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References: Orang Asli bibliography 2001 (14): Dentan

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

From: Lye Tuck-Po, ed. 2001. Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia: A Comprehensive and Annotated Bibliography, CSEAS Research Report Series No. 88. Kyoto: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University.References 226–276

226. DENTAN, Robert K[nox]. 1965. Some Senoi Semai dietary restrictions: A study of food behavior in a Malayan hill tribe. Ph.D. diss., Yale University, New Haven, CT — probably the most detailed available account bearing on nutritional aspects of Orang Asli environmental relations. Study done in Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter. [ATR #1680]
227. ——. 1967. The mammalian taxonomy of the Sen’oi Semai. MNJ 20: 100–106 — description of common names for the animals with which Semai of Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter come in contact and a brief description of the taboos involved in eating some of them. [RKL #1691]
228. ——. 1967. The response to intellectual impairment among the Semai. American Journal of Mental Deficiency 71(5): 764–766 — reports on a case of epilepsy and one of impairment and mutism following high fever. Based on Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter data. [ASB]


229. ——. 1968. The Semai: A non-violent people of Malaya. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston — one of the key texts of the peace and non-violence literature worldwide and for decades a favourite college text; presents a romantic and, on retrospect, idealistic portrait of Semai society. A highly readable general ethnography. Major themes: world view (including perceptions of violence, conceptions of life, death, pain, disease), subsistence procedures, kinship, intra- and inter-group comparisons. Fieldwork was in Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter [LTP]. Fieldwork ed., incorporating #234, published 1979. See also GB’s review in Am. Anthro. vol. 72 (1970), pp. 658–660.


