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Blood Drunkenness and the Bloodthirsty Semai: Unmaking Another Anthropological Myth Author(s): Clayton A.

Robarchek and Robert Knox Dentan Source: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 89, No. 2 (Jun., 1987), pp. 356-365 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/10/2011 02:59
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StateUniversity Wichita

StateUniversity ofNew York, Buffalo

Blood Drunkenness and the Bloodthirsty Semai: Unmaking Another Anthropological Myth

in overthe beencitedas examples the debates TheSenoiSemaiof Malaysiahave frequently mahave selected Semaiethnographic Numerous writers employed violence. ofhuman wellsprings Semaiarein reality assertions theirapparent terialtosupport that, notwithstanding, peacefuilness in has killers. This assertion in turnbeenusedas evidence support a variety of of bloodthirsty as innatein and is thread a viewof aggressiveness violence somehow whosecommon approaches human form thebasisof mostanthropopublications of beings.Theauthors this article,whose and work drawon theirownpublished unpublished of logicalknowledge Semailife andculture, We these sources refute to as well as ondocumentation other interpretations. holdthatSemai from and have observers described notablyfree violence, weargue it, ofinterpersonal lifeis, asfirst-hand are a or theoretical philosophical prioriassumptions rooted thatmisrepresentations inparticular slanderous. and untenable culturally scientifically

... it becomes impossible to tell truth from fiction or facts from mythology. Experts paint us as they would like us to be,.., the American public feels most comfortable with the mythical Indians ofStereotypeland .... To be an Indian in modern American society is in a very real sense to be unreal and ahistorical. [Deloria 1970:9-10]

OF CENTRAL WEST MALAYSIA, share the fate SEMAI, SWIDDEN HORTICULTURALISTS Vine Deloria laments. The reality of their lives, "ethnographic reality," is subject to the whimsies of people who do not know them. As the ethnographers whose publications form the basis of most Euroamerican interpretations of Semai life, the authors of this article feel obligated to criticize and attempt to correct some influential misreadings of Semai ethnography, misreadings that purport to strengthen the argument for the existence of a universal human "aggressive drive,"just as we earlier felt obligated to criticize representations of Semai life (in the form of"Senoi Dream Theory") as inhumanly blissful and serene (Dentan 1983a, 1983b, 1983c, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988; Robarchek 1983; Domhoff 1985; Strunz 1985). We have each lived for more than two years with the Semai, Clay and Carole Robarchek in 1973-74 and in 1979-80 and Dentan in 1962-63 and 1975. We have always differed from each other in terms of theoretical perspectives, epistemology, politics, and other intellectual concerns; and we still do. We share a respect for each other's work and a concern for precision in ethnographic reporting, especially where Semai are concerned. We have no significant disagreements about Semai ethnographic reality. is ROBARCHEK Assistant Professor, Department ofAnthropology, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS 67208. CLAYTONA. ROBERTKNoxDENTANis Professor, Department ofAnthropology, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14261.


Robarchek and Dentan]



