Brunt, Helen, 2013, Stateless Stakeholders, Seen but Not Heard: The Case of the Sama Dilaut in Sabah, Malaysia. M.A. Thesis, Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation

Borneo Research Bulletin, Annual 2013 | Go to article overview

Brunt, Helen, 2013, Stateless Stakeholders, Seen but Not Heard: The Case of the Sama Dilaut in Sabah, Malaysia. M.A. Thesis, Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation


Brunt, Helen, 2013, Stateless Stakeholders, Seen but not Heard: The case of the Sama Dilaut in Sabah, Malaysia. M.A. Thesis, Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation. School of Global Studies. University of Sussex.

Natural resource management and statelessness are two growing areas of academic study yet remain, so far, under-researched in combination. For my Masters dissertation I explored their relationship by using the condition of statelessness (1) to investigate how some stakeholders are marginalized from participatory processes and I challenged some of the assumptions that marine protected areas (MPAs) can provide a win-win solution for conservation and sustainable development.

My research interests were motivated by personal experiences garnered during eight years involvement in a marine conservation and community initiative in the Malaysian state of Sabah, northeast Borneo. During that time, I observed first-hand the implications of being stateless--not being a citizen of any country and having no place to belong. The Sama Dilaut (also known as Bajau Laut and sometimes referred to as "sea gypsies") are a largely stateless community whose members have for centuries lived in boats and on islands in the waters now overlaid by the current nation-states of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Presently, many Sama Dilaut find themselves living in marine parks or "conservation zones" and, although a key stakeholder group, rarely participate in management decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods. I took the opportunity through my dissertation research to examine more closely the consequences of statelessness on peoples' everyday lives through exploring questions such as what are some of the implications on resource use, and conservation and policy? How are "stateless" people in the Malaysian state of Sabah portrayed by the state, NGOs and other stakeholders? How do the Sama Dilaut interact with management authorities and NGOs? What perceptions and processes serve to sustain the stateless position of the Sama Dilaut?

In my research I drew upon both primary and secondary sources, principally the work of academics in the fields of natural resource management, statelessness and participation, as well as published and unpublished material from policy makers and practitioners working in marine conservation. …

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