Geger Riyanto: Assimilating Stranger, Exemplifying Value. The Realization of Ideal Cultural Representation and Upland-Lowland Relationship in North Seram, Eastern Indonesia


Ultimate value is rarely fully realized as people have to maintain a balance between values in their everyday life. Robbins (2015) notes, however, that it may be perfectly exemplified through ritual. In this paper, I want to show that the perfect exemplification of a value that fundamentally matters to a society may otherwise be attained through the incorporation of an overwhelming stranger. Anthropologists have shown that the presence of a potent foreigner incites a sense of categorical disunity that leads to the dialectical counter movement to assimilate them. In this imaginary process of establishing a new unity, I argue, people are not simply attempting to incorporate the pervading stranger but also to encompass them within their hierarchically arranged idea of value. Subsequently, during the moment of assimilation – which can occur through myth, ritual, or other social forms – the community makes their ultimate value socially present. I will try to exemplify my argument by examining key cultural representations of the other among upland-lowland people in North Seram, Eastern Indonesia.

[Maluku; Marshall Sahlins, ultimate value; value exemplification; stranger incorporation; upland-lowland relationship; Louis Dumont]