William D. Wilder, Editor
this volume six anthropologists deal with a common theme:
the many and various rituals surrounding human death. Their
ethnographic papers not only testify to the benefits of new
and intensive field research on Borneo, they also play to
the important theories set out by Robert Hertz on the collective
representation of death, an essay which laid the foundations
for the analysis of mortuary customs in Borneo, to van Gennep's
classic notion of rites of passage, and to more recent anthropological
The societies of Borneo have long been known to ethnographers
for such distinctive practices as secondary burial, longhouse
feasts, headhunting, and the category of "bad death."
Two of the societies represented in this volume - Kelabit
and Punan Bah - have, or had until recently, the institution
of secondary burial, that is, after a period of time the remains
of the deceased person were retrieved and ceremonially reburied.
Iban, Bidayuh, and Rungus people normally dispose of their
dead once and once only. All except the Rungus are former
Headhunting was abolished under colonial rule along with
much of the violence that kept these stateless societies in
flux. Furthermore, two of them - Kelabit and Bidayuh - have
lost, or are rapidly losing, their mortuary traditions as
a result of conversion to Christianity. Nonetheless, the authors
are able to present, through judicious use of observed and
recovered data, painstaking and richly detailed analyses of
traditions concerning death and the fate of soul in five Borneo
The volume is based on papers originally presented at a meeting
of the American Anthropological Association in 1997, since
revised and expanded. It is edited, introduced, and indexed
by William D. Wilder. Three of the papers are extensively
illustrated with field photographs.
Contributors: Matthew Amster, George and Laura Appell, Pamela
Lindell, Ida Nicolaisen, Clifford Sather, and William Wilder.