Butt, Leslie 1998 The Social and Political Life of Infants among the Baliem
Valley Dani, Irian Jaya,
PhD Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal.
Judul: Kehidupan Sosial dan Politik Anak-anak Dani di Lembah Baliem, Irian Jaya.
| © Leslie Butt, 1998. Use of any part of this thesis for any purpose must be acknowledged.
Among the Baliem valley Dani of the central highlands of Irian Jaya, Indonesia,
infants play a prominent role in social relations. Infant mortality rates among the Dani
are above two hundred and fifty deaths per thousand live births and birth rates are low.
To these patterns of infant survival and growth the Dani consistently ascribe complex
meaning. Drawing from anthropological research conducted in 1994–1995 in the
Baliem valley, this dissertation demonstrates that indigenous meanings about the infant
body and assessments of infant health link the infant to political relations within
polygynous families, to antagonistic gender relations, and to affiliations with powerful
ancestor spirits. Gender relations play a prominent role in explanations about infants.
When an infant dies, parents explain the death in ways that reflect the lower social
status of women in relation to men. A study of sex ratios during the first year of life
and biased use of health services by gender of the infant suggest that the Dani may
generate and validate cultural patterns of gender inequality during the earliest months
of life. Infants also play an important role in national politics. In Indonesia's
attempts to assimilate indigenous peoples into the country's economic development
agenda, the infant appears in health promotions as a member of a contrived ideal family.
These national cultural models, grounded in a concern with population control, translate
into an applied health agenda for infants that has little impact on the mortality rates
of the very young in Dani society. The infant, though mute, is a powerful figure at the
center of many social and political relations. The richness of meaning attributed to
infants in the Baliem valley suggests that further research is needed to correct lacunae
in anthropological theory about one of life's key social figures.
* Terjemahan dalam Bahasa Indonesia belum tersedia.