Marapu in Disasters: Meaning and Response of Wunga-East Sumba Community against Natural Disasters

Title : Marapu in Disasters: Meaning and Response of Wunga-East Sumba Community against Natural Disasters
Author : Jimmy Marcos Immanuel (CRCS, 2010)
Keywords : Marapu, ethnoecology, natural disaster, meaning, response, and ritual
Abstract
This thesis addresses the life of indigenous people in a village community on Sumba, an island of Eastern Indonesia that is particularly prone to natural disasters. Over the past two decades a village in Eastern Sumba, called Wunga, has experienced ecological phenomena such as locust pest/ Locusta Migratoria Manilensis (1998-2005), Tai Kabala grass/Chromolina odorata (2006), whirlwind (2007), earthquakes (2007 and 2009), famine (2007), barrenness or drought (every year), toad pest (2007), and fires (several times). Wunga village is deemed to be the place the Sumbanese ancestors arrived at when they first came to Sumba. It was affected by the ecological phenomena mentioned, which can be also seen as natural disasters, and was hit especially hard.

By using an ethno-ecology approach, the present research found that Wunga people, of whom 85,4% follow Marapu (the local religion in Sumba), have created their own meanings (based on emic view) for natural disasters that differ from the views of scholars and from the Indonesian government’s policy as the global perspective. This difference stems from the creation by the Wunga people of their own taxonomies and perspectives on their ecology.

This thesis aims to answer questions about how the Wunga people view their own vulnerable ecology, what meanings and behavioral responses the Wunga people ascribe to natural disasters, and the factors that contribute to the formation of these meanings and behaviors. We will see how local identity among Marapu followers gives rise to a discourse of natural disaster that is distinct from constructions of the globalization. The issues of politics of environment and market power will also be used as a framework of interpretation to see the problem of poverty in Wunga as a risk factor of disasters that could happen in the future. The dominant response of Wunga people to their ecological problems, which is hamayangu or ritual, will also be analyzed in order to understand the significance of the response to the society. Ritual will be seen as people’s resilience, coping mechanism, “common food” which symbolizes shared-identity, and the way people maintain masculinity in the society.

This post is also available in: Indonesian

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