230. ——. 1968. “Some problems in determining the conservation needs of the hill peoples of Southeast Asia”. In Conservation in tropical Southeast Asia. Ed. L. M. Talbot and M. H. Talbot. Geneva: Publication [n.s.] 10, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources — argues that Orang Asli activities are essential prerequisites to the survival of many “wild” plant and animal species. [ATR #1680]
231. ——. 1968. Notes on Semai ethnoentomology. MNJ 21: 17–28 — lists the Semai names associated with certain insect groups together with beliefs associated with some taxa. The account is generally more ethnological than entomological. Based on Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter data. [RKL #1691]
232. ——. 1968. Notes on Semai ethnomalacology. Malacologia 7: 135–141 — on classification and use of snails and bivalves; based on Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter data. [LTP]
233. ——. 1968. The Semai response to mental aberration. BTTLV 124: 135–158 — Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter data.
234. ——. 1970. “Living and working with the Semai”. Pp. 85–112 in Being an anthropologist. Ed. George Spindler. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston — an amusing fieldwork narrative, following the classic genre of Anthropologist & Wife landing on alien shores (Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter). Includes some memorable tales and useful description of fieldwork techniques [LTP]. Reprinted in RKD #229.
235. ——. 1970. An appeal to members of the society from an anthropologist. MNJ 23: 121–122 — appeals for further co-operation between anthropologists and biologists to advance knowledge of Orang Asli ethnoecology. On Semai of Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter. [ATR #1680]
236. ——. 1970. Hocus pocus and extensionism in central Malaysia. Am. Anthro. 72: 358–362 — on Senoi Dream Therapy; based on study of Semai at Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter.
237. ——. 1970. Labels and rituals in Semai classification. Ethnology 9: 16–25 — outlines the general principles behind Semai natural science classifications. Based on Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter data. [ATR #1680]
238. ——. 1971. Some Senoi Semai planting techniques. Economic Botany 25(2): 136–159 — includes an exhaustive list of crop varieties and a functionalist interpretation of the ritual avoidance of work. Based on K. Jinter data. [ATR #1680]
239. ——. 1975. “If there were no Malays, who would the Semai be”. Pp. 50–64 in Pluralism in Malaysia: Myth and reality [=Contrib. SEA Ethnog., vol. 7]. Ed. Judith Nagata — key article, with two main points on Semai identity. “Semai” does not refer to a fixed, timeless, and immutable ethnic category; rather, it develops in opposition to how the people perceive Malay identity. Based on work done in Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter. [LTP]
240. ——. 1976. “Ethnics and ethics in Southeast Asia”. Pp. 71–82 in Changing identities in modern Southeast Asia. Ed. David J. Banks. The Hague: Mouton..
241. ——. 1976. Identity and ethnic contact: Perak, Malaysia, 1963. Journal of Asian Affairs 1: 79–86 — on relations between Semai and Malays in Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter [LTP]. Reprinted 1979 in Intergroup relations: Asian scenes, ed. Tai S. Kang (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press), pp. 79–85.
242. ——. 1978. “Notes on childhood in a nonviolent context”. Pp. 94–141 in Learning non-aggression. Ed. Ashley Montagu. London: OUP — on beliefs and practices pertinent to the development of non-violent consciousness in Semai (of Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter). Despite the title, gives little information on children, their behaviour, and their thoughts, focusing almost entirely on broader ideas of personhood and social relations. With detailed fieldnote accounts. [LTP]
243. ——. 1983. A dream of Senoi. Special Study no. 150, Council on International Studies, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo — comprehensive study of the dream typology of Semai of Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter.
244. ——. 1983. Hit and run ethnograph. Dream Net. Bull. 2(8): 11–12 — clarifies that government did not destroy Senoi Dream Therapy. On Temiar and Semai (Batu Berangkai, K. Jinter). [RKD]
245. ——. 1983. Senoi dream praxis. Dream Net. Bull. 2(5): 1–3, 12.
246. ——. 1984. Techniques and antecedents: A response to Gieseler. Lucidity Letter 3(2&3): 5–7 — a critic suggested that perhaps Semai (of Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter) just weren’t talking about performing “Senoi Dream Therapy”. [RKD]
247. ——. 1986. “Ethnographic considerations in the cross-cultural study of dreaming and lucidity”. Pp. 317–358 in Sleep and dreams: A sourcebook. Ed. Jayne L. Gackenbach. New York: Garland — on Semai of Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter.
248. ——. 1987. You can never find a cop when you need one: A response to Faraday. Association for the Study of Dreams Newsletter 4(2): 14–16— examines why Orang Asli specialists didn’t identify errors in Kilton Stewart’s description of Temiar Dream Therapy. Draws from Semai study in Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter. [RKD]
249. ——. 1988. “Rejoinder to Brown”, “Rejoinder to Nanda” and “Reply to Paul”. Am. Anthro. 89: 420–423 — part of the controversy about whether Semai (of Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter) “repress” their “natural impulse” to “violence” and then it boils over in an emotional state they call blnuul bhiip. [RKD]