In 1968, Dentan published, as a part of the Holt, Rinehart & Winston case studies in anthropology, a brief ethnographic sketch of a group of West Malaysian indigenes, the Senoi Semai (Dentan 1968a, 1979). This work, designed for college freshmen, was widely read and cited, often yoked with another book in the series, Chagnon's Yanomamo ethnography, also first published in 1968. There were a number of reasons for the interest generated by this small volume, not the least of which is that it is simply written. Another was its subject matter: a society where human violence seemed almost nonexistent. In 1968 the Vietnam War was growing, seemingly out of control, and the nonviolent civil rights movement had peaked. The war and the murder of civil rights activists had cast doubt on the very possibility of human nonviolence. Further, the political crisis had generated acrimonious debates, both within anthropology and in the wider society, over the sources-cultural or biological-of human aggression. George Appell, an East Malaysian specialist who had read a first draft of the book, suggested the subtitle, "A Nonviolent People of Malaya," to highlight its relevance to those debates. Curiously, however, it was, and continues to be, cited as evidence by proponents of both positions (e.g., Alland 1972; Paul 1978). Almost from the beginning, and despite Dentan's description of Semai society as virtually free of violence, some commentators have argued that, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, Semai are really bloodthirsty killers. Their purported blood lust has, in its turn, been widely cited as evidence of innate human aggressiveness. Dentan's book first aroused Robarchek's interest in the Semai. That interest was encouraged by Alan Fix, a biological anthropologist, and his wife Betsy, who had also done Semai fieldwork. The first of the Robarcheks' two Semai field studies was specifically directed toward understanding the psychocultural dynamics of their nonviolent adaptation (Robarchek 1977a, 1977b, 1979a, 1979b, 1981, 1985, 1986). Since little had been written about Semai before Dentan's work, his dissertation (1965), the case study, and a number of his other publications (e.g., Dentan 1967, 1968b, 1970) were useful guides during the early months of their fieldwork. Ten years, many conversations, a long correspondence, and joint participation in an AAA symposium on Malaysian Aborigines have disclosed few substantive disagreements between us, in either our observations or interpretationsof Semai life. This agreement is all the more surprising given that Dentan tends to think the wellsprings of human action are ecological and "political-economic," while Robarchek sees such explanations as inadequate without an understanding of intervening cultural and psychological systems. The Robarcheks' field experiences, in short, confirmed their reading of Dentan's account as describing a peaceful way of life, a reading that corresponded with Dentan's intentions. The first issue addressed here, therefore, is how that depiction of social harmony could have come to be interpreted as depicting a cauldron of seething, if latent, violence. At least part of the answer seems to lie in a single paragraph in which Dentan described accounts of the wartime experiences of some Semai who had been part of an Aborigine counterinsurgencyunit in the 1950s:
Many people who knew the Semai insisted that such an unwarlike people could never make good soldiers. Interestingly enough, they were wrong. Communist terroristshad killed the kinsmen of some of the Semai counterinsurgency troops. Taken out of their nonviolent society and ordered to kill, they seem to have been swept up in a sort of insanity which they call "blood drunkenness." A typical veteran's story runs like this. "We killed, killed, killed. The Malays would stop and go through people's pockets and take their watches and money. We did not think of watches or money. We thought only of killing. Wah, truly we were drunk with blood." One man even told how he had drunk the blood of a man he had killed. [1968a:58-59]

Proponents of the universality of human aggression seized on this "blood drunkenness" as proof that, even though it lies deeply buried under a cultural overburden, an inborn instinct to kill their fellow men exists even in the seemingly peaceable Semai.



