Tribal Communities in the Malay World: Historical, Cultural, and Social Perspectives

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Geoffrey Benjamin, Cynthia Chou
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 26 .. 2002 - 489 ˹

The Malay World (Alam Melayu), spanning the Malay Peninsula, much of Sumatra, and parts of Borneo, has long contained within it a variety of populations. Most of the Malays have been organized into the different kingdoms (kerajaan Melayu) from which they have derived their identity. But the territories of those kingdoms have also included tribal peoples both Malay and non-Malay who have held themselves apart from those kingdoms in varying degrees. In the last three decades, research on these tribal societies has aroused increasing interest.


This book explores the ways in which the character of these societies relates to the Malay kingdoms that have held power in the region for many centuries past, as well as to the modern nation-states of the region. It brings together researchers committed to comparative analysis of the tribal groups living on either side of the Malacca Straits in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. New theoretical and descriptive approaches are presented for the study of the social and cultural continuities and discontinuities manifested by tribal life in the region.

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Geoffrey Benjamin is Associate Professor at the General Studies Unit, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Cynthia Chou is with the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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