Accepted Paper:

Ethnogenesis of the Bajau as a maritime creole and its socio-ecological contexts in the Wallacean Sea, Southeast Asia  


Kazufumi Nagatsu

Paper short abstract:

This paper deals with the ethnogenesis of the Bajau as a maritime creole in Insular Southeast Asia. It aims at examining highly hybrid natures of their ethnic background and socio-ecological contexts of the environment where the mobile aquatic population have maintained such hybrid natures.

Paper long abstract:

This paper deals with the process of formation of the Bajau as a maritime creole in Wallacean Sea of Insular Southeast Asia. Through the ethnographic and historical analyse, it aims at 1) depicting highly hybrid natures of their ethnic background, and 2) examining socio-ecological contexts of the maritime environment where the sea folks have maintained and repeatedly reconstructed such hybrid natures. In order to approach the latter question, the study introduces the concept of "maritime frontier" in the light of the discussions on "frontier society" in Southeast Asian Studies.

With an approximate population of 1,100,000, many of the Bajau live along coasts or on islands. Their settlements are dispersed widely in Wallacean Sea. Their livelihood is generally based on sea-oriented activities. Until the mid-twentieth century, some of the Bajau were known as "sea nomads" due to their lifestyle, i.e. boat-dwelling. Thus, they represent one of the most distinctive maritime folks in Southeast Asia.

We should not, however, consider their ethnicity as a fixed premise, since a variety of ethnic groups including the local majorities have frequently amalgamated into the Bajau. Here, let us remind that the Bajau have always belonged to the minorities in regions where they live. In the above-mentioned process, the majorities have assumed ethnic label and attributes of the minority. In what socio-ecological settings has such process taken place? This is a question underlining the present study. The study pays particular attention to the case in Kangean Archipelago, East Java, Indonesia.

Panel P038
Sedentarization and concentration among nomadic peoples (Commission on Nomadic Peoples/NME panel)