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Chapter 5: Child rearing among Batek

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1 Chapter 5: Child rearing among Batek
Batek are traditional society in Malaysia. Lifestyle has been more affected by environmental changes that Efe. Still engage in mobile hunting and gathering, but supplemented with trading: Resources: 58% wild; 42% traded

2 Batak: Sexual division of labor
Men hunt with blow pipes: monkeys, gibbons, squirrels, birds. Women: gather tubers, mushrooms, fruits, etc. Some overlap: men also did some gathering, women did some hunting of smaller game and fishing. Both collect rattan, a vine traded for various products (tea, tobacco, pots, knives). Note: resource uncertainty seems less an issue with Batek compared to Efe

3 Batek homelife Camps: 5-8 families in separate huts. Both individual/familial autonomy and cooperative sharing within camps was highly valued

4 Batek and Efe Similarities:
Early infant indulgence and constant maternal contact. Community interest and involvement in infant/child care including fathers. Play in mixed aged/sex groups ages 2-8, considerable overlap in boy/girl activities Birth: less communal than Efe; mother plus female attendants. Baby quickly given to mother. Striking characteristics of Batek Highly uncompetitive games and activities

5 Growing up Batek Around age 8, boys/girls segregate themselves and specialize in gender-specific activities accompanying same sex parent. Seems to happen naturally, little direction from parents. No indication that either gender role “favored” over another, both valued Most learning: via observation and imitation, little direct instruction

6 Growing up Batek Most Batek child-rearing strategies appear to be common-sense solutions to practical challenges. The only practice that appears to be quite deliberate is allowing very young children to “learn by doing” in order to develop skill and autonomy. This meant playing with knives and fire. Parental authority: largely exercised through supernatural agents who would punish, predatory animals and the dangerous outsider. Parents did expect to have inherent authority!

7 Growing up Batek Marriage: Many adolescent “trial” marriages; marriage (late teens, early 20’s)o marked by cohabitation and small feast provided by couple, gifts given to couple; but other than that little ceremony or ritual. Divorce: not uncommon, more likely early on and childless. More divorce seems to add more caregivers to children rather than subtract.

8 Batek non-aggressiveness
Beginning ages 1-2, toddler’s aggressive acts met by active separation by parent (e.g. kid hits at another, mom picks up kid and removes kid from situation). Aggressive possessiveness met by ignoring. Main strategies of teaching non-aggression: non-rewarding; ignoring; separation; modeling non-aggression.

9 Help others (share food) Be non-violent Be non-competitive
Batek morality Batek morality: (implicit; enforced by social pressure and divine punishment) Respect others Be self-reliant Help others (share food) Be non-violent Be non-competitive

10 Enforcing moral order Enforcing moral order:
For a serious offence one might be abandoned by others Batek highly sensitive to public opinion Ke’oy: “hot heart” leading to depression. Harming another was thought to produce ke’oy in the harmed person. Offender must cut themselves put blood on leaves and rub leaves onto the chest of victim. To be accused of causing another ke’oy was deeply damaging. Numerous taboos: enforced by supernatural agents through disease or rejection of one’s soul after-death, thus becoming a wandering ghost. Taboos include socially disruptive and or disrespectful acts.

11 Contrast with rugged individualism of American West.
Batek moral ideal cooperative autonomy, self-reliance but with strong obligations to others. Others were essential to survival. Contrast with rugged individualism of American West.

12 Promoting cooperative autonomy: Role of ritual
Work week: hours; plenty of time for leisure/discussion/play Thunderstorm ritual: Batek particularly feared thunderstorms, blood sacrifice ritual was often used for protection. Blood sacrifice – cut oneself, mix blood with water and toss upwards or downwards. Group ritual: Singing and trance induction. Usually done before fruiting season. Sometimes done for ill person. Involved entire camp, sometimes members of other camps would join. Preparations might take days. Group dancing with shamans in the center going into trance states.

13 Lesson of Batek childrearing
Batek example suggest free-range kids approach to parenting more akin to ancestral childrearing than “tiger mom” or “natural growth” styles.

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