This thesis originated from a field study of an Iban community conducted while I was at home in Sarawak, Wast Malaysia, in 1968. I was then attached to the Sarawak Museum as an Anthropolo Research Trainee. Prior to this I had two years undergraduate study of anthropology and sociology at the University of Queensland as part of a course in Diploma of Journalism.
During Sukarno’s confrontation of Malaysia in 1964,Ibans living along the border of Sarawak-Kalimantan in Borneo, were disrupted by Indonesian insurgents. Military operations expedited the re-location of these Ibans from their longhouses and traditional environment. In line with the Malaysian Government’s Development Plan for the reconstruction of the rural economy, these Ibans were re-settled at one of the Development Plan Scheme Villages, viz., Skrang Land Development Scheme Village, about 142 miles north-east of Kuching, the capital of Sarawak.
It is posited here that prior to their resettlement in the Skrang, the Iban group (that I studied) had achieved a certain cultural-ecological adaptation (based on the shifting cultivation of hill rice) with their traditional environment. With their resettlement in the Skrang, this pattern of adaptation has undergone various changes, and a new and different ecological and cultural pattern of adaptation is in the process of emergence. It is this process that part of this thesis will describe and analyse.
Re-settled together with the group of Ibans from the interior were a group of Skrang Ibans, who were selected by the authorities to settle there because they had sold their traditional land rights to start the village-estate scheme. The Skrang Ibans are relatively ‘modernised’ as compared with the interior Ibans. This is because the ‘interior’ Ibans, coming from the lesser developed district of Lubok Antu, are less exposed to the influence of socio-cultural change than the Skrang Iban; living as they are near the administrative and commercial centre of Simanggang district. However, both groups are undergoing deep and marked changes from their normal mode of living. For the first time in their lives, both groups are experiencing the impact of direct control of their economic life in their change from traditional subsistence economy to a State-sponsored ‘cash economy’ through the rubber-estate system.
One of the assumptions of this thesis is that the Skrang group would be more receptive to the changes that are taking place, whilst the Lubok Antu would be less receptive. Though concurrently both would be ‘adaptive’ to the new environmental influences; each according to their own cultural references.
In studying the Skrang re-settlement scheme, I undertook four field trips totalling 40 days between July and December, 1968. Under normal circumstances, the number of days for field work would seem to be inadequate and short for research of this nature. However, it should be noted that I was working amongst my own people. Hence, I did not have to spend time building rapport with my subjects and to learn the language, as a non-Iban field-worker would need to do. Furthermore, every opportunity was taken to observe and participate in the daily life of the villagers. In addition, intensive interviews were conducted individually with village elders (tuai rumahs); and a brief socio-ethnographic survey of 162 families was taken out of a total of 184 families living here.
This thesis will look into the social and cultural consequences of the dislocation of the Ibans from their traditional environment and their subsequent socio-cultural adaptation to the changed environment.
1. It is hypothesised that with the dislocation of the Iban from their traditional shifting cultivation of hill rice-eco-system to a rigid bureaucratised rubber-estate eco-system there would be social and cultural dislocations in the following aspects:-
(a) behaviour pattern,
(b) belief system,
(c) leadership pattern,
(d) value system, and