I am going to review the history of land tenure research in Borneo
as best I know it. This is part of a monograph I have been working
on for a number of years. If I omit any information or data, if
I misstate anything, I would take it as a particular favor, if those
of you who know would inform me.
Research on land tenure in Borneo began with the Dutch in the early
decades of this century. In the Netherlands and the Netherlands
East Indies there developed a field of inquiry on adat law that
included the study of village land rights and individual tenure.
While this field of inquiry arose in response to the needs of
the colonial administration, it nevertheless spawned a very active
scholarly discipline dealing with adat law worldwide that has made
major contributions to our understanding of jurisprudence. But the
results of this school were largely unknown to the rest of the academic
world until the publication in 1947 of the translation of Ter Haar's
summary of the extensive inquiries of many scholars on adat law
Rungus Land Tenure
I took this summary to the field in 1959 when I began my study of
Rungus social structure and economic organization. It gave me a
list of possible cultural traits that I might find, and I used it
as a basis for questioning headmen on the Rungus adat.
The important aspect of the work of the Dutch adat law scholars
is that it clearly outlined the fact that villages in Borneo were
jural entities and that their jural personalities varied in interesting
After intensive questioning and study, I found that the Rungus
had a system of land tenure previously unreported for Borneo. Each
village held rights as a corporate entity, as a jural person, over
its territory, as might have been expected from the Dutch work.
The Rungus village had clear boundaries and only members of it could
cut their swiddens in this territory each year. In these fields
were planted maize, rice, vegetables, and manioc or cassava. Once
the last of these crops were removed, the field area reverted back
to the control of the village and could be used again by anyone
in the village.
I eventually termed this system of land tenure "circulating
usufruct" (Appell 1983a).
I also discovered that the village was a ritual entity in that
it could corporately establish a state of goodwill between it and
various gods. And this state of goodwill was backed up by jural
sanctions so that violators of it were sued for restitution (Appell
Another important result of this research was the finding that,
as should be expected, the jural personality of the village had
developed over time as land had become scarcer (see Appell 1971a).
This eventually led to the development of my theoretical position
that I have termed "emergent structuralism", which corrects
the theoretical errors of the post-structuralists on the origin
of social forms (Appell 1974, 1980, 1981, 1984b, 1988).1 In this
I argue that the intersections of behavior in the social structure,
the opportunity structure, and the antistructure lead to the emergence
of new forms.
The Village Reserve and the Residual Rights of the Village
The Dutch adat law scholars referred to the village land as the
"area of disposal". This suggests that the village has
an active hand in the allocation of land for swiddens. In some cases
this is more true than in others, but certainly among the Rungus,
Iban, and Bidayuh Land Dayak the village is relatively silent on
this unless there is a dispute or there are intrusions from nonmembers
of the village. Consequently, I suggested that the territory of
the village be termed the "village reserve".
There has also been some discussion over the terminology of these
village rights (see Ter Haar 1962:81-82; Holleman 1981:XXXIV, 278).
Van Vollenhoven refers to the rights over the village reserve as
beschikkingsrecht, which literally translates as the "right
of disposal". Holleman (1981), following recent developments
in adat law studies now translates this as "right of avail".
In my opinion this leads into the intellectual cul de sac of concepts
from western jurisprudence. Consequently, I have preferred to use
the term, following Goodenough (1951:34) "residual rights",
to refer to these village rights.
The Nature of Jural Entities
The work of the Dutch adat law scholars never fully addressed the
problem of the criteria by which jural entities can be distinguished.
There has been some discussion over possible terminologies (see
Holleman 1981:XLII, 43). However, as a result of trying to understand
the nature of tree ownership among the Rungus I was forced to develop
what I hope are more precise concepts for delineating the nature
of jural entities and their social counterparts, which are critical
for understanding the locus of land rights (see Appell 1971a, 1983b,
1984a). In other words it is important to distinguish whether rights
lie with a corporation, or with a corporate group, or with individuals,
who may in some cases be able to join together to take jural action
as a jural collectivity. This is rather complex, and perhaps outside
the scope of this paper, so I will not discuss this matter further.
