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(P10) Coastal societies or maritime hunter-gatherers? Maritime adapted peoples in the context of contemporary and historic developments within Southeast Asia

Convenors: Phillip Endicott, Musée de l'Homme; Jaques Ivanoff, Musée de l'Homme; Maxime Boutry, independent scholar

Discussants: Maximillian Larena, University of Uppsala

Abstract: This session will seek to understand the effects of contemporary changes on the social and cultural constructs of the various societies currently, or formerly, associated with exploitation of maritime resources in peninsular and island Southeast Asia, and to explore the extent to which they share a common origin.

Keywords: Moken, Laut, Sama, maritime, coastal

Format: standard panel

Precirculated papers: yes


Populations scattered along the coasts of Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Borneo, Sulawesi and the Sulu archipelago in the Philippines share a history of association with the sea or activities related to it. They also speak dialects of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family, which is estimated to have expanded throughout the region around 4,000 years ago. This orientation to the sea is a common link but only one of a number of flexible strategies used to engage with the continental societies around them, which can include farming, iron-forging, and pottery-making. The engagement with mainstream society is usually a two-way process of engagement whereby hunters of the sea may abandon many of their traditional practices, while groups coming into contact with them often incorporate a new corpus of knowledge into their own use of space and resources. This is often part of sociocultural strategies of engagement in symbiotic networks that encompass a complex coastal society. These strategies increasingly face new challenges, including the on-going process of national integration, the privatisation of fisheries, and the leisure industry. On a regional scale, there may be long histories of interaction between different groups of sea nomads, and collectively with other parts of Island Southeast Asia and beyond. The remit of this session is to bring together researchers specialising in archaeology, social-cultural anthropology, comparative linguistics, historical ethnography, and population genetics, to share their findings and explore ways of better integrating these different lines of evidence within a common approach to peoples of the sea. Presentations based on an interdisciplinary and/or interregional approach are particular welcome.




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Surin Moken ed wPhoto (c) Narumon Arunotai