Current Institutional Affiliation
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Gender Studies, University of Malaya

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Harvard University
The Native State and Transnational Indigenes: The Legal Arena and Orang Asli Land Claims in Malaysia

The indigenous rights literature has focused on analyzing the strategies of indigenous movements, in particular their building of strong transnational networks. This view fails to capture another important dimension in this struggle: states themselves are sophisticated global players and are constantly readapting their strategies in response to the rise of international networks, and have themselves mobilized the language of rights and international accountability. In particular, some postcolonial states have embraced the 'native resistance' narrative to defend their sovereign rights and to justify their action against indigenous minorities. My research goal is to understand the reciprocal influence and dynamic interaction between states and indigenous movements in the current era of transnational networks by examining 1) how indigenous movements are using global and state institutions, such as legal arenas, to demand resource and cultural rights, 2) how states are adapting, appropriating and re-strategizing in response to transnational networks and the demand for international accountability, and 3) how states are utilizing the language of rights - in particular, native rights -- to counter and control their indigenous populations. My project will focus on Malaysia as an example of a postcolonial state using a 'native resistance' narrative to counter international criticism of its treatment of an indigenous minority, the Orang Asli. Through multi-sited ethnographic field research and a discursive analysis of legal documents, I will examine the strategies and discourses mobilized by the indigenous movement and the state, paying particular attention to their interactions and reciprocal influences.