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(P11) Hunter-gatherers in transboundary worlds past and present

Convenors: Narumon Arunotai, Chulalongkorn University; Shu Nimonjiya,  Kyoto Bunkyo University

Abstract: This session is about hunter-gatherers (currently or formerly mobile) who live/lived in transboundary worlds. We welcome papers that examine hunter-gatherers’ transboundary practices from various disciplines and indigenous perspectives in the past and present.

Keywords: mobility, transboundary, land/seascapes, practice and experience

Format: standard panel

Precirculated papers: none required


The land/seascapes of mobile hunter-gatherers historically were expansive, and many groups traversed freely across what are now nation-state boundaries. However, as nation-states increasingly fixed down their “borders”, traditional land/seascapes gradually became circumscribed, and hunter-gatherers physically encapsulated within national boundaries. However, hunter-gatherers sometimes had/have moved across such boundaries for various reasons, including ecological, social, political, and economic ones. Nation-states have tried to sedentarise them. Such political attempts sometimes were successful and sometimes not.

Why do hunter-gatherers traverse across national territories? The answer to this simple question is various depending on time and place. But this question is significant to understand the existence of hunter-gatherers in the modern world. For example, there are three groups of hunter-gatherers in Thailand—Mlabri, Maniq and Moken.  The first two groups were forest nomads (on the Thailand-Laos, and Thailand-Malaysia border zones respectively) and the last group were sea nomads (on the Thailand-Burma border). Their transboundary practices were all different. This panel will question: How do/did transboundary hunter-gatherers move across boundaries based on the characteristics of their land/seascapes? What reasons are/were behind their transboundary practices? How did they use social networks to move across boundaries? How do they interpret their experiences? How can we understand their transboundary practices? How can we consider their current situations in relation to current or former transboundary practices?

This panel will address issues about borders, boundaries, changing “homes” and “foraging grounds” of hunter-gatherers worldwide who have been finding themselves integrating and adapting to, and resisting nation-states in the past and present. Contributions on issues like nationality and citizenship, livelihoods, education, language, and health are also welcome.



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