Tribal Communities in the Malay World: Historical, Cultural, and Social Perspectives

Tribal Communities in the Malay World: Historical, Cultural, and Social Perspectives

Tribal Communities in the Malay World: Historical, Cultural, and Social Perspectives

Tribal Communities in the Malay World: Historical, Cultural, and Social Perspectives

Synopsis

The Malay World (Alam Melayu), spanning the Malay Peninsula, much of Sumatra, and parts of Borneo, has long contained within it a variety of populations. Most of the Malays have been organized into the different kingdoms (kerajaan Melayu) from which they have derived their identity. But the territories of those kingdoms have also included tribal peoples both Malay and non-Malay who have held themselves apart from those kingdoms in varying degrees. In the last three decades, research on these tribal societies has aroused increasing interest.

This book explores the ways in which the character of these societies relates to the Malay kingdoms that have held power in the region for many centuries past, as well as to the modern nation-states of the region. It brings together researchers committed to comparative analysis of the tribal groups living on either side of the Malacca Straits in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. New theoretical and descriptive approaches are presented for the study of the social and cultural continuities and discontinuities manifested by tribal life in the region.

Excerpt

This volume focuses on a distinct historical singularity – the Malay World – even though much of the material presented may seem familiar to researchers who have worked on other parts of the world. It should not come as a surprise to find, for instance, that certain peculiarities in the Malay World correspond to generalities uncovered by analyses of situations elsewhere. Such being the case, the aim of this volume is to offer theoretical, descriptive, and practical perspectives that will be relevant to researchers working on both the Malay World and beyond.

The scope of the volume is sufficiently narrow for historical, ecological, and cultural factors to be held relatively constant – notwithstanding the variations that do occur in the region – but it is also sufficiently wide for each of us to learn from the findings of the others. the collation of materials on Peninsular Malaysia with work from South Thailand, Indonesian Sumatra, Sarawak in eastern Malaysia, and from Singapore, has been a valuable exercise. This is especially so, as the contributions cover contemporary ethnography, sociology and political science on the one hand, and historical issues on the other.

The tribal and recently-tribal people of the Malay World cover a broad spectrum. They include, as this volume shows, nomadic foragers (inland, coastal, and maritime), swidden farmers, traders in forest and marine products, petty commodity producers, emergent and established peasantries, proletarians, and professionals, among others.

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