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The image of Semai as "bloodthirsty killers" (Konner 1982:375) has been disseminated widely, although it is utterly foreign to the experience of the Dentans, Fixes, Robarcheks, Albert Gomes, and other anthropologists who have lived among these people and who have known them intimately. Nonetheless, the image seems to stick in the minds of even the most casual readers of Dentan's book. For example, when, after his initial field study, Robarchek delivered his first paper on Semai nonviolence, the first question asked by the discussant, a historian, was "What about that blood drunkenness business?" Most recently, at the 1985 AAA Annual Meetings, we encountered two more references to the purported Semai propensity to violence, one in discussion of a symposium paper dealing with violence and anger (Knauft 1985), the other when Robarchek was introduced to a friend of a colleague as someone who had worked among the Semai. "Semai?" the friend asked. "Aren't they the ones who went crazy when they were put in the army?" That same paragraph, or fragments thereof, is regularly cited as evidence in support of a variety of biologically oriented theoretical approaches to the explanation of human behavior, and particularly of human aggression. The ethologist Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, for example, argues for the existence of a "primary aggressive drive" (1979:114) in human beings and uses Dentan's account as evidence that a lack of training in coping with aggression results in an inability to limit and control it once it starts (1979:238). In a similar vein, E. O. Wilson in On Human Nature (1978:100-101) asks "Are human beings innately aggressive?" "The answer," he asserts, "is yes." As evidence he presents packs of battling hyenas, the Mundurucu, the Yanomamo, the Maori, and, citing that now-familiar paragraph, the Semai (a company, incidentally, in which Semai themselves would be appalled to be included; see Robarchek 1981, 1986). Robert Paul, a psychoanalytic anthropologist, arguing from the premise that Freudian instinct theory must be true because "no one can show in a logical, empirical or sensible way why the idea is not very plausible" (1978:67), seizes upon Semai "blood drunkenness" as evidence of "one of man's primary instincts, a desire to cause painful injury and death to others" (1978:69). Warming to the subject, he asserts (incorrectly) that "Semai are very kind to animals" (1978:76) and (also incorrectly) "In conflict situations there is no mechanism for resolution" (1978:74; see Robarchek 1977a, 1979b), concluding that "Semai blood drunkenness is the eruption of a deeply repressed murderous passion which was certainly never taught or learned as part of Semai culture, but must have sprung from the depths of the psyche" (1978:77). Melvin Konner, a biological anthropologist, uses Semai to exemplify a human "capacity for" and occasionally a "tendency to" violence: .. human beings who have been trained and conditioned to be nonviolent retain the capacity for violence; as constrained as that capacity may be in certain contexts, it can come out in others. It is subdued, reduced, dormant, yes but it is never abolished. It is never nonexistent. It is always there. In the next paragraph, however, the neutral "capacity for" violence becomes a positive "tendency to" violence: This is the lesson of the experience of the Semai, the nonviolent people of Malaysia .... Yet to recognize the impossibility of erasing the tendency to violence is not to throw up our hands and let the blows fall as they may. [1982:286] All of these arguments--despite differences in rhetoric and in theoretical presuppositions-contend that violence is the null condition of Semai (and by implication, of human) life; and all this on the evidence of Uda, the Semai veteran who said "we were drunk with blood." These commentaries malign the Semai as homicidal maniacs, an image now being promulgated in tertiary works. A case in point is a widely known introductory textbook (Keesing 1981:94), which claims that "the Semai of Malaya, pictured by Dentan (1968) as 'the gentle people,' committed terrifying acts of cruelty and violence during civil riots in an urban setting." The fact, however, is that nothing of the sort ever happened! Pre-

Robarchek Dentan] and



sumably, the riots in question are the anti-Chinese riots of 1969 during which some Malays, normally gentle and courteous people (but whose language gave English the word "amuck"), did commit acts of violence. Semai, however, have no grudge against Chinese nor any reason to side with Malays against them. In any case, in 1969 there weren't enough Semai in urban settings to have made an impact on anyone. Apparently, Keesing has conflated Semai, once again in their "blood-drunk" persona, with Malays. (Ironically, Semai themselves contrast alleged Malay aggressiveness with their own nonviolence, depicting Malays as much more violent than most "outsiders" would; cf. Dentan 1975, 1976, 1978; Robarchek 1981.) Our experience has been that people are eager to bring to our attention any allegations of Semai bloodthirstiness, so that it is unlikely that any such carnage wrought by Semai would have gone unreported to us for so long. Keesing did not document this passage and in response to our inquiry stated that he was unable to recall the source of the account. Whatever the source in this instance, the myth of the bloodthirsty Semai has obviously taken on a life of its own (see also Nanda 1984:103). Still, there are the veterans' statements about their experience. How are we to account for such self-reports? What is this "blood drunkenness" that has been so widely interpreted as a primordial homicidal lust that welled over in these ostensibly peaceful people, propelling them to murderous frenzy?