Research on the Land Tenure of the Iban and the Bidayuh
In the late 1960s I began a comparative study of land tenure and
tree ownership among Borneo societies. At that time the only available
data from in-depth studies of specific groups came from the work
of Derek Freeman (1955a; 1970, orig. 1955) in his study of Iban
swidden agriculture and Iban social organization and the research
of Bill Geddes (1954a, 1954b) on Bidayuh Land Dayak social organization,
in which he included important information on land tenure. These
systems differed markedly from the Rungus.
This research resulted in a manuscript entitled Observational
Procedures for Land Tenure and Kin Groupings in the Cognatic Societies
of Borneo that I finished in 1971 and then circulated over the succeeding
years to anyone who was planning on doing research in Borneo and
who might be interested in this subject.
In this I reanalyzed the very detailed research of Geddes and
Freeman and reached some conclusions on the basis of their data
that enlarged on their analysis. Consequently, I sent my analysis
to them for a critical review. But they did not disagree with my
The Iban and Bidayuh Village as Jural Entities
Neither Freeman nor Geddes explicitly dealt with the jural personality
of the village. They were also in ignorance of the concept of the
village "right of disposal", which had intrigued the Dutch
scholars in their study of Indonesian land tenure since the early
1900s. But being extremely thorough field workers, they did provide
the data whereby we can look at this aspect of the Iban and the
Bidayuh village and reach some useful conclusions on their traditional
land tenure systems.
The interesting point, however, is that while both Freeman and
Geddes provided empirical data on the function of the village in
the property systems of the Iban and Land Dayak, they also at the
analytical level seem to have denied the village's place in the
property system in unusual terms. Thus, Freeman writes (1970:104,
To what extent then is the long-house community as a whole, a
corporate group? This is a difficult question to answer in general
terms, but it may be observed, from the outset, that the degree
of corporateness is low, and that inasmuch as it does exist it
stems from ritual concepts, rather than from collective ownership
of land or property.
And also (Freeman 1955a:9):
It is important to realize ... a longhouse community holds virtually
no property in communal ownership, nor is there collective ownership
of farm land.
Geddes (1954a:59) in a similar vein also wrote with regard to
the Land Dayak:
Although much of the land belonging to Dayak villages in the
Sadong has many people sharing in its ownership, the system of
land tenure is in no sense a communal one, for each of these persons
has his or her particular rights defined in such a way that there
should be no conflict with the rights of the others.
A decade later when I began my field work in Sabah I was surprised
by the concern expressed by some government officers over the idea
of "communalism". Among the British at that time there
was a belief that this was pernicious and even might be on the edge
of communism. To resolve this apparent anomaly between their data
and their conclusions I suggested in the manuscript I circulated
to Geddes and Freeman (Appell 1971a) that the stress put on the
lack of communally-owned property in both their reports to the Sarawak
government was in fact a reaction to concerns prevalent in government
circles over the mistaken belief in the "communal" nature
of nonliterate societies. For it is entirely clear that the village
in both the Iban and the Bidayuh cases did have residual rights
over its land, that it could and did control access to its village
reserve in various matters.2
Jural Personality of the Village
It is interesting that the jural personality of the Borneo village
has been largely overlook by scholars following World War II, with
the notable exception of Morris (1976), who had legal training,
in his study of Melanau land tenure.3 Rousseau (1977, 1978, 1987)
has also added to our understanding of the jural personality among
the Kayan. But Ter Haar's summary of the studies of adat law makes
it amply clear that villages do have jural personalities. At a minimum
they hold rights over access to their land, access to their forest
reserves, and who may or may not become a member of the village.
And Ter Haar's work provides a fine detailed Notes and Queries for
the study of jural entities and their property rights.4
He distinguishes villages whose membership is based on kinship
ties from those in which membership is not dependant on establishing
a kinship link. The Rungus village is of this latter type. To become
accepted into a village all the applicant has to do is get the headman's
approval, and this is based largely on past behavior and character.
Critical to delineating this jural aspect of the Borneo village
is the distinction between de jure and de facto kinship units. For
example, in some villages the membership may form an overlapping
kin network. But it is not necessary to establish a kinship connection
to achieve membership. However, among the Bidayuh Land Dayak, the
village is neither de jure nor de facto a kinship unit (see Appell
1971a). The extent to which this holds for other groups in Borneo
is not clear.5
Devolvable Usufruct: Partitionable and Devisable
While the village is a jural entity in Rungus, Iban, and Bidayuh
society, with somewhat different personalities in each, the traditional
system of land tenure within the village is markedly different.
