Accepted paper:

Juggling time(s): waiting for inundation and resettlement in Malaysian Borneo


Liana Chua (Brunel University London)

Paper short abstract:

Exploring how four villages involved in a dam-construction and resettlement project deal with their situation by juggling different temporal regimes and modes of waiting, this paper argues for the need to treat waiting as a productive space rather than a transitional state with a clear outcome.

Paper long abstract:

In a rural, rainforested part of Malaysian Borneo, four small indigenous communities in the hills around a new dam wait to be resettled to a nearby township. Or so it seems. But in a situation where half the population has moved to town, a significant proportion has built new villages further inland, and a vocal minority are contesting the legality of the entire scheme, what does waiting actually involve? Who is doing the waiting, and what are they waiting for? Drawing on fieldwork conducted in the area at various intervals since 2007, my paper explores the different ways in which the affected communities have dealt with the prospect of inundation and resettlement. I suggest that more than being a transitional period oriented towards a specific end-point, waiting can itself be agentive and productive of new identities, relations and politics. By showing how my acquaintances juggle different temporal, political and moral regimes (and the modes of waiting embedded in them) in the gap between their old lives and a projected future, I argue that waiting needs to be understood not simply as something that takes place in time, but also as a relationship to time(s).

panel P40
Ethnographies of waiting