Scholars have long remarked on the importance of the seas in Southeast Asian history. Following the well-known dictum that seas unite while the land divides, historians have looked to the seas as the most crucial conduit for human interaction and the principal medium by which foreign influences entered the region. Yet, for many Southeast Asians, the seas were much more than simply a void to be crossed. This statement is especially true for island Southeast Asia, where daily life for its inhabitants is closely calibrated with the rhythms of the monsoon winds and ocean currents, and where the vast expanse of the sea dwarfs in both size and significance the land that it envelops. There, the seas and littoral are the primary spaces of interaction and thus a crucial element in the history of the region.
Of the numerous ethnic groups in island Southeast Asia, the powerful influence of the sea on daily life is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the communities of Sama Bajo sea peoples that inhabit the region. For the Sama Bajo, the seas and littoral are the primary setting of their histories and the focal point of their culture. Focusing on the sea-centred Sama Bajo communities of eastern Indonesia during the early modern period, in this seminar Nolde will discuss the pervasive influence of the sea in the lives of the Sama Bajo, and demonstrate how their unique relationship to the sea helped to shape the course of their history. While most scholars have characterized the Sama Bajo as timid sea nomads, marginal to the region’s important historical developments, based on extensive research in Sama Bajo oral and written traditions, Makassarese and Bugis manuscript sources, and the archives of the Dutch East India Company, Nolde argues that the Sama Bajo were in fact central to processes of state formation, commerce, and regional integration in eastern Indonesia.
Lance Nolde received his Ph.D. at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in 2014. Currently, Nolde is a post-doctoral research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden, where he is working on a book manuscript on the history of the Sama Bajo in early modern eastern Indonesia.
Photo: “Bajau Laut Pictures 6” by Torben Venning – Bajau Laut Pictures.
If you wish to attend please register with Yayah Siegers: [email protected]