Hunter Gatherer Research

Book Review

Hunter Gatherer Research (2017), 2, (4), 483–486.


Details

Book Review Regnskovens religion – forestillinger og ritualer blandt Borneos sidste jæger-samlere. Mikael Rothstein. 2016. Copenhagen: U Press. ISBN 978-87-93060-41-8. £45. Anne-Christine Hornborg Book Review Professor in History of Religion, Lund University, Sweden anne-christine.hornborg@ctr.lu.se Small-scale cultures such as nomadic hunter-gatherer groups like the Penan in the Malaysian province of Sarawak in the Borneo rainforest, whom the historian of religion Mikael Rothstein has documented in his book Regnskovens religion – forestillinger og ritualer blandt Borneos sidste jæger-samlere (The Religion of the Rainforest – Conceptions and Rituals among the Last Hunters and Gatherers in Borneo), are currently undergoing radical changes. Missions, modernisation and capitalist plunder of the forests that are their traditional habitats force them to give up their nomadic lives and settle down. Ethnographic documentation of these groups is thus an important task, as their contemporary lifeworlds are in danger of completely disappearing and being replaced with cosmologies and ritual practices geared to the modern world’s requirements and conditions. Demanding fieldwork, which limits the influx of ethnographers in inaccessible environments, such as the rainforests of Borneo, has not prevented Rothstein from conducting his valuable and meticulous work. He is also put to the test in several ways in his meetings with the radically Other (not least because of language barriers). Rothstein frankly discusses these problematic meetings with a self-reflexive approach to his work, which also includes the challenge of achieving objectivity in fieldwork engagements. With a sensitive ear and a nuanced awareness of theory, Rothstein embraces a systematic approach and extends to the reader an active Penan voice. While participating in their daily activities and examining their lifeworld in detail, he generates extremely valuable insights and empirical knowledge about his hosts. Not much has been written about the nomadic Penan since Rodney Needham’s fieldwork of the 1950s (Needham 1953), in contrast to the more settled Hunter Gatherer Research 2.4 (2016) ISSN 1476-4261 © Liverpool University Press https://doi.org/10.3828/hgr.2016.32

Brosius, J 1999. The Western Penan of Borneo. In Lee, R & Daly, R (eds) The Cambridge encyclopaedia of hunters and gatherers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press:312–316. The Western Penan of Borneo The Cambridge encyclopaedia of hunters and gatherers 312 316 Google Scholar

Descola, P 1996. In the society of nature: a native ecology in Amazonia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. In the society of nature: a native ecology in Amazonia Google Scholar

Ingold, T 2000. The perception of the environment: essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill. London: Routledge. The perception of the environment: essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill Google Scholar

Needham, R 1953. The social organisation of the Penan: a southeast Asian people. PhD dissertation, Oxford University. The social organisation of the Penan: a southeast Asian people Google Scholar

Viveiros de Castro, E 1992. From the enemy’s point of view: humanity and divinity in an Amazonian society. Chicago: Chicago University Press. From the enemy’s point of view: humanity and divinity in an Amazonian society Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Author details

Hornborg, Anne-Christine