Scattered throughout the islands of Southeast Asia are at least three groups of specialist maritime populations known collectively as the Sama-Bajau, also commonly referred to in academic and popular literature as “sea nomads” or “sea gypsies.” These groups depend almost exclusively for their livelihood and spiritual wellbeing on the highly biodiverse island, coral reef and oceanic environments in the region. This chapter explores the culturally defined living spaces and livelihood behavior of Sama-Bajau, and examines their responses to historical, social, economic and environmental circumstances and changes. The application of labels around nomadic behavior has been misleading, resulting in inappropriate representations of Sama-Bajau. Specifically, such representations have created negative associations around Sama-Bajau in much of the conservation literature, where they are frequently portrayed as “threats.” Such discourse tends to ignore the social complexities of migratory maritime-orientated livelihoods. We highlight the need for a more attentive and culturally informed lens to conservation initiatives in the region and for the role of the Sama-Bajau.
|Title of host publication||At Home on the Waves|
|Subtitle of host publication||Human Habitation of the Sea from the Mesolithic to Today|
|Editors||Tanya King, Gary Robinson|
|Number of pages||23|
|Publication status||Published - Feb 2019|
|Name||Environmental anthropology and ethnobiology|
Stacey, N., & Allison, E. (2019). Sea Nomads: Sama-Bajau Mobility, Livelihoods and Marine Conservation in Southeast Asia. In T. King, & G. Robinson (Eds.), At Home on the Waves: Human Habitation of the Sea from the Mesolithic to Today (pp. 309-331). (Environmental anthropology and ethnobiology; Vol. 24). Berghahn Books.