The Rungus have circulating usufruct. Both the Iban and the Bidayuh
can establish permanent use rights over an areas by cutting primary
forest. And these rights are devolvable.6 That is, they may be passed
on to a successor jural entity.
There are two major types of devolvable usufruct. Among the Iban,
if a bilek family subdivides, there is a partition of property,
including land rights. Therefore, I have termed this particular
form, "partitionable usufruct". Rights are held by the
bilek family as a corporate entity.7
However, among the Bidayuh, rights to land are obtained through
devisal to all the bilateral descendants from the original cultivator
of that forest. Hence, I have termed this "devisable usufruct".
Unlike the traditional Iban system where a person marrying out of
the bilek loses his rights to land, among the Bidayuh all descendants
get rights to land wherever they reside. Thus, rights do not appear
to be owned corporately by a domestic family.
In systems of devolvable usufruct, the right to use these so-called
permanent use rights over a tract of land are contingent on a number
of factors, such as residence in the village, least use, etc. And
these contingencies vary with the particular society. As these contingencies
are complicated and vary widely, I shall not go into them here.
The term "permanent use rights" is hardly satisfactory
particularly since Drake has pointed out that among the Mualang
Dayak these permanent rights only exist until the land has had four
consecutive uses by the holders of these rights. The land then reverts
to the village reserve (Drake 1982:101-102). Therefore, it would
be more appropriate to refer to these rights that may be created
in devolvable systems as "durable use rights". The village
as a jural entity thus holds what might be called "reversionary
The Kenyah System
The Kenyah of Sarawak and Kalimantan have an interesting variation
of devolvable usufruct, according to Whittier (1973). Traditionally
rights over secondary forest were of three types: primary, secondary,
and tertiary. Whittier (1973:62) writes:
The man who first cuts primary jungle gains rights to that parcel
of land. Children remaining in the household inherit primary rights
to the land. Those who move to other households in the village retain
secondary rights, i.e., they may use the land if no primary right
holder wants it. Children moving to other villages, retain a tertiary
right to the land, but with land pressure in the area today, it
is unlikely that such rights can be activated.
It would thus appear that the primary rights are partitionable
usufruct and the secondary and tertiary rights are devisable.8 However,
these conclusions of Whittier may be revised as the result of the
detailed research by Dr. Francis J. Lian into Kenyah land tenure.
The Kayan System
There has been some dispute over the system of Kayan land tenure.
Rousseau (1977) claimed that the Kayan had the same type of land
tenure system as the Rungus. However, in 1980 when we were traveling
in Sarawak and doing research in East Kalimantan, whenever I ran
into a Kayan I would enquire about their system of land tenure,
and both in Sarawak and in Kalimantan I was told that they did have
a system that was essentially devolvable usufruct. Rather than roil
the waters, I did not publish on this until I was in Sarawak again
in 1986 and learned that a research proposal included the claim
that the Kayan had circulating usufruct. I therefore thought it
was important to present my evidence (see Appell 1986).
Rousseau (1987) replied to this article. He maintained that in
his study of actual usage of land for swiddens in the village of
Uma Bawang in the middle Baluy he had found that they indeed had
circulating usufruct. But then he went on to say that the situation
was different among the Kayan of the Mahakam River in Kalimantan.
They did have devolvable usufruct. He added he finds it perfectly
reasonable that in the Baram with higher densities of population
the Kayan would also have devolvable usufruct, as is also the case
in the lower Baluy. But then he states that one of his informants
maintained that the clearing of a tract of land produces rights
over it in the future.9
But Rousseau is contradictory on this matter within his own writings.
