The Batek Essay

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The Batek of Malaysia Donna Berg Instructor Michelle Dorne ANT 101: Cultural Anthropology April 16, 2012 Try and imagine life without electricity, plumbing, heating and air, or on a broader scale, without vehicles, grocery stores, fast food, and/or the unimaginable, cell phones! For many, life would cease to exist absent one or more of these so-called necessities. Yet, a simpler and peaceful life has, does, and can exist without these luxuries. In the tropical rainforests of the northeastern niche of Peninsular Malaysia and among the last of the mobile hunter/gatherer societies, reside the Batek. The Batek of Malaysia are a foraging society with a total population of 800 – 900 which is spread over three states, Pahang, Kelantan, and Terengganu. They subsist on plants, animals (including fish and monkeys), wild tubers, yams, fruit and honey. The Batek identify themselves as “people of the forest” and the forest as their dwelling place, source of food and refuge, and the basis for cultural continuity (Brookfield, 2007). They do not move randomly through the forest, but follow a well-defined network of walking trails and other pathways, which incorporate rivers, streams, and logging roads. Information is gathered from subtle signs, for example, from the sway of branches, the sounds of animals that penetrate through dense foliation, and from thunder and lightning. Also, they believe that if no one lived in the forest, the world would come to an end. Even though the Batek of Malaysia are being devastated by technological and industrial advancements, such as, excessive logging for palm oil plantations, they stand true to their cultural beliefs and values as seen by their kinship system, social organization, as well as, their economic organization. To begin, as with most foraging societies, the kinship system of the Batek starts with the most common

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