Dentan, Robert Knox. 2001. “Ambivalences in Child Training by the Semai of Peninsular Malaysia and Other Peoples.” Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 15(1):89-129.
Dentan analyzes why the Semai, famous as one of the world’s most highly peaceful societies, raise their children to fear strangers with stories of violence. The Semai have been dominated and enslaved by their neighbors, the more powerful Malay people, for centuries. While the slaving has stopped, the Semai still tell horror stories to their children to instill in them an atmosphere of xenophobia toward strangers that, they feel, might protect them. His examples of stories they tell of the head-choppers and eye-gougers that lurk around the settlements enliven the analysis, particularly the way his own five-year old daughter was affected by them. Dentan suggests there are many ambivalent issues related to feelings of violence, fear, and care for children that may apply to contemporary America as well as Semai society.
We appreciate the permission to copy this article for the Peaceful Societies Website granted by both Prof. Dentan and by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University. The article, in PDF format, is 105 KB in size.