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LEARNING KNOWLEDGE ABOUT RATTAN (Calamoideae arecaceae) AND ITS USES AMONGST NGAJU DAYAK IN INDONESIAN BORNEO

Articles

Journal/Conference:

JOURNAL OF ETHNOBIOLOGY

Language:

English

Author:

Schreer Viola

Year:

2016

Volume:

36

Issue:

1

Pages:

125-146

Keywords:

rattan; environmental knowledge; transmission; basketry; Kalimantan

This paper offers an anthropological account of rattan (Calamoideae arecaceae) knowledge and its acquisition amongst Ngaju Dayak rattan farmers in Katingan, Indonesian Borneo. Rattan is the generic term for a large and complex group of mostly climbing spiny palms, constituting the world’s most important non-timber agroforest product. Yet due to over-exploitation and forest conversion, not only are natural rattan stocks dwindling, but so too is popular knowledge of its multiple uses. Following a practice-oriented approach to environmental knowledge and its transmission, I discuss the relationship between people and rattan. The underlying assumption is that knowledge involves sensual and performative aspects in addition to conceptual dimensions. While it is shown that learning of rattan knowledge rests on a combination of various factors and is sequential and gender-, context-, and phase-dependent, I argue that rattan knowledge develops through an active engagement with the surrounding world and rattan itself. Environmental knowledge transmission among rattan managers does not rest on passing on a stock of context-free information. Rather, individuals learn rattan knowledge by the very continuity of practice as they join in the experience of others-even though years-long phases of non-practice and associated forgetting form part of the dynamic properties of rattan knowledge as well.