While he excoriates me for assuming that the Kayan had a single
form of land tenure in 1978 he wrote that "This study is based
on fieldwork undertaken in the Baluy area, ... and particularly
the village of Uma Bawang... . However, despite regional variations,
most of the following description applies to other Kayan groups"
(1978:78). He continues, "among the Kayan there is no individual
ownership of arable land ... they establish the limits of their
own farms without regard to the identity of the previous occupant
Rousseau's conclusions are, furthermore, disputed by Chan (1991),
by Mering Ngo (1991), by Antonio Guerreiro (personal communication)
and by Makoto Tsugami (personal communication).
But there is some discussion as to whether they have devisable
usufruct (Ngo 1991) or devolvable (Chan 1991). It might be that
they could have aspects of both systems, as have the Kenyah. Thus,
Chan (1991) argues that land rights are forfeited when a individual
marries into another household and becomes affiliated with that
household. He does not state, however, how this affiliation is decided
and then jurally recognized. This is particularly interesting since
there is a long period of postnuptial residence of five years in
the bride's household. As a household grows from the birth of grandchildren,
it may partition. And land rights at that time are divided between
the primary household and the partitioning household, with the latter
getting less rights to land. At a later date, according to Chan,
when the head of the household nears death or dies, land rights
are again divided among those who have remained affiliated with
the household, with the larger amount going to that child who has
cared for the aging parent.
However, if Rousseau is right this variation deserves some form
of explanation and raises interesting questions for further research.
Variation in Land Tenure Rules Over Time and Space: Emergent Structuralism
and Problems of Intracultural Variation
In (1965, 1971a) I showed how the jural personality of the Rungus
village with regard to its rights over land enlarged as a result
of growing scarcity. I have attempted to develop a theoretical framework
that deals with social processes such as these, which I have called
emergent structuralism (Appell 1988). In this, social forms or changes
in social forms come into being as a result of intersecting behaviors
in three domains: the jural order, or social structure of a society,
the opportunity structure, and in the antistructure, the realm of
antisocial activity. Dove's (1985) very detailed work on the changes
in Kantu' Dayak land tenure provides a nice case of emergent structuralism
in which the rules were revised as changes in the opportunity structure
occurred as a result of the prohibition of warfare and the increased
scarcity of land. The Kantu' land tenure system evolved from (1)
circulating usufruct to durable tenure by households, without partition
or limitation of time; then (2) to durable tenure mixed with areas
reserved for circulating usufruct; and (3) finally to a growing
shift to partitionable usufruct.
This evolution of change in land tenure requires a revision of
my original classification of types of land tenure found in Borneo.
See Table One.
TYPES OF LAND TENURE SYSTEMS FOUND IN BORNEO
1.0 Circulating usufruct.
2.0 Devolvable usufruct.
2.1 Partitionable rights to usufruct.
2.2 Devisable rights to usufruct.
But to what degree do land tenure rules and property rights vary
between sections of an ethnic unit? Rousseau (1987), Cramb (1989),
and Jessup (1992) have all raised this issue. This is an interesting
point, but certainly an unexceptional one. For we all know cultures
vary, and some domains vary more than others. For example, clothing
style and hair style is perhaps more variable than others under
certain conditions. And it is the job of anthropological inquiry
to specify these variations and the conditions that lead to them.
Here I think the theoretical framework of emergent structuralism
will be of use. Certainly, we would expect land tenure, being more
fundamental to the economy of a society, to be less variable, or
at least variable within limited parameters. As long as an ethnic
group shares the same language, certainly they must share the same
terms for and concepts about property. And if not, then that is
Jessup (1992) argues that an assumption of a uniform land tenure
system within one ethnic group living in scattered conditions is
dubious. This is of course an empirical issue. The boundaries of
cultural contours must always be drawn. To illustrate his point
Jessup describes the problem of land tenure briefly in a pioneering
Kenyah village in which rights to secondary forest are not recognized
because there is an abundance of land. There is nothing exceptional
in this since property rights are one indication of scarcity and
value. And he raises the interesting question of how does a new
community establish rules or make modification to rules under new
circumstances. Again this is an empirical question, but we know
from anthropological research that tradition has the capacity to
reassert itself even after years of abeyance. Would we expect the
Kenyah in aging pioneering settlements with growing scarcity to
develop a completely new land tenure system of circulating usufruct
like the Rungus? Or would they be more likely to revert to what
is in their traditional adat, devolvable usufruct? This is again
an empirical question, and the processes by which the new structure
emerges are of great scientific interest.