The Wartime Experience

The first caveat is that Semai military experiences varied. An unpublished report from the Pejabat Orang Darat, later the Department of Aborigines, comments that in 1956 "resettled" people were unwilling to cooperate with counterinsurgency troops, even as sentries. We met no Semai who admitted entering the aborigine paramilitary unit, the Senoi Praak, in order to kill. "We don't kill people, we just tend weeds" recruits told Dentan. The deaths of some aboriginal troops in ajeep accident blamed on rebels in 1975 prompted a lot of talk about the advisability of enlisting; "a person could get killed," they said. Even during the height of the insurgency Senoi Praak served mostly as trackers or rounded up Semai "under Communist control" (Madoc 1961; Miller 1960; Tan 1963). Indeed, Semai evolved elaborate procedures, involving more intersettlement coordination over a longer period of time than had ever existed before, in order to keep Semai, including Senoi Praak, out of combat (Dentan 1979:80-81). They were so successful that Iban troops told Dentan in 1962 that Senoi Praak were unfit for scouts, let alone for soldiers. Many Semai who were involved in combat had been affected by terrorism, for example the murders of "Raja Muda," the most influential "headman" in the Cameron Highlands in the spring of 1949, and of the headman of Pulai in the early 1950s. Moreover, the British bombed and strafed Semai settlements to drive them out of the rainforests and then blamed Communist insurgents for the devastation they themselves had caused. As for those who saw combat as part of the military establishment, the experience of Uda which has been so widely cited, while not unique, was not shared by all Semai. The following passage from Robarchek's field notes is typical of accounts that he heard: [An informant] told several stories about his experiences as a Home Guard during the Emergency. He was apparently involved in at least two skirmishes. In one, 4 Home Guards, 8 Senoi Praak, and 4 or 5 British soldiers surrounded a CT [Communist Terrorist] camp, but were discovered and fired on. The return fire-mostly by the British as he told it-killed at least one woman and wounded a baby which was being carried by its mother. The mother ran away. He said they captured several more. The way he told it, there seemed to be little intent on the part of our guys to shoot anybody. Finally, some statistics may put the bloodletting by militarized Semai in perspective. The pioneer unit of the Senoi Praak was founded in May 1956, with ten Malaysian indigenes and a Malay officer. By 1959 there were 369 men and by 1976, 734. The godfather of the unit was R. O. D. Noone, whose brother had worked with Temiar and who himself



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disliked Semai (see, e.g., Noone and Holman 1972:7-13). As a result, most members of the unit at the beginning were Temiar. (The fact that, up until the 1930s, Temiar had guided Indonesian slave raiders to ravage Semai settlements may have made the transition to a military life easier for them.) By the end of the period when most of the killing took place, Temiar still dominated the unit. Moreover, as Robarchek'sinformants report, most of the killing was done by the British and Malay regulars and officers. Between 1957 and 1967 this unit killed 6 insurgents and captured 62 (Fernandez 1976). Even if we assume (falsely) that the unit was entirely Semai and (also falsely) that enlisted men did all the killing, the odds against a recruit's killing someone in a given year were on the order of 600 to 1. Another way to appreciate these figures is to realize that this force of 300 to 400 soldiers, Semai, their allies, and their officers, managed to kill one person every other year. Even if these numbers are in error by several orders of magnitude, the notion that military life drove everyone mad by releasing an innate but repressed blood lust seems, like the premature report of Mark Twain's death, greatly exaggerated. "Blood Drunkenness" (Buul Bhiib) Dentan's gloss of "buulbhiib"as "blood drunkenness" carries connotations that the Semai phrase does not-for example, the erroneous implication that Semai "enjoy" the purportedly homicidal state (Nanda 1984:103)-and obscures connotations that it does carry. For college freshmen, a quick and simple gloss seemed appropriate; but it is inadequate to bear the weight of commentary it has received. In hindsight, "disorientation" would have been a better gloss than "insanity," although once again the simple and dramatic word seemed better for the audience Dentan had in mind. Robarchek's first encounter with the phrase "buulbhiib"is instructive. He and a neighbor were sitting on the partially completed floor of his new house, making fish bait. The neighbor was recovering from an attack of malaria, and Robarchek had taken the occasion to ask him about Semai medicine. The man showed him a taro-like leaf and said that it could be used to stop hemorrhaging; crushed and applied to a wound, it would, he said, stop the flow of blood. As an example, he told of an incident that had happened to him when he was young, when he had been treated with an application of those leaves. He had fallen and cut his knee on a rock; it bled profusely, and they had been unable to stop the bleeding. "It bled and bled," he said; "I was buulbhiib." The ensuing discussion revealed that the "drunkenness" of buulbhiibis not the pleasurable wooziness and loss of restraint that Americans associate with being drunk, but an "intoxication" which disorients and nauseates. People about to vomit "buul" psychotropic plants make one "buul", poisonous toads make one "buul" in fact, any inwith poigested poison "buul."The Malay name--ibul--of a palm (Oraniamacrocladus) sonous fruits may come from Semai "hii' buul": "we are poisoned" (Gimlette 1971:3, 12, 164-165). "Buul,"in other words, most certainly does not connote being swamped and overwhelmed by emotion. bhiib"is not a descriptive phrase like "drunk on wine," but Morever, the phrase "buul is, rather, an idiomatic nosological term that designates a state resulting from at least two separate sets of circumstances: (1) the feeling oflight-headedness that results from severe loss of blood, as from a wound or from childbirth and (2) the dizziness, light-headedness, and nausea that results from the sight of large quantities of human blood. Semai, especially men, tend to be squeamish about human blood; men say that they "can't stand" being around when a woman is giving birth, because the sight of all that blood makes them sick. East Semai men say menstrual blood is so like fish poison that menstruents cannot go on fish-poisoning expeditions without running the risk of being possessed by, and eventually becoming, a tigerish evil power. Although the Semai Robarchek worked with stated no explicit tabu on sexual relations during menstruation, people abstain from sex then because, as one man put it, "the blood would nauseate me." In the same community, a youth was excused for having run off and abandoned his

