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(P09) Who are Borneo’s hunter-gatherers? New research toward a (very) longue durée assessment

Convenor: Bernard Sellato, Centre Asie du Sud-Est (CNRS, EHESS, INaLCO), PSL Research University, Paris

Abstract: Focusing on present and former (forest and maritime) hunter-gatherer communities’ origins and identities, this panel brings together new research in various disciplines (including linguistics, archaeology, genetics) to obtain a comprehensive longue durée view of Borneo’s population history, possibly leading to alternative ways of defining hunter-gatherers.

Keywords: Borneo, population history, longue durée, life ways, ethnocultural identities

Format: standard panel

Precirculated papers: none required


Borneo island offers a unique opportunity to address broad questions of the origins and identities of its diverse present and former hunting-gathering communities with a parallel focus on tropical forest peoples (Penan, Punan, ...) and maritime peoples (Bajo, Sama Dilaut, ...). Overall, this session intends to bring together scholars in different disciplines to obtain, tentatively, a comprehensive, (very) longue durée view, articulating different time segments, hitherto separately studied, in Borneo’s history. This may lead to alternative, both long-term and contextual ways of defining hunter-gatherers.

Papers exploring the following fields of investigation are welcome:

1. Rapidly developing—and now often combined—genetic and historical linguistic studies, along with ground-breaking archaeological and historical ecological investigations, searching for the deep roots and long-range migration histories of the island’s hunting-gathering peoples;

2.  Research into the ideological, social, and economic basis of the strong resilience of forest hunting-gathering and marine foraging ways of life in Borneo, through centuries or millennia and, to some extent, up into our own globalized contemporary time, taking into account their protracted involvement in client-patron relationships with a wide network of long-distance trade in valuable forest and marine products; and

3.  Research into (forest or marine) “nomadic” communities’ historically fluid and repeatedly renegotiated ethnonyms and ethnocultural identities, and into their ongoing repositioning, based on (among other factors) their spatial and environmental changes and constraints, ethnic mixing and shifting linguistic situation, and occupational pressures or choices, in relation to upland farming neighbours, coastal peoples, and the island’s provincial/state and national scenes.

Papers contributing input from research on other parts of the world with relevance and comparative significance to the panel’s overall purpose are also welcome.




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