The problem with the view of Jessup, Rousseau, and Cramb is that
they make the mistake of confusing the system of rules, that is
the social structure, with how these are worked out in the opportunity
structure. Furthermore, it is one thing to proclaim variability.
We should in fact expect this. But it is another thing to establish
this with reliable data supported by numerical evidence and material
from case studies. And finally, neither Jessup, Rousseau, nor Cramb
situate their study villages along an acculturative time line, in
other words, the degree to which social change has taken place and
the traditional adat changed.
What Human Ecological Factors Might Have Led to the Development
of These Two Systems?
How do we explain the two different systems, circulating and devolvable
usufruct? What are the origins of these differences? In Appell (1971b)
I put forth the tentative hypothesis that ecological factors might
play a part. At that point, all that we knew was devolvable usufruct
occurred in areas of high rainfall and circulating usufruct occurred
in areas of a major dry season. So I hypothesized that the increased
rainfall in Sarawak in conjunction with more productive soils tended
to encourage the regeneration of tree species and discourage the
growth of weeds in comparison to the Rungus area. Thus, I argued,
because of fewer weeds invading the swidden after the first year's
harvest, and because young forest has a better chance for a more
complete burn in wet areas than in primary forest, there is greater
economic value in secondary forest which results in the development
of these devolvable use rights.
This led to a series of articles in the Borneo Research Bulletin,
that argued this back and forth, which have been reviewed skillfully
by Henry Chan (1991).10
Dove (1985), in the most recent analysis of this hypothesis, concludes
on the basis of his analysis of his very detailed data on the Kantu'
Dayak that this hypothesis is valid, but that it is also modifiable
by historical and socioeconomic factors.
In 1980-81 we worked among the Bulusu' in East Kalimantan (Appell
1985a). The Bulusu' live in one of the highest rainfall areas of
Borneo, yet they have a system of land tenure remarkably similar
to that of the Rungus. The only difference is that the jural personality
of the village is less well developed than that of the Rungus. Thus,
contrary to the hypothesis I had advanced (Appell 1971b), the Bulusu'
had circulating usufruct.
The Bulusu' have consequently cast into doubt the strength of
ecological factors in the development of land tenure systems. It
is thus still unclear as to how to explain the origins of these
two different land tenure systems. But it would seem to indicate
that if there are ecological constraints operating there are also
be historical factors and as yet undetermined socioeconomic factors
that appear to be more potent. Finally, post-marital residence may
be a factor inhibiting the development of durable rights. Among
the Rungus residence traditionally was uxorilocal, so that a man
if he married into another village would have no rights to land
if they had followed the practice of recognizing durable rights.
With the development of titles to land under the government system
of tenure, residence has changed to virilocal residence.
Research That Needs to Be Done
We have no data on the traditional system of land tenure among wet
rice agriculturalists. This is a major lacuna in our knowledge,
for in Borneo there are vast areas of wet rice cultivation. This
question has been posed about wet rice societies all over the world.
But Borneo seems to be among the missing in terms of scholarly inquiry
on this subject. However, this is a fascinating subject. Who owns
head dams? Who owns rights downstream? How is joint work on the
system managed? How are water rights apportioned? How are intervillage
disputes over water resolved?
Conclusion: Possible Applicability of This Research
Under situations of social change and the growth of wealth in cities,
there is an erosion of the village land base as the cash-rich city
dwellers buy land from the cash-poor farmers. This results in the
creation of a landless peasantry, and the flood to the cities of
those without the skills, training, or education to move into regular
urban employment. And this creates social problems.
Does the traditional system of land tenure in Borneo suggest to
planners an approach, a means whereby these social dislocations
can be minimized and social stability achieved in the rural areas?
Can a system be devised whereby the strengths of a stable rural
population can be maintained?
OBSERVATIONAL PROCEDURES FOR DISTINGUISHING
PARTITIONABLE USUFRUCT FROM DEVISABLE USUFRUCT**
There are several crucial tests to be applied to distinguish partitionable
from devisable usufruct, and corporately held devisable usufruct
from individually held devisable usufruct. These tests have to do
with the structure of the domestic family at the time of cutting
primary forest (see Figure One).
