Wednesday Forum: Head Hunting, Sacrifices for Bridges, and Electronic Phantasm


Rumors about head-hunting and construction sacrifices have been recorded in Southeast Asia since the beginning of 20th century. My focus is on the present-day form of these rumors on the island Sumba, Eastern Indonesia. First directed especially at the Dutch colonizers, stories about foreigners seeking for body parts have continually absorbed new features. In 1990’s, they focussed on new technologies that were imagined as electronic phantasms.  Nowadays they target tourists and immigrants as well as people deviating from social norms. Following Jean-Nöel Kapferer, who defined rumors as one of the defense mechanisms by which members of communities try to preserve their old ways, I interpret Sumbanese rumors as a way for Sumbanese to define themselves in opposition to outside forces and as a tool for maintaining norms in society.

Adriana Kábová earned her Master’s degree in Ethnology from the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. She is a PhD candidate in Anthropology, also at the Charles University in Prague, and is currently on  an internship in the Pusat Studi Pariwisata at UGM. Her research interests include tourism and contemporary legends in Southeast Asia.




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