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SIL Electronic Working Papers 2011-009

Social Organization of the West Coast Bajau

Author  Miller, Mark T.
Abstract  In this paper I describe the social organization of the West Coast Bajau of Sabah, Malaysia. A brief survey of their geographical and historical setting reveals trends of increasing individualism and the weakening of reciprocal economic exchanges. I then present data on Bajau kinship, household structure, and marriage. These data reveal that the Bajau household is markedly individualistic in nature, determined more by choice of residence than by prescribed family roles. This individualism is further seen in Bajau engagement and marriage practices. Finally, I discuss factors which contribute to a Bajau sense of identity. I show that reliance upon reciprocal labor is still a part of Bajau society, as observed in village feasts which strengthen social cohesion among the Bajau. The village exchanges are practiced within the framework of Islam. Thus, while in some ways the Bajau are an individualistic people, their reciprocal feasts and the common thread of Islam contribute to their community life and sense of identity.
  Social Organization of the West Coast Bajau
Published  2011
Language  Bajau, West Coast [bdr]
Country  Malaysia
Subjects  Anthropology
Ethnography
Keywords  identity; Islam; Bajau; Sabah; kinship; household; engagement; marriage; feasts; reciprocity