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SEMINAR: Anthropology and Sociology Seminar Series

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Today's date is Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Anthropology and Sociology Seminar Series : Marginality and the X Factor: Assessing the Applicability of the Zomia Hypothesis in the Context of Archipelagic Southeast Asia Other events...
This paper begins with a critique of the marginality concept proposed by von Braun and Gatzweiler in Marginality: Addressing the Nexus of Poverty, Exclusion and Ecology due to its neglect of dimensions of local agency. It then proceeds to consider Scott’s rethinking of peripheral societies in Southeast Asia, as enunciated in The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (2009), which does emphasise local agency. However, in its terrestrialist agrarian bias and its overriding concern with evasion of the state in its construction of Zomia, it obscures a fuller understanding of the interplay of agency and constraint. The presentation re-evaluates aspects of Scott’s framework with regard to the very different dynamic of downstream states in outer Indonesia, emphasising the importance of market demand from outside those states (the’ X Factor’). It highlights the ways in which upriver smallholders are able to maintain an autonomous sphere of subsistence production while also engaging in commodity production, drawing on Dove’s analysis in The Banana Tree at the Gate: A History of Marginal Peoples and Global Markets in Borneo (2012). It then examines how the Zomia hypothesis must be further modified when considering the relation of mobile maritime communities to the marine-oriented states of archipelagic Southeast Asia, such as the Sulu Sultanate. The paper then presents an analysis of more recent trends in the analysis of mobile maritime communities in this region, focusing upon the Orang Laut and Bajau (Bajau Laut/Bajo/Sama Dilaut), who continue to occupy interstitial positions, particularly in the border areas of the interfaces of Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia. This section draws on my own field work among various Bajau communities in Sabah and the Orang Seletar of the Johor-Singapore interface. It concludes by emphasising the necessity to consider how global forces continue to affect the interaction of contemporary nation-states with their marginal communities.

Greg Acciaioli teaches in Anthropology and Sociology and Asian Studies at The University of Western Australia. His research for the last decade has concentrated upon contestations regarding national parks in Indonesia and Malaysia. He also works on such topics as the Indonesian Indigenous people’s movement and farmer innovations in agriculture under new regulatory systems in Indonesia. This seminar draws on his research among stateless Bajau Laut in Sabah, east Malaysia, and the Seletar, an Orang Laut population found in Singapore and Johor, peninsular Malaysia.
Speaker(s) Greg Acciaioli
Location Social Sciences Building, Room 2204
Contact Farida Fozdar <[email protected]>
Start Fri, 30 Aug 2019 14:30
End Fri, 30 Aug 2019 15:30
Submitted by Karen Eichorn <[email protected]>
Last Updated Mon, 26 Aug 2019 13:40
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