Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Alorese live on the Island of Alor, in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia. Alor is noted as an area of tremendous cultural and linguistic diversity. Alorese estimate between 48 and 60 mutually unintelligible languages are spoken on Alor. These languages are Austronesian. In addition to "native" languages, many of the inhabitants speak Bahasa Indonesia, the national language of Indonesia. The people in the highland live in small villages, practice Christianity, and their major subsistence activity is agriculture. The people on the coast tend to be Muslim.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --Southeast Asia



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are reference by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Alorese collection consists of four English language documents dealing with the Island of Alor located off the coast of Timor in Indonesia. Three of these studies were written by the American anthropologist Cora DuBois (DuBois, 1944, 1941, 1940, no. 1-3) shortly before the outbreak of World War II. DuBois' major monograph entitled "The People of Alor" (DuBois, 1944, no. 1) is probably the best source of ethnographic information on the Alorese people although it is heavily oriented toward the basic personality structure of the Alorese and their personality development. (DuBois was strongly influenced by the Culture and Personality School of Anthropology then in vogue in the 1940s). Some of the ethnographic data contained in this work deal with the food quest, concepts of disease, relationship to the supernatural, marriage, and social relations (again discussed in relation to problems of personality formation). The other two works by DuBois in this collection, (DuBois, 1941, 1940, nos. 2-3), add only minor bits of information to that already existing in the major work by this author. It is important to note, however, that all of DuBois' field work was done in the village of Atimelang in central Alor. According to Scarduelli (1991, no. 4, p. 76) the people of this village are culturally, linguistically, and ethnically different from the Alorese living on the coast. The fourth document in this collection, Scarduelli (1991, no. 4), deals with the symbolic organization of space and social identity in the village of Alor Kecil located at the western tip of Alor Island. In addition to the author's analysis of the cognitive maps used by the inhabitants of the village to interpret their own social organization and to establish the frame of reference used for interactions within the community, the study contains data on political organization, lineages, rituals of circumcision, marriage exchanges, traditional history, and community structure.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article "Alorese" by Kathleen M. Adams in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 5, 1993, Paul Hockings, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in October 2000.

Overview by

John Beierle

BELABAJA -- a fictitious kinship bond -- category 608

DOLU-- a low mound of stones that in ancient times functioned as a sacrificial altar -- category 778

KOKORO -- a building for community meetings -- category 344

LALLANG -- open spaces in the village, each associated with specific community kin groups -- categories 361, 351

SUKU -- exogamous kin groups, generally lineages -- category 613

SUNAT -- the Islamic ritual of circumcision -- categories 796, 304

UMAH -- houses occupied by a descent group -- categories 342, 613

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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