Robarchek and Dentan]



grandfather,who had fallen and cut himself severely on his machete, because the grandson "was buulbhiibfrom the sight of all that blood." To speculate about the psychological state that Uda and men like him were describing, we must consider all of the reactions and feelingsjust discussed: faintness, dizziness, nausea, disgust, horror, terror (sensations that also tend to cluster together in Semai descriptions of how contact with obscene and violent supernaturals feels: cf. Dentan 1987). Also, consider for a moment the circumstances, the contexts, of these experiences; these men are people for whom nonaggressiveness is an ego-ideal and a central component of selfimage (Dentan 1970:55-64; Robarchek 1981, 1985); people with little or no prior experience in either committing or dealing with violence, transplanted from an egalitarian, peaceful society into one which taught and rewarded killing, where they were trained in military behavior, including how to kill. They were people for whom any intense emotional arousal is threatening in itself (Robarchek 1977a, 1977b, 1979a), people thrown into the heat, fear, and excitement of a sudden firefight (for that is what such encounters were-brief skirmishes and ambushes, not protracted battles). It hardly seems necessary to invoke an innate murderous instinct to explain the psychological disorientation and loss of control that they reported. In short, we think that in this context, "blood drunkenness," rather than designating the eruption of innate homicidal frenzy, describes an acute state of nausea, fear, disorientation, and disgust which the sight of human blood evokes among Semai. This is a picture of blood drunkenness and of Semai nature rather different from the image of raging bloodthirsty troglodytes portrayed by Paul, Konner, Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Wilson, et al. Problems of Ethnographic Interpretation Knowing how rare Semai violence is we both made special efforts to collect all the instances of violent behavior we could, and to report it, even when it seemed irrelevant to ordinary Semai affairs. We should have realized that, whether or not people are biologically set to commit violence, they are set to notice it. Organisms wishing to survive need to pay attention to threats rather than nonthreats. To this extent, the disproportionate attention paid to a single paragraph is "natural." Nevertheless, the responses from advocates of universal human aggressiveness and their opponents prompt us to paraphrase Malinowski's rejoinder to interpretations of his writings on Trobriand Islanders' "ignorance of paternity": We feel that mostof thosewho have commented our materialhave missedtwo points.First on of all, Semaido not sufferfroma specificcomplaint, inabilityto be violent.What we actually findamongthemis a complicated attitudetowardsviolence... overlaidby beliefs.., and influenced by the moral and legal principles of the community and by the sentimental leanings of the individual. The second point which we should like emphatically to make here is that we are not pronouncing any opinion as to whether there is any universal human aggressive drive or whether Semai suffer from it... as fieldworkerswe are concerned here with matters of evidence and the way people use it rather than with theoretical conjectures. [1932:xxi-xxii]

