Ritual Language and Traditional Power in Rongga [Bahasa Ritual dan Kekuasaan Tradisional Etnik Rongga]

Wayan Arka, Ni Wayan Sumitri

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    This paper describes traditional power in contemporary Rongga, a minority ethnic group in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. The focus is on socio-ethnolinguistic aspects of ritual language: (1) linguistic and non-linguistic forms associated with local/traditional power; (2) the cultural system underpinning local power and (3) the process of acquisition, inheritance and maintenance of power in the past and present and its prospects in the socio-political dynamics of East Manggarai and Indonesia. The goal is to investigate the extent of the interaction between power and the (ritual) language of the ethnic Rongga. This is examined from two dimensions, namely, traditional and contemporary, in the context of marginalised minority language/culture conservation (Arka, 2013, 2015). In the proposed analysis, ritual language constitutes linguistic capital, which is itself part of other (socioeconomic and economic) forms of capital (Morrison and Lui, 2000; Bourdieu, 1997). Formally, ritual language has unique properties such as being artistically poetic with rhymes/rhythms, and there is a high degree of difficulty in mastering it. Ethnolinguistically, its message/meaning is full of socio-cultural values and local knowledge. Traditional power and ritual language are naturally linked. They are built naturally through a number of highly valued personal qualities, gained through the traditional recognition of a person’s position in the social hierarchy, as well as ability, skill and sensitivity in the mastery of noble adat knowledge and linguistic skills, which form linguistic and cultural capital. The formation of this capital is a complex process, a combination of one’s personal qualities, linguistic verbal talents and legitimacy. Traditionally, it is gained from experience as well as the genealogy (with spiritual authority) associated with particular customs/tribes/clans, all of which give rise to influential power to mobilise obedience and respect for other community members. While representing a shrinking (explainable in terms of ideological shift and language/culture) ecology, the function or role of traditional power has not disappeared completely. It has been suggested that it should be properly understood, documented and maintained. Factors affecting its erosion include the introduction of Indonesia’s modern government system/bureaucracy (which replaced the system of kedaluan in the 1960s). Nevertheless, the power-inheritance system remains, which follows traditional forms of inheritance whereby power lies in the hands of the individuals who have linguistic-cultural capital, generally influential adat leaders, capable of mastering ritual language and using indigenous knowledge and customary institutions for various traditional and contemporary purposes in modern Flores, Indonesia
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventKIMLI 2016 (Kongres Internasional Masyarakat Linguistik Indonesia) - Denpasar, Indonesia
    Duration: 1 Jan 2016 → …


    ConferenceKIMLI 2016 (Kongres Internasional Masyarakat Linguistik Indonesia)
    Period1/01/16 → …


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