In the case of 1.0, if rights to secondary forest felled by A are
devised on his death to the whole set of children, X, Y, and Z,
irrespective of the family structure when the rights were created,
it is then individually held devisable usufruct. The rights originally
created by felling the primary forest were held by A until his death,
or until he gave them to his children, and not by the domestic family
as a corporate unit.
FIGURE ONE: DOMESTIC FAMILY STRUCTURE
In the case of 1.0, if X relinquishes rights to secondary forest
of his natal household on marrying out, it can be either a case
of partitionable usufruct or corporate devisable usufruct depending
both on the jural locus of the rights created and whether or not
the domestic family unit is a perpetual corporate unit or only one
of limited life.
It is partitionable usufruct, if X has no rights in primary forest
cut by A before (or after) X has married out. X on marrying out
gets rights from his wife's domestic family. The domestic family
units exist in perpetuity with the locus of the rights lying with
them as corporate entities. Then, when Y eventually leaves his natal
domestic family with his wife and children to establish his own,
as part of the partitioning of his natal domestic family, rights
to secondary forest created by his natal domestic family are devolved
on Y's new household.
Corporate devisable usufruct is found in instances where the domestic
family as a jurally corporate entity holds the rights to the secondary
forest, but it has limited life. Therefore, its rights have to be
devised at some point. In such an instance the feller cuts the forest
as a representative of his domestic family. In the situation of
domestic family structure illustrated in 1.0, X would receive on
the dissolution of the domestic family only those rights created
before he married. Rights created after his marriage while Y and
Z were still working in the household would be devised only on them
with the dissolution of the domestic family.
Another test for this is in the situation of domestic family structure
illustrated in 2.0. Rights to secondary forest felled by A before
his divorce (2.1) are not devised on Z and rights to forest felled
by A in his second marriage (2.2) are not devised on his death to
X and Y.
A further test for this can be used when A dies and X and Y, still
not married, are maintaining the economy of their natal domestic
family. If X cuts primary forest, then marries, do the rights to
the secondary forest still remain with the natal domestic family
and are not devised to both X and Y until that natal family is dissolved?
A more complex situation of devisable usufruct rights arises when
X and Y are considered to have created preferential rights because
they helped their father clear the forest. Referring back to 1.0,
Y and Z, as opposed to X, may have a preferential claim to the rights
on the basis that they were helping their father during the agricultural
years that the primary forest was cut. An example of this type of
preferential claim occurs among the Rungus with regard to moveable
property purchased while a child was actively farming with his parents
(see Appell 1974). In this case the domestic family has only limited
life as a corporate unit. Rights lie with the domestic family as
a corporate entity of limited life, but those who helped create
these rights have a preferential right to receive these once the
original domestic family dissolves.
* Paper presented at the Second Biennial Conference of the Borneo
Research Council, held July, 1992, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
** This is a revised version of Appell (1987), eliminating, I hope,
some errors of reasoning found in the original.
1 The post-structuralists argue that social forms are generated
by the sum total of decisions and transactions. But these do not
generate forms in the social structure, that is the jural order.
They only generate forms in the opportunity structure. To bring
new social forms from the opportunity structure into the realm of
the social structure requires a second level order of event, a reflexive
event by the members of the society scanning their own opportunity
structure and deciding that social structural change is in order.
These new forms are then encoded into the social structure by a
legitimizing act or relegated to the antistructure as deviance by
a representative body of members.
2 Sather (1980, 1990, personal communication) argues that among
the Saribas Iban the longhouse village aum (“moot”)
managed rights over land distribution and disputes and could establish
reserves for joint use. He also writes that oral narratives suggest
that aum initiated by regional leaders could also at times project
these rights to a wider intra-river area, particularly in situations
of migration and inter-longhouse conflict.
3 Jessup and Peluso (1986:517) are misinformed when they state
that Weinstock (1979) found village territoriality to be a common
feature of Bornean systems. The scholars of the Dutch adatrecht
school pointed that out early in the 20th century. I brought this
aspect of the jural system of Bornean societies and its entailments
for development to the attention of the current generation of scholars
in a series of articles based on my own research (see Appell 1971a;
1971b; 1983b; 1986) and in discussion with Weinstock. Unfortunately
Weinstock does not quote the source of this information or how he
reached this conclusion, although he uses my terminology.
