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This collection of ethnographic and interpretative essays fundamentally alters the debate over indigenous land claims in Southeast Asia and beyond. Based on fieldwork conducted in Malaysia and Indonesia during the 1980s and 1990s, these studies explore new terrain at the intersection of environmental justice, nature conservation, cultural performance, and the politics of making and interpreting claims. Calling for radical redefinitions of development and ownership and for significant legal changes to prevent further exploitation of this archipelago's natural resources, Charles Zerner and his colleagues show how a geographical area once viewed as wild and undeveloped has been shaped by complex interactions with human societies. Drawing on richly varied sources of evidence and interpretation-from trance dances, court proceedings, and tree planting patterns to marine and forest rituals, erotic poems, and codifications of customary law, Culture and the Question of Rights reveals the ironies, complexities, and histories of contemporary local people who have had to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions. The contributors examine how these cultural activities work to both construct and lay claim to nature. As local communities become socially more complex and sometimes indistinguishable from resource extraction industries, these essays open up new avenues for negotiating indigenous rights against a background of global ideas of biodiversity and threatened habitat. This collection will prove valuable to anthropologists, political geographers, ecologists, environmentalists, legal scholars, and those interested in indigenous rights.
Contributors. Jane Atkinson, Don Brenneis, Stephanie Fried, Nancy Peluso, Marina Roseman, Anna Tsing, Charles Zerner
An enormously important volume that is sure to provoke a great deal of discussion about the discourse of indigenous rights. Without question one of the most original interventions into the issue in recent years, it shifts the ground of the debate, providing a way for us to think about the issue of rights in ways that are polyphonic, aesthetic, and performative.- J. Peter Brosius, University of Georgia "A timely and unique volume. Its cutting-edge scholarship goes to the heart of debates about the relations among land, people, and what is problematically called 'culture.' While offering no easy answers, the contributors' differing voices together become a compelling chorus that brings home the point that scholars, activists, development-workers, and local farmers all need to rethink their ideas about rights and claims to seas, forests, and other resources." - Laurie Sears, author of Shadows of Empire: Colonial Discourse and Javanese Tales