250. ——. 1988. “Lucidity, sex, and horror in Senoi dreamwork”. Pp. 37–63 in Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. Ed. Jayne L. Gackenbach and Stephen LaBerge. New York: Plenum — clarifies the empirical reality of Senoi dreaming from the mythology of the dream therapy originated by Kilton Stewart, mainly by comparing Dentan’s own Semai material with Marina Roseman’s study of Temiar music, trance, and gender relations (#797). This extensive literature review “uncovers no phenomenon unequivocally like the lucidity postulated in Stewart’s account” (p. 59). Intended for an audience unfamiliar with Orang Asli ethnography or anthropological theory-building and is therefore richly referenced. The Semai material comes from Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter. [LTP]
251. ——. 1988. Ambiguity, synecdoche and affect in Semai medicine. Soc. Sci. Med. (Special issue on “Techniques of healing in Southeast Asia”, ed. Carol Laderman and Penny Van Esterik) 27: 857–877 — ambiguity in the title refers to the common tendency among peoples of the world not to verbalize their experiences using neat boxes and labels, and to be able to hold mutually contradictory ideas in tandem. As such, though the article is about how Semai talk and think about illness and various kinds of diseases and their causes, it is also a critique of the scholarly tendency to simplify their descriptions and analyses of such complex phenomena. With background commentary on the nature of Semai knowledge and how greater exposure to outside society (e.g., Malays) may stimulate people to more clearly explain and reduce the ambiguity in their ideas. [LTP]
252. ——. 1988. Band-level Eden: A mystifying chimera. Cultural Anthropology 3: 276–284 — debunking article, which critiques the anthropological tendency to create social taxonomies to explain behaviour. [LTP]
253. ——. 1988. On reconsidering violence in simple societies. Curr. Anthro. 29: 624–629.
254. ——. 1989. Music Semai played for fun. Echology 3: 100–119 — from Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter data.
255. ——. 1991. Potential food sources for foragers in Malaysian rainforest: Sagos, yams and lots of little things. BTTLV 147: 420–444 — critical response to the Bailey-Headland hypothesis that tropical rainforests are incapable of supporting non-agricultural populations. A good analysis of how forest peoples actually sustain themselves: e.g., maintenance and exploitation of sugar-rich fruit trees, opportunistic and broad-spectrum foraging, etc. Draws from literature reviews and some of the author’s own observations of Semai. [LTP]
256. ——. 1992. “The rise, maintenance, and destruction of a peaceable polity: A preliminary essay in political ecology”. Pp. 214–270 in Aggression and peacefulness in humans and other primates. Ed. James Silverberg and J. P. Gray. New York: OUP — drawing heavily on Orang Asli accounts, argues that peaceability arises in situations of low population density when a more powerful society continuously pressures but does not overwhelm a less powerful neighbouring society, which retains the option of retreating to an underpopulated refuge area, which the invaders can penetrate at will but which they do not occupy. Patterns of ideology, social relations, and childrearing develop within the refuge which tend to maintain the successful adaptation of flight. Permanent invasion of the refuge area or its destruction by economic development undermine the peaceable adaptation and provide new reasons for violence. [KME in #1706 no. 11]
257. ——. 1993. “A confessional and memorial of Orang Asli”. Pp. 1–14 in Hood Salleh, et al, eds. Orang Asli: an appreciation. [see notes therein]
258. ——. 1994. “Surrendered men: Peaceable enclaves in the post-Enlightenment west”. Pp. 69–108 in The anthropology of peace and nonviolence. Ed. Leslie E. Sponsel and Thomas Gregor. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner — Orang Asli mentioned as natural world analogs of cenobitic communities. [RKD]
259. ——. 1995. Bad day at Bukit Pekan. Am. Anthro. 97(2): 225–231 — report from Dentan’s revisit in 1992, to investigate whether his original depiction of Semai as non-violent people was too romantic and how political-environmental change has led to deterioration of classical norms of behaviour. Recounts, from a first person narrative, a late 1940s massacre by Semai of Communist Terrorists and Chinese villagers at Krikal (Cangkat Pinggan), mostly in retaliation for violence done to them. With reflections on how writers should deal with such information. [LTP]
260. ——. 1997. “The persistence of received truth: How ruling class Malays construct Orang Asli identity”. Pp. 98–134 in Indigenous peoples and the state: Politics, land, and ethnicity in the Malayan Peninsula and Borneo. Ed. Robert L. Winzeler. New Haven, CT: Yale Southeast Asia Studies no. 46, Yale University Press — an impressively researched essay on the reproduction of and continuity in Malay perceptions of Orang Asli, including stereotypes and terms of abuse and the history of Malay (Muslim) encapsulation of Orang Asli societies. [LTP]
261. ——. 1997. Telling the truth in difficult times: Malaysian anthropologists and Orang Asli. Am. Anthro. 99(4): 836–838 — review essay of recent studies by Malaysian scholars. [LTP]
262. ——. 1999. “Enduring scars: Cautionary tales among the Semai”. Pp. 130–134 in Traditional storytelling today: An international sourcebook. Ed. Margaret Read MacDonald. London and Chicago, Il: Fitzroy-Dearborn (Garland) — on stories and story-telling as a means to communicate lessons about proper behaviour, and specifically lessons in non-violence; based on Sg. Woh (Perak) and K. Jinter data. [LTP]
263. ——. 1999. Semai-Malay ethnobotany: Hindu influences on the trade in sacred plants, ho hiang. Occasional paper no. 3, AKASS heritage paper series. Malaysian Academy of Social Sciences (AKASS), Pulau Pinang. 33 pp.
