Reflection on A Class Stratification

According to Max Weber upon examining the social structure of Germany, he introduced three independent factors to his theory of stratification hierarchy: class, status and power.

  • Class: A person’s economic position in a society.
  • Status: A person’s prestige, social honor or popularity in a society
  • Power: A person’s ability to get their way despite the resistance of others.

Based on my findings (as a student and an Orang Ulu myself), the Orang Ulu is a stratified community. In the Kayan and the Kenyah society, they are being ranked differently by their social class which is;

  • maren (Kayan)/Ke’tau(Kenyah) or aristocrat
  • panyin (Kayan/Kenyah) or commoner
  • lipen (Kayan/Kenyah) or slave.

During the Rajah Brooke era, the Rajah abolished the lipen class hence there’s only maren and pinyin class which are still existed until today. Based on Max Weber stratification theory and the relation with the Orang Ulu stratification, I think (my own theory) the Orang Ulu stratification is more on class factor. Based on my family oral history and written history, the maren are always been pictured as the wealthiest among others.

Recently, I’ve attended a cultural forum organized by Pustaka Negeri (Sarawak State Library). The forum was about the Orang Ulu burial custom according to their stratification class. The presenters were Temenggong Pahang Deng and Penghulu Joseph Belulok whom are one of the Orang Ulu prominent figures in Baram and it was moderated by Mr. Jalong Wan who’s attached to Miri Education Department.

As Temenggong himself is a Kayan, he presented the Kayan burial custom which focuses more on the maren class. Photos were shown on the process of a maren burial, demonstration on different type of tawak sounds are being played to forumers, type of clothings and accessories to be wore by the decease, protocol of sending the body to the grave yard and burial superstitious. Penghulu Joseph Beluluk is a Kenyah hence presented the Kenyah burial custom. His presentation is similar to the Kayan burial custom with fewer photos.

Nevertheless, overall I find it interesting as some of it is new findings to me.

Having that said, I do have my own frustration on the forum.

In general, the forum failed to reach out the Orang Ulu community itself especially those who reside in the urban areas. I turned up due to curiosity on my own culture. Others?

Temenggong and Penghulu respectively are from Long Pelutan (Long Miri) and Lepo Anan (Long Atun, Tinjar). How many of you know these places? And I’m wondering whether these places name have been gazette or not?

As the forum are more focus on the burial custom of the Kayan from Long Pelutan/Miri and the Kenyah of Lepo Anan/Long Atun, I think it is appropriate if the forum to be name as ‘The Burial Custom of the Maren: Kayan of Long Pelutan and the Kenyah of Lepo Anan’ rather than the Orang Ulu burial custom according to stratification class. To me, the title of the forum was misleading and had lead to different expectation especially to people like me.

I noticed Temenggong and Penghulu were referring to their notes upon delivering their presentations which I believe was based on what is written in the Majlis Adat Istiadat book and oral history. It comes to a point where I start to ponder. Apart from the burial custom of the Kayan of Long Pelutan/Long Miri and the Kenyah of Lepo Anan/Long Atun were documented (if it is documented), how about the other Kayan and Kenyah from other part of Baram and Belaga? As far as I’m concerned, burial custom for respective class are vary.

The question is how comprehensive is the documentation been made and compiled in the Majlis Adat Istiadat archieve?

Nowadays, the Kayan and the Kenyah (in particular) are still practicing the class stratification especially when it comes to a marriage.  The bride prices and the protocols involved are usually passed down based on oral history and I noticed some of it being changed to accommodate modern life style. After attended the forum, even in a burial has its own custom, of which just show how important the class stratification plays its role in the modern world.

Hence, I strongly suggest and encourage the Orang Ulu to document your family ritual and custom for the sake of the new generation. Who are we without an identity?

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