4 Jessup and Peluso's (1986:518) generalization that in Borneo
property rights are forfeited by a person who permanently leaves
the village needs elaboration as to what is meant by "permanently".
The degree to which leaving a village involves loss of rights depends
on the ethnic group involved, their jural organization, the type
of property, and the type of rights. For example, among the Bulusu'
of East Kalimantan and the Rungus of Sabah, Malaysia, rights to
enjoy the profits from fruit trees is not forfeited on leaving a
village. With regard to rights to cultivate, Whittier writes that
among the Kenyah: "Children moving to other villages, retain
a tertiary right to the land, but with land pressure in the area
today, it is unlikely that such rights can be activated" (1973:62).
Among the Bidayuh Land Dayak, rights to cultivate ancestral lands
are not forfeited on leaving a village but only the right to activate
those rights without permission of the village headman or without
returning to the village to reside (see Appell 1971b).
5 Jessup and Peluso (1986:518) in their discussion of Borneo village
structure mistakenly claim that the Borneo village is a kinship
unit. But they do not distinguish whether it is a de jure kinship
unit or only a de facto one. (For a discussion of this issue in
another context see Appell 1973.)
6 In Appell (1983a) I referred to land tenure systems with devolvable
use rights as "contingent land tenure systems". This proved
awkward, which led to the new terminology in Appell (1986).
7 Cramb (1989) reports that in one relatively new village the
Iban have chosen to institute a system of land tenure which might
be termed limited circulating usufruct. He reports that when the
community comes back to the same farming area in a later year each
household will farm in roughly the same place as before. In a sample
from the Rungus in 1961 only 9% did (Appell 1965). Cramb unfortunately
omits a discussion of the sociological organization of this new
community. For example, it would be interesting to know if this
community had a denser network of kin ties than other Iban communities.
It appears that this is a new variation arising from the impact
of social change of the colonial and post-colonial period. It is
too bad that he did not recognize I was talking about traditional
patterns of land tenure before these societies were closely articulated
with the world system.
8 Hudson (1967, 1972) reports a somewhat similar system among
the Ma'anyan (see also King 1975).
9 It is interesting that Rousseau (1977) also states that for
the village in which he worked, an individual has clear rights to
cultivate any first and second year growth of his swidden. Thus,
the model of devolvable rights lies there, which may provide one
answer to Jessup's (1992) question of on what basis are property
rights over forest recreated in a situation there was once low population
densities but they are now feeling land pressures. Histories and
the logic of thinking about property have to be investigated to
discern the mental models on which new decisions may be based.
10 Cramb (1989) attacks my work. It is amusingly dehumanizing
to be treated as a straw man. But more to the point, what has happened
to scholarship? Cramb (1989) claims that I was an environmental
determinist just because I raised the “tentative hypothesis”
(Appell 197b:17) that “the differences in these systems [of
land tenure] might be explainable in large part by differences in
ecological factors.” Cramb ignores my findings from my Bulusu’
research referred to above. Cramb in his critique also claims that
in later work I moved away from my environmental determinism to
an equally unsatisfactory socio-cultural determinism, with land
tenure viewed as given for a particular group” (Cramb 1989:fn.2).
I was unaware that I thought environments were deterministic rather
than constraining; that ethnographic research on a system of land
tenure presumed socio-cultural determinism, whatever that means
in this context; and that my approach assumed cultural homogeneity.
The degree of homogeneity is an empirical question that needs to
be addressed in all research. Cramb (1989) claims that there are
historical forces, individual choice, etc., that lead to the social
construction of a particular system. Cramb ignores the fact that
I have argued just that since 1965 (see Appell 1965, 1971a, 1974).
In Appell (1985b, 1988) I elaborate on this position and attempted
a theoretical model on how to deal with this. Whatever, those who
argue for choice seem to forget the sources and constraints of alternative
cultural models. Where did those Iban that Cramb studied get the
idea for circulating usufruct? How did they implement it? And the
opportunity theorists also ignore practical constraints. Why did
not those Iban build igloos?
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