 1981

The Minangkabau, who are from the mountainous region of western Sumatra, have long been a tangle of paradoxes to the outsider. Ardent believers in Islam – a partially orientated religion – the Minangkabau are one of the few remaining matrilineal groups in the world. A well-educated and enterprising people, they continue to uphold a seemingly archaic kinship system. They have always been highly mobile, yet their strong sense of ethnic identity is rooted in their homeland. Focusing on Minangkabau matriliny and its relation to migration, Tsuyoshi Kato has written a comprehensive and authoritative study of the society, history, and traditions of this complex people. Studies of the Minangkabau since the middle of the nineteenth century have often indicated that matriliny is giving way to a bilateral or even patrilineally inclined system. Kato, however, asserts that the matrilineal system is surviving, owing to Minangkabau mobility. Exploring matriliny’s evolution in response to changing times, he studies the reasons for the tradition’s resilience. Kato adopts an historical approach, claiming that a static analysis can capture only part – or seemingly contradictory parts – of a complex and changing culture. He examines different types of migration that characterizes three distinct historical periods: village segmentation – a migration to establish new settlements – which took place up until the mid-nineteenth century; circulatory migration to small towns and markets by individual males, a distinguishing feature of the period from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s; and the more permanent Chinese migration, in which nuclear families leave the village for larger cities, a pattern thatcontinues today. Kato bases his analysis on his extensive field work in Sumatra and on such varied evidence as recent census data and Minangkabau proverbs and legends. Matriliny and Migration, now brought back to life as a member of Equinox Publishing’s Classic Indonesia series, is a balanced account of change and continuity in a society. It will appeal to readers interested in Southeast Asia and to sociologists and anthropologists studying the family, urbanization, mobility, and the question of ethnic identity.

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Minangkabau Social Formations: Indonesian Peasants and the World-Economy


by Joel S. Kahn
Cambridge University Press, 1981

In this anthropological investigation of the nature of an underdeveloped peasant economy, Joel S. Kahn attempts to develop the insights generated by Marxist theorists, by means of a concrete case study of a peasant village in the Indonesian province of West Sumatra. He accounts for the specific features of this regional economy, and, at the same time, examines the implications for it of the centuries-old European domination of Indonesia. The most striking feature of the Minangkabau economy is the predominance of petty commodity relations in agriculture, handicrafts and the local network of distribution. Dr Kahn illustrates this with material on local economic organization, which he collected in the field in the highland village of Sungai Puar, the site of a blacksmithing industry, and with published and unpublished data from other parts of Indonesia. Dr Kahn’s book is unusual for its combination of a theoretical analysis of underdevelopment with a detailed regional study. It will appeal to those interested in South-east Asian studies, in development, and in neo-Marxist approaches in anthropology.

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Theater & Martial Arts In West Sumatra: Randai & Silek of the Minangkabau


by Kirstin Pauka
Ohio University Press, 1999

Randai, the popular folk theater tradition of the Minangkabau ethnic group in West Sumatra, has evolved to include influences of martial arts, storytelling, and folk songs. Theater and Martial Arts in West Sumatra describes the origin, development, and cultural background of randai and highlights two recent developments: the emergence of female performers and modern staging techniques.

This book also explores the indigenous martial arts form silek, a vital part of randai today. The strong presence of silek is illustrated in the martial focus of the stories that are told through randai, in its movement repertoire, and even in its costumes and musical accompaniment. As Kirstin Pauka shows, randai, firmly rooted in silek and Minangkabau tradition, is an intriguing mirror of the Minangkabau culture.

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