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The Thread of Life

The Thread of Life: Toraja Reflections on the Life Cycle

Douglas W. Hollan
Jane C. Wellenkamp
Copyright Date: 1996
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  • Book Info
    The Thread of Life
    Book Description:

    "This is an enjoyably readable and generally illuminating look at the more intimate side of Toraja life and relationships.... [It is] an innovative approach to ethnography, valuable in its attempt to deal with aspects of life that are often passed over in more conventional ethnographic writing." --Journal of Asian Studies

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6510-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-29)

    All humans are alike in some respects. All people remain dependent on their parents or other caretakers for an extended period of time after birth. All people enter the world without language or knowledge of culturally appropriate behavior patterns and slowly acquire these capacities through processes of socialization and enculturation. All people are born sexually immature, and most eventually develop a biological ability to reproduce—although some people may choose not to or may be prevented from doing so. And all people eventually age and die.

    Yet the meanings and relative significance of the various phases of the human life...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Birth, Infancy, and Early Childhood
    (pp. 30-49)

    When we first mentioned our desire to conduct “life-history” interviews to To Minaa Sattu, he remarked knowingly that we meant how one’s parents suffered during pregnancy. The notion that one’s life history begins in the womb(pemanakan, tambuk)and that it begins with one’s parents’ suffering was reiterated by To Minaa Sattu during his first interview. He begins by stating, “When we are in our mother’s womb, our mother … experiences difficulty! For nine months, we are in our mother’s womb. [And up] until we are born, our mother experiences difficulty.”

    The major cause of one’s parents’ suffering during this...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Later Childhood and Adolescence
    (pp. 50-95)

    One of the more important tasks assigned to relatively small children, and one that demands a great deal of initiative and independent action, is the herding of water buffalo. Herding involves moving buffalo from nighttime holding areas to small, open fields where they can graze. It also involves making certain that buffalo do not eat or trample villagers’ crops and gardens or stumble over precipices or other hazards.

    Twenty to fifty years ago, when most of our respondents were growing up, many children spent at least some time herding buffalo. They would rise early in the morning, eat a quick...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Marriage and Parenting
    (pp. 96-144)

    The Toraja assume that young people will want to marry eventually and have children, for it is only by so doing that one becomes a truly “adult” member of the community and that one can be assured of being cared for in old age and given a proper funeral.¹ Formerly, women often married shortly after menarche, while men generally married in the late teens or early twenties. Today, the age at which people marry has generally increased, as both men and women seek employment and/or education (usually junior high school) before “settling down.”

    The traditional engagement and marriage rites of...

  8. Photographs
    (pp. 145-159)
  9. CHAPTER 5 Adulthood, Aging, and Death
    (pp. 160-190)

    Adulthood—for our purposes, the period of life that begins with marriage and parenting but precedes old age—provides the Toraja with a number of valued experiences, including the challenges of building a household, the opportunity to validate and enhance one’s status through the slaughter of pigs and water buffalo at rituals (see Volkman 1985; and below), the sense of pride and economic security that comes from having children, the accumulation of “knowledge” and wealth, and the sense of satisfaction associated with repaying obligations to parents, relatives, and deities through the organization and execution of rituals. Yet, when given an...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Cycle of Life in Toraja
    (pp. 191-204)

    Edward Bruner has noted that we must not confuse life as lived with either life as experienced or life as told. According to Bruner (1984, 7): “A life as lived is what actually happens. A life as experienced consists of images, feelings, sentiments, desires, thoughts, and meanings known to the person whose life it is. One can never know directly what another individual is experiencing, although we all interpret clues and make inferences about the experience of others. A life as told, a life history, is a narrative, influenced by the cultural conventions of telling, by the audience, and by...

  11. Appendix 1: Checklist of Open Interview Topics
    (pp. 205-206)
  12. Appendix 2: Respondents
    (pp. 207-208)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 209-220)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 221-226)
  15. References
    (pp. 227-234)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 235-240)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-241)