Sensing Others: Voicing Batek Ethical Lives the Edge of a Malaysian Rainforest

ALICE RUDGE is Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at University College London.

SIRD & University of Nebraska Press (Reprint, 2024)
xxvii + 295 pages including References and Index


In stock

Sensing Others: Voicing Batek Ethical Lives the Edge of a Malaysian Rainforest explores the lives of Indigenous Batek people in Peninsular Malaysia amid the strange and the new in the borderland between protected national park and oil palm plantation. As their ancestral forests disappear around them, Batek people nevertheless attempt to live well among the strange Others they now encounter: out-of-place animals and plants, traders, tourists, poachers, and forest guards. How Batek people voice their experiences of the good and the strange in relation to these Others challenges essentialized notions of cultural and species difference and the separateness of ethical worlds.

Drawing on meticulous, long-term ethnographic research with Batek people, Alice Rudge argues that as people seek to make habitable a constantly changing landscape, what counts as Otherness is always under negotiation. Anthropology’s traditional dictum to “make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange” creates a binary between the familiar and the Other, often encapsulating Indigenous lives as the archetypal Other to the “modern” worldview. Yet living well amid precarity involves constantly negotiating Otherness’s ambivalences, as people, plants, animals, and places can all become familiar, strange, or both. Sensing Others reveals that when looking from the boundary, what counts as Otherness is impossible to pin down.

Prelude: Friends and Strangers
Introduction: Living with Others

1. Closeness and Loss, Longing as Archive
– Story of the pompakoh Bird, in Which a Father Becomes a Bird

2. Alone and Together, Wrongdoing and the Ethical Self
– Story of the Batak Cannibal, in Which a Woman Escapes

3. Like and Different, Hidden Likenesses in Everyday Speech
– Story of the caŋkãy Frog, in Which Frogs and Leaves Become Batek

4. Known and Unknown, Sensing the Intentions of Others
– Story of a sarɔt Who Flicks His “Fruit”

5. Attachment and Detachment, Sharing with Strange Others
– Story of Hiding from Batak in the Treetops

Coda: The Politics of Being Alone

Weight0.491 kg
Dimensions22.8 × 15.1 × 1.7 cm





Year Published


There are no reviews yet

Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.