Beyond the Green Myth: Borneo’s Hunter-Gatherers in the Twenty-First Centuryby NIAS
2007. 398 pp, 15x23 cm
Borneo, with its tales of White Rajahs and tribes of headhunters, has long excited the Western imagination. Today, however, there is another green imagination at work. Mention of the island is more likely to evoke images of tropical deforestation and concern about the cruel dispossession and displacement of indigenous peoples who once lived in relative harmony with their environment.
It is perhaps not surprising then that most books dealing with the nomadic hunter-gatherers of Borneo have principally been pictorial studies. There is indeed a dearth of scholarship regarding these peoples, a situation that this first ever, comprehensive review of nomadic groups in the Borneo rain forest aims to rectify.
Presenting a wealth of new research contributed by an international team of scholars, the volume covers all those parts of Borneo where nomads (called Penan, Punan or by various other names) are or were known to exist and provides a comparative historical-ecological study of these groups.
The study is primarily concerned with issues of modernization (including the monetary economy, formalised institutions, centralized power structures, contractual relationships and extraction activities) and development policies. The impact of these policies is analysed with special regard to the natural environment inhabited by these small-scale societies as well as the use of its resources.
The book has no stiff theoretical orientation but informs ongoing debates about changing forms of ethnicity, relations between minorities and the state, minorities’ rights and survival, native discourse, the sustainability of tropical forest use and the neo-romantic environmentalist myth of so-called wise traditional peoples.