We believe that, with rare individual exceptions, all human beings are, under the right circumstances, capable of violence, as they are of nonviolence or, for that matter, of picking up marbles with their toes. All three are "universals," but only in the sense that they are universal human behavioral potentials(whereas, for example, muscle-powered flight is not), along with capacities for an almost infinite number of other activities. An "innate capacity," however, is notan "innate tendency," and picking up marbles with one's toes
is not "the eruption of a deeply repressed...

the depths of the psyche." Understanding Uda's experience in counterinsurgency does not require postulating any innate passion to drive him. Terrorist atrocities had angered him; his military unit taught and supported violent expression of that anger in ways not normally available to Semai; he expressed it; the alien experience confused and sickened him. Since Semai are only violent when there are sufficient external reasons to become

passion which..,.

must have sprung from



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violent, there is no need to postulate a biologically rooted, repressed, universal human drive to explain their behavior. At best, such unnecessary postulates violate the principle of parsimony and are, therefore, to be rejected. Commentators who think Semai latently murderous, however, seem to begin not with Uda's experience but with a notion of human behavior which incorporates universal aggression a priori. Some psychoanalytic anthropologists and ethologists of the Lorenz school treat this universality as established, even when arguing for its existence, for example: After many years of diligent research into the nature of culture, it would seem that the burden of proof lies not with those who advance the idea that human aggression is innate but rather with those who claim that culture is all and that there are no universal drives .... Granted that certain cultural forms have been unaggressive, if culture is all and instinct nonexistent, how do we explain the fact that 99 percent of all cultures have practiced some form of institutionalized aggression? [Sagan 1974:xviii-xix] Uda's behavior simply fits that Procrustean notion as animal ethology fit medieval bestiaries, trimmed to fit the idea that nature was an allegory of Divine plan. In other words, this school of thought segues from the truism that people are capable of violence, even homicide (under the right circumstances, given the appropriate conditions and the requisite learning experience) to the proposition that violence is the null condition of Semai life and, by implication, of human life. This a priori aggression is, of course, invisible in most of Semai life, appearing in its unarguable form only when outside powers pluck Semai from their normal surroundings and routines, instruct them in killing and set them loose against enemies who have butchered people they love. Otherwise, in this interpretation, it shows up only in distorted and symbolic ways. Dentan has seen an east Semai man beat a dog that stole food from his baby, for instance, and another throw a frog against a tree to kill it rather than have to carry it home to eat. People also cook birds and other small animals alive; but Semai do not anthropomorphize animals the way Euroamericans do. For them, such actions seem no more emotionally charged than killing a mosquito, scarcely as overwhelming as the eruption of repressed emotions would be in Freudian theory. Paul (1978) characterizes threatening to hit children as a form of aggression; but, since the threats seldom materialize and the blows almost never land, the overall behavioral sequence can equally well be characterized as nonaggressive. In fact, a picture of children playing at giving such abortive blows serves as a centerpiece of a passage in a text which presents Semai as peaceable (Alland 1980:433-434). Cases like these, it should be apparent, require interpretive judgment in context. Proponents of universal human aggression, however, have an a priori interpretation, which does not require attention to particular ethnographic contexts. They seem to argue this way: (1) Aggression always stems from a universal innate drive; (2) this act looks aggressive; (3) therefore it stems from that universal drive; (4) therefore there is such a drive (cf. also Robarchek 1987). The argument is circular, a petitio principii. The reason Dentan's book speaks of"violence" in the specific sense of doing someone physical harm rather than of"aggression" in one of its many senses is precisely that circular arguments flourish when the definition of the central term varies at the analyst's whim. Phrased the way it is, the innate aggression argument is entirely unfalsifiable. The quarrel once again appears to be the ancient one between pessimists and optimists, in their current guise as conservatives and liberals, just as was the case in the recent Freeman-Mead controversy. Throughout the Euroamerican expansion into the rest of the world, intellectuals in imperial centers have used the lives of the peoples they encountered, conquered, or killed as tokens in their own internal political debates (e.g., Commager and Giordanetti 1967). The serious representation of a different manner of living is in fact a challenge to one's readers' way of life. Ways of life are more secure when alternatives are inconceivable. In this sense, writing ethnography is inescapably subversive (Clifford 1981). It need not be liberal; indeed, it may be reactionary; but it cannot be

