SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Living Memory of an Animist Society in the Austronesian World, Pala’wan Verbal Arts and Digital Humanities

Nicole Revel
Nicole Revel (Emeritus Research Director, CNRS)

Date: 31 January 2018Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 31 January 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4426

Type of Event: Seminar


As a linguist-anthropologist, to adjust to the emerging technologies seemed a necessity and an evidence: they provide a new way to safeguard the intangible world of speech, song and music, informal conversations, highly formal debates or narrative performances, exchanged and transmitted by way of the voice in a small society of subtropical forest in Islands Southeast Asia.

Hunters with blowpipes, foragers and upland rice cultivators, the Pala’wan have a bilateral kinship system, a social organization with no hierarchy, no political power nor authority, rather functioning on interpersonal relationships and an ancestral Custom Law, Adat, constantly referred to in daily life. Their way to be in this world, to relate to each other, is based on four fundamental values, namely: tabang, helping each other, bagi, sharing, gantiq exchanging in parity, and ingasiq, feeling sympathy and compassion.

This life journey invited me to bring together multifaceted data and by way of an ethnography of speaking, a testimony of a living oral memory was built up. It demanded long lasting observations in situ, many faithful returns since 1970 up to 2014. It required setting in motion a systematic method while collecting sound data (audio recordings, audio-video filming of speech, song and music as well as photos). Transcribing and translating conversations, poems, invocations, juridical debates, story telling, riddles, shamanic Voyage and epics, demanded a thorough linguistic analysis and an hermeneutics in collaboration with the Highlanders and in the solitude of one’s desk.

This multimedia work allows us an attempt to reconstruct, techniques, thinking processes and speaking styles, eventually revealing ancient values of the Austronesian world to which the Pala’wan Highlanders belong linguistically and culturally.

Speaker Biography

As a linguist-anthropologist on the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian Family, Nicole Revel dedicated her life research to the understanding and the safeguarding of endangered languages and cultures of the Philippines.

Her monographic work focuses on Pala’wan language description (Phd, 1974), but also comparative lexicography, semantics, pragmatics, rhetoric and ethno-poetics and also Digital Humanities (DH) :‘Palawan Verbal Arts’ is her recent published multimedia work in Documentary Linguistics (Geuthner, 2017). From 1991 to 2001, she headed  an international Seminar  on ‘Epics’, during  the ‘Integral Study of Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue’, a Program of the Decade for Cultural Development (Unesco). Following the digital revolution, she set in motion her vision of a multimedia archive for long sung narratives: the ‘Philippines Epics and Ballads Archive’.  Since 1992, this collection (34 volumes, 8,314p. & 5 hard disks), has been progressively housed at the Rizal Library Archives, Ateneo de Manila University. Since January 2011, this archive is accessible on a website monitored by Ateneo. She received the Bronze medal of the CNRS in General Linguistics (1975).

Today she is a CNRS Senior Researcher Emeritus and a member of the Mix Unit  72-06: Eco-Anthropology and Ethnobiology (CNRS- MNHN) at the Musée de l’Homme site. After receiving several awards at the CNRS and in the Philippines, she was given a Doctorate Honoris Causa in Humanities from Ateneo de Manila University (2009).

Organiser: SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies

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