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

ConvenorsNarumon 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.

 Papers

83. The Experience of Trans-Boundary among the Mlabri

Shu Nimonjiya, Kyoto Bunkyo University, Japan. mlamoja1985[a]gmail.com

Short abstract: This paper aims to reconstruct the experience of trans-boundary from an indigenous perspective of the post-nomadic hunter-gatherers, the Mlabri, in Northern Thailand, from an indigenous perspective basing on their narratives.

Long abstract: This paper aims to reconstruct the experience of trans-boundary from an indigenous perspective of the post-nomadic hunter-gatherers, the Mlabri, in Thailand. In Northern Thailand, there are many ethnic groups, who differ ethnically, culturally, and linguistically from the lowland Thai. Most of them are generally known as famers, practicing swidden cultivation, but there are the only nomadic hunter-gatherers, the Mlabri, who have been called as “the spirits of the yellow leaves” (phi tong lueang) by Thai and Laotian. Today, the Mlabri live in Thai and Laos. According to a Danish linguist, the Mlabri can be classified into three groups (A, B, and C) in accordance with little difference in grammar and phonology. Among them, the largest group (A) lives in Thailand and this group had moved into Thailand in 19th century. However, it can be said that such trans-boundary was usual because they used to change their camps from one place to another in the forests, including the area where Thai-Lao border as a few reports indicate. But there is no attempt to examine their experience of trans-boundary. This paper, therefore, tries to examine and reconstruct how the Mlabri had practiced trans-boundary from their narratives.

354. Reconsidering “boundaries” from sea nomads case: The Moken maritime hunter and gatherers of the Andaman Sea

Paladej Na Pombejra, Social Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. paladej1[a]yahoo.com
Usa Kotsripetch, Social Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. k_usa21[a]yahoo.com
Narumon Arunotai, Social Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. narumon.h[a]chula.ac.th

Short abstract: The coastal and inland areas or Myiek and Tanintharyi used to be the area of inter-ethnic interaction and trade of Thai, Mon, Burma, Karen, Chinese, Malay, and trade was even more dynamic during British colonial era.  The Moken maritime hunter-gatherers had their home here in the Myiek Archipelago. Complex history of the area has been neglected because the unit of analysis has now been contained within the boundary frame of nation-state.    This paper explores the situations of the Moken who live on islands in Thailand near Thai-Myanmar border and analyze the ideas of “boundaries” from various perspectives.

Long abstract: The Moken maritime hunter-gatherers had their home in the Myiek Archipelago which lies between the present day Myanmar and Thailand. The coastal and inland areas or Myiek and Tanintharyi used to be the area of inter-ethnic interaction and trade of Thai, Mon, Burma, Karen, Chinese, Malay, and trade was even more dynamic during British colonial era. Complex history of the area has been neglected because the unit of analysis has now been contained within the boundary frame of nation-state. Though the future holds a great promise of transboundary movement, it mainly focuses on trade and transnational investment rather than socio-cultural interactions. The Moken, as original inhabitants of the Myiek archipelago, have gradually become sedentary and integrated. Their nomadic hunting-gathering living is seen as the lower ladder of civilization. This paper explores the situations of the Moken who live on islands in Thailand near Thai-Myanmar border and analyze the ideas of “boundaries” from various perspectives.

330. "Transboundary” thinking to understand Chao Lay situations in Thailand

Narumon Arunotai, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. narumon.h[a]chula.ac.th

Short abstract: The situations of Chao Lay indigenous people of Thailand require “transboundary” thinking in that there is a blurry line between sub-groups, between livelihood types, and between mobility and sedentarization.    This presentation explores this complexity in categorization.

Long abstract: Chao Lay are indigenous sea people in Thailand who were not well known and well recognized until after 2004 tsunami disaster. The name “Chao Lay” is an umbrella term meaning “sea people” and signifying anybody having close ties to the sea. Though Chao Lay are now better known than before, the names and naming are still confusing to many. Firstly, drawing sub-group boundary between the Moken, Moklen and Urak Lawoi is a debatable issue both for academics and for the native themselves. Secondly, categorizing or drawing the boundary of livelihood is also problematic, as many engage in hunting-gathering, artisanal fishing, wage labor, and trade. Thirdly, the boundary between “mobile” or “nomadic” and “sedentary” is also challenging especially amidst land claims and disputes. This presentation explores categorization or creating some kind of boundary to signify sub groups; creating a line between each type of livelihood especially hunting and gathering, and fishing/fisheries; and drawing the boundary between nomadic, semi nomadic and sedentary. From these three points, we recognize that “transboundary” thinking enable us to better understand the situations of the Chao Lay in Thailand.

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