ILCAA Home > Staff > Research Staff > KAWAI, Aya
Font Size : [Larger] [Medium] [Smaller]


Assistant Professor

Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa,
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
3-11-1 Asahi-cho, Fuchu-shi,
Tokyo, 183-8534, Japan

Email: a-kawai[at]

Personal Homepage:

Research interests: Anthropology, Southeast Asia, Orang Asli

Studying the Relationship between the Environment and Orang Asli Hunter-Gatherers in Peninsular Malaysia

The “Orang Asli” is one of the ethnic groups of Peninsular Malaysia, which is known as a multiethnic country. It is an official category designated by the government, which includes 18 populations with different languages and customs. I have conducted fieldwork in one of the Orang Asli groups; the Batek, which subsists by hunting and gathering, to understand human-environment relationships. Batek people speak Batek, which is different from Malay, and their community is nonliterate. While they stay at an Orang Asli village during the rainy season, they travel into the forest with bamboo rafts to camp in the dry season. They rely on purchased rice and forest food, such as freshwater fish and leaf-monkeys shot with blowpipes. Rivers play essential roles in their life; they offer drinking water, a place for excretion, and a place for bathing. The Batek have taboos relating to rivers. I have studied how they recognize and live in their environment. At the same time, based on field experience, I have investigated the dominant views on the environment in many societies.

Recent Interests:

With deforestation and the increasing population, it has been difficult for the Batek to continue their travels in familial groups. In recent years, females and children have been staying near the village for most of the time, whereas males travel long distances by car and motorcycle. Reflecting on these circumstances, I work on a study of their social relationships based on the idea that they reorganize their social structure in line with changes in mobility.

Research Projects:

Related Sites


KAWAI, Aya. Ecological Anthropology Challenging Monograph 5: The Riverine Nomad Batek-Hunter-Gatherers of the Tropical Forests in the Malay Peninsula. (2021-12, Kyoto University Press)
Book Info (in Japanese)

Go back to Research Staff page

Copyright © 2010 Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa. All Rights Reserved.