Steven Sager: Negotiating Identity, Ethnicity, and Place in Sumatra. Through Orang Rimba Origin Stories, Myths, and Legends


This article examines how the Orang Rimba along the Makekal River negotiate their social identity, ethnic boundaries, and place in Jambi through an analysis of their origin stories, myths, and legends. While the Makekal Orang Rimba believe they have shared ancestry with the Malay, they are extremely adamant towards preserving their customs, beliefs, and religion (adat), and their traditional way of life in the forests. One theme in their origin stories is a strong desire to maintain cultural and political autonomy by maintaining separation with the village Malay and the outside world. However, like other Austronesian peoples these stories also represent a negotiation to emplace themselves in the region through the manipulation of common origins, ancestor figures, law, and notions of precedence.

[Sumatra, Orang Rimba, Kubu, Malay, origin stories, folklore, ethnic identity]