Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-1-2005


Why has maize, a plant with origins in the New World, become ritually important in an indigenous Southeast Asian religion? While environmental conditions and agricultural economics are key determinants of everyday resource management practices in insular Southeast Asia, it is necessary to consider ethnic identity, political economy, and social structure in order to understand the religious significance of natural resources in contemporary society. Linguistic, cosmological, and horticultural data are combined with an analysis of local perceptions of culture and environment. This information is used to explain the transformation of an introduced plant into an indigenous sacrament. Ethnographic data, including a brief case study of the role of maize in marapu ‘ancestor worship’ and the cultural history of the Kodi people who live on the Indonesian island of Sumba, are the basis for a discussion of agrarian change and social history in Kodi. The data are also used to explore the possibility of using information about contemporary Sumbanese society to gain a better understanding of historical processes in eastern Indonesia.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.