Humans and dugongs in eastern Indonesia

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 11 May, 2017 - 14:00
, Gregory - Dept of Anthropology, University of Alberta

Recent research on Flores Island ( eastern Indonesia) concerning human relations with dugongs or ‘sea-cows’ Dugong dugong raises questions about the status of these marine mammals as revealed in indigenous mythology and folk taxonomy. A myth told by the Lio people of eastern central Flores describes dugongs as deriving from a human being, and apparently consonant with this mythical derivation Lio name dugongs ata ruju (‘dugong people’). Other evidence, however, shows that Lio conceive of the human-dugong relation in at least three different ways, and furthermore that Lio, in their classificatory practice and use of dugong products, treat the creatures as a kind of ‘fish’ (ika). The implications of these findings will be discussed in relation to new theories of ‘animism’ and especially the suggestion that reputed human derivation entails a view of non-humans as continuous with humans in regard to intentional agency and subjectivity.