264. ——. 2000. “The Semai of Malaysia”. Pp. 209–232 in Endangered peoples of Southeast and East Asia: Struggles to survive and thrive. Ed. Leslie Sponsel. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group — an overview of Semai today, comparing past and present and how current political and environmental conditions have affected them and changed their ways of life (including their traditionally non-violent approach to conflict). [LTP]
265. ——. 2000. Ceremonies of innocence and the lineaments of gratified desire: An analysis of a syncretic Southeast Asian taboo complex. BTTLV156(2) — on the various “taboos” of Semai (punan, pnalii’, tnghaan, gnghaanh, trlaac, sumbung, mnuur, srnlook, tolaah, etc) and their implications for the definition of “violence”. [RKD]
266. ——. 2000. Puzzling questions, not beyond all conjecture: Boehm’s “Evolutionary origins of morality”. Journal of Consciousness Studies7(1/2): 123–127 — tangentially relevant to studies of Orang Asli politics and morality; includes long quote from two Semai elders (from Sg. Woh in Perak) analyzing the benefits of social life. [RKD]
267. ——. 2000. Spotted doves at war: The Praak Sangkiil. Asian Folklore Studies (Nagoya) 58(2): 397–434 — the Semai’s reputed nonviolence seems not to stem from “cultural tradition” but from a realistic accommodation to a violent political ecology. Epic accounts of the Praak Sangkiil (war with the Rawas), like the two texts presented here, illuminate the people’s violent past as targets of sporadic slave-raiding. Fieldwork setting Sg. Woh (Perak). [extract]
268. ——. 2000. Despair and suicide among Semai, a non-violent people of West Malaysia. Moussons: Social Science Research on Southeast Asia 2: 31–56 — deals with (a) how loss of beloved person drives Semai to suicide or madness, and (b) how contact with patriarchal Malay society seems to be increasing the stresses on young people which lead them to kill themselves. [RKD]
269. ——. 2001. A vision of modernization: An article on a drawing by Bah Rmpent, child of the Sengoi Semai, a traditionally nonviolent people of the Malaysian Peninsula. Journal of Anthropology and Humanism 26(1): 3–15 — an assessment of “economic development” and its effects on indigenous peoples, by examining a Semai boy’s drawing, a poem by Robert Frost on Wabnaki and a newspaper article on Temuan. [RKD]
270. ——. 2001. Ambivalences in child training by the Semai of Peninsular Malaysia and other peoples. Crossroads 15(1): 89–129 — on how Semai teach their children an “eidos” of caution, with a comparison between the pleasures American and Semai adults seem to derive from teaching their kids about “stranger danger”. [RKD]
271. ——. 2002. “Against the kingdom of the beast: Semai theology, pre-Aryan religion and the dynamics of abjection”. In Benjamin and Chou, eds., Tribal Communities — focusing on beliefs about thunder and its effects (flooding, land collapse) and the conceptual relationship between these ideas and a history of slavery. Challenges the general tendency to dismiss Semai religion by comparing it with Daoist and Hindu thought [LTP].
272. DENTAN, Robert K., and Anthony WILLIAMS-HUNT. 1999. Untransfiguring death: A case study of rape, drunkenness, development and homicide in an apprehensive void. RIMA 33(1): 17–63 — on the social stresses caused by development; recounts, from reconstruction, an incident of rape by a Semai alcoholic at a regroupment area and his accidental death from a fall. [LTP]
273. DENTAN, Robert K., and Barbara S. NOWAK. 1980. “Die soziale stellung des minderbegabten” [=The social status of mentally impaired people]. Pp. 203–219 in Psychopathologie im kulturvergleich. Ed. Wolfgang M. Pfeiffer and Wolfgang Schoene. Stuttgart: Enke — on Semai of Batu Berangkai and K. Jinter, Lanoh, and Temiar. A shorter version of #274. [RKD]
274. ——. 1984. Problems and tactics in the transcultural study of intelligence: An archival report. Behavioral Science Research 18(1): 45–99 — on mental retardation and the Btsisi’ of Sg. Judah; with an analysis of Kilton Stewart’s IQ testing of Lanoh and Temiar. [RKD]
275. DENTAN, Robert K., and ONG Hean Chooi. 1995. “Stewards of the green and beautiful world: A preliminary report on Semai arboriculture and its policy implications”. Pp. 53–124 in Dimensions of tradition and development in Malaysia. Ed. Rokiah Talib and Tan Chee Beng. Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Pelanduk — on the cultivation of tree crops. An extensive exposition of how relationship to land and property among Semai is really about relationship to trees; benefits from the collaboration between an ethnographer (Dentan) and a botanist (Ong, who undertook the plant identifications). With consideration of the Semai’s methods of resource management, the significance of tree crop cultivation as a buffer against environmental risk, the disadvantaged political position of Orang Asli tree crop producers, and a table of plant names with botanical identifications. Suffers from the absence of a map and/or precise location information (latitudes and longitudes), especially in view of the article’s near-exclusive use of local place-names. [LTP]


276. DENTAN, Robert K., Kirk ENDICOTT, Alberto G. GOMES, and M. B. HOOKER. 1997. Malaysia and the original people: A case study of the impact of development on indigenous peoples. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon — textbook overview of the effects of development, outlining how various policies and governmental practices have not benefitted the Orang Asli [LTP]. See also Robert Winzeler’s review in JSEAS vol. 31 no. 2, pp. 428–430.


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