H. Arlo Nimmo

Cultural anthropologist

The Sea People of Sulu. A Study of Social Change in the Philippines

The Sea People of Sulu.  A Study of Social Change in the Philippines.  1972.  San Francisco: Chandler Publishing Company.

The Sea People of Sulu. A Study of Social Change in the PhilippinesThis published version of H. Arlo Nimmo’s PhD dissertation (The Structure of Bajau Society) explores the changes that occurred among the Bajau (aka Sama Dilaut) of Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines when they abandoned boat-dwelling to become house-dwellers.  The data were collected during twenty-four months of field research (1963, 1965-67) among two communities of Bajau, namely the boat-dwellers of the Tawi-Tawi Islands and the house-dwellers of Sitangkai Island.  The book describes the two communities’ social organization, including households, family alliances, kinship groups and community.

The study is primarily descriptive of the changes that Bajau society underwent with the abandonment of the nomadic boat-life and the move to a more sedentary house-life.  Nimmo contends that the geneses of practically all the seemingly new features of the house-dwelling society are found in the behavioral patterns of the nomadic boat-dwelling society.  He claims that new social behavior can be traced through a finite number of steps to its origin – usually in the traditional society.  Confrontation or more intimate association with a second society may provide models for behavior or may open opportunities which make formerly less popular alternatives now more popular and may create new possible configurations thereby setting about processes of change; but the genesis of most new behavior can be found in the traditional society.   These seemingly new patterns of behavior emerge from the alternative patterns of the traditional society which were always available when the dominant patterns could not be followed.  Consequently, to deal with social change, the anthropologist must know the jural rules of the society as well as the allowable deviations from those rules.

ISBN: 0700201971, 104 pages, 6 photos, 3 maps, 8 tables, bibliography, index.

The Sea People of Sulu has a Japanese language edition.

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