Also known as: Kalabit

The Kelabit are rice farmers who live high in the mountains of northern Borneo. The Kelabit had little direct contact with peoples other than their direct neighbours until after World War II, but cultural changes as a result of external forces, such as the abandonment of headhunting, may have taken place much earlier. The Kelabit acknowledged a hierarchically-ordered pantheon of gods until their adoption of Christianity in the 1960s.

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Traditional Culture(1875-1900)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 273-274, 279, 291-294
Nature god(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 266-267, 279-284, 285
Ancestral spirits Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 219-255, 256-300, 224, 234, 248, 299-300
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 266, 268-270
Janowski (2003), pp. 43
God(s) Present, and the principal focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 256-300, 260-261

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 272-273, 284

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Absent (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 299-300
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 299
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and creationist (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 265-266
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 265-266
Culture hero(es) Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 256-300, 266

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 284-285, 286

Classes of Tapu

Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 156, 261
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 319-320
Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 157, 261

Mana

Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Blevins (2008)
Keesing (1984)
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Blevins (2008)
Keesing (1984)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Present (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 43-44
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 234, 268-270
Size of largest ritual social group Larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 7, 88, 225, 235-236
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 256-300, 291, 294-297

Rites

Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 12
Talla (1979), pp. 185-255
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 11-13
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 11-13
Tattooing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 11
Talla (1979), pp. 185-255
Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 11-13
Social Environment +
Population of largest political community 100-999 (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 7, 88
Lebar (1972), pp. 160, 162
Importance of Patrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 146
Strouthes (1993B), pp. 193
Importance of Matrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 146
Strouthes (1993B), pp. 193
Marital residence Matrilocal or uxorilocal - with wife's kin (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 161

Conflict

Conflict with other cultures Common, at least every five years (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 4, 16
Lebar (1972), pp. 159
Conflict between communities of the culture Common, at least every five years (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 162
Conflict within communities Low (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 15-28
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 160-161
Talla (1979), pp. 16-18
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 0.0 (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 5
Ethnologue (Map of Brunei and Sarawak) (2014)
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 1046.0 (Source)
Ethnologue (Map of Brunei and Sarawak) (2014)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Present: Clear evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Talla (1979), pp. 17-18
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 7
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Minor (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 160
Janowski (2003), pp. 38
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 160
Talla (1979), pp. 301
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Major (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 160
Janowski (2003), pp. 38-39
Land-based gathering Major (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 9, 36
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 160
Janowski (2003), pp. 38-39

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 39
Water-based gathering Medium (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 39
Lebar (1972), pp. 160
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 160
Janowski (2003), pp. 39

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Minor (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 160
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 5
Ethnologue (Map of Brunei and Sarawak) (2014)

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude 3.7 (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. Map 1
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 115.5 (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. Map 1
Google Maps (2014)
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Continental island (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Sunda Shelf) (2014)
Island Size (km²) 755000.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Borneo) (2014)
Maximum elevation (meters) 4101.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Borneo) (2014)
Post Contact History(1900-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 429-430, 458-469
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Talla (1979), pp. 458-464
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 8

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 8-9
Talla (1979), pp. 429-430, 458-490
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Ewart (2012), pp. 70-71
Janowski (2003), pp. 5
Language shift Medium (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 8
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Bala (2007), pp. 122

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Amster (2006), pp. 208
Janowski (2003), pp. 22
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present but minor (Source)
Ewart (2012), pp. 70
Janowski (2003), pp. 22

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present but rarely used (Source)
Ewart (2012), pp. 69
Air travel Present, local only (Source)
Amster (2006), pp. 208

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Partly voluntary (Source)
Ewart (2012), pp. 70-71
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Ewart (2012), pp. 70-71
Janowski (2003), pp. 5
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Unofficial religious syncretism Medium (Source)
Amster (2008), pp. 84-85
Janowski (2003), pp. 42-43
Institutional religious syncretism Medium (Source)
Amster (2008), pp. 75, 77
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Janowski (2003), pp. 8
Amster (2008), pp. 75-76
External Links
References
Amster, M. H. (2006). Narrating the border: Perspectives from the Kelabit Highlands of Borneo. In A. Horstmann & R. Wadley (Eds.), Centering the Margin: Agency and Narrative in Southeast Asian Borderlands (207-228). New York, NY: Berghahn Books.

Amster, M. H. (2008). Where Spirit and Bulldozer Roam: Environment and Anxiety in Highland Borneo. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 2 (1), 74-92. DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.v2i1.74

Bala, P. (2007). From Highlands to Lowlands: Kelabit Mothers and their Migrant Daughters. In H. C. Sim (Ed.), Village Mothers, City Daughters (120-139). Singapore: ISEAS Publishing.

Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ol/summary/v047/47.2.blevins.html

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172322

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014). http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Borneo). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/74286/Borneo

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Sunda Shelf). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/573755/Sunda-Shelf

Ethnologue (2014). Map of Brunei and Malaysia - Sarawak. Ethnologue. Retrieved from http://www.ethnologue.com/map/MY_sr

Ewart, I. J. (2012). Social and Material Influences on the Kelabit Dwelt Environment. Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, 23(2), 69-82.

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from maps.google.com

Hose, C., & McDougall, W. (1993). The Pagan Tribes of Borneo: Volume Two. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Originally published 1912).

Janowski, M. (2003). The Forest, Source of Life: the Kelabit of Sarawak. London, England: British Museum.

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3629696.

Lebar, F. (Ed.). (1972). Eastern Sumbanese in Ethnic Groups of Insular Southeast Asia. Volume 1: Indonesia, Andaman Islands, and Madagascar. New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files Press.

Strouthes, D. (1993B). "Murut". In P. Hockings (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of World Cultures (Volume V - East and Southeast Asia) (pp 192-193). New York: G.K. Hall & Co.

Talla, Y. (1979). The Kelabit of the Kelabit Highlands, Sarawak. Provisional Research Report. No. 9, Pulau Pinang, Social Anthrosection School of Comparative Social Sciences. Penang, Malaysia: University Sains Malaysia.