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conservative in any strict sense. Therefore, conservatives are politically correct by their own lights in trying to expose the darkness in an alien way of life whose nonviolence makes it attractive. Liberals' sentimental portrayal of Semai exceptionalism, as we argued in the debate on Senoi dream theory referred to at the beginning of this article, is equally pernicious, albeit in a different way. In most ways Semai are not strikingly different from other people. They are neither Noble Savages nor bloodthirsty killers. The differences that do exist may be instructive to Westerners, both scientifically and politically, if they are treated as complex human phenomena rather than reduced to simplistic tendentious caricatures. But fieldworkers must always remind theoreticians and interpreters that there is a fundamental facticity to people's lives which no one has a right to misrepresent, however problematic accuracy may be and however satisfying it is to score political or intellectual points. As ethnographers, we want to stress the value of "basic repositories of technical information..,. long descriptive compendia that never see the general light, though they move our profession forward.... We must somehow learn to respect the basic data of science, not only its flashy theories" (Gould 1985:27). While we neither expect nor intend that this brief note will settle the argument over the wellsprings of human violence, we do trust that it demonstrates, contrary to what many with a biologically deterministic bent seem to find it congenial to believe, that Semai blood drunkenness is a flimsy foundation on which to erect a theory of human aggression and human nature.

References Cited
Alland, Alexander 1972 The Human Imperative. New York: Columbia University Press. 1980 To Be Human: An Introduction to Anthropology. New York:John Wiley and Sons. Chagnon, Napoleon 1983 Yanomamo: The Fierce People. 3rd edition. New York: CBS College Publishing. Clifford,James 1981 On Ethnographic Surrealism. Comparative Studies in Society and History 23:539-564. Commager, Henry Steele, and Elmo Giordanetti 1967 Was America a Mistake? An Eighteenth-Century Controversy. New York: Harper Torchbooks. Deloria, Vine, Jr. 1970 Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. New York: Avon. Dentan, Robert K. 1965 Some Senoi Semai Dietary Restrictions. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University. 1967 The Response to Intellectual Impairment among the Semai. AmericanJournal of Mental Deficiency 71:764-766. 1968a The Semai: A Nonviolent People of Malaya. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 1968b The Semai Response to Mental Aberration. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 124:135-158. 1970 Hocus Pocus and Extensionism in Central Malaysia. American Anthropologist 72:358362. 1975 If There Were No Malays, Who Would the Semai Be? In Pluralism in Malaysia: Myth and Reality. Judith Nagata, ed. Pp. 50-64. Contributions to Asian Studies 7. 1976 Identity and Ethnic Contact: Perak, Malaysia, 1963. In Intergroup Relations: Asian Scenes. I. Kang, ed. Journal of Asian Affairs 1(1):79-86. 1978 Notes on Childhood in a Nonviolent Context: The Semai Case. In Learning Nonaggression. Ashley Montague, ed. Pp. 94-143. New York: Oxford University Press. 1979 The Semai. A Nonviolent People of Malaya. Fieldwork edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 1983a Senoi Dream Praxis. Dream Network Bulletin 2(5):1-3, 12. 1983b Hit and Run Ethnography: Reply to Alexander Randall. Dream Network Bulletin 2(8):11-12.



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