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Straddling the border: A marginal history of guerilla warfare and 'counter-insurgency' in the Indonesian borderlands

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  • Section for Anthropology and Ethnography
Post-independence ethnic minorities inhabiting the Southeast Asian borderlands were willingly or unwillingly pulled into the macro politics of territoriality and state formation. The rugged and hilly borderlands delimiting the new nation-states became battlefronts of state-making and spaces of confrontation between divergent political ideologies. In the majority of the Southeast Asian borderlands, this implied violent disruption in the lives of local borderlanders that came to affect their relationship to their nation-state. A case in point is the ethnic Iban population living along the international border between the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan and the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Based on local narratives, the aim of this paper is to unravel the little known history of how the Iban segment of the border population in West Kalimantan became entangled in the highly militarized international disputes with neighbouring Malaysia in the early 1960s, and in subsequent military co-operative ‘anti-communist’ ‘counter-insurgency’ efforts by the two states in the late 1960–1970s. This paper brings together facets of national belonging and citizenship within a borderland context with the aim of understanding the historical incentives behind the often ambivalent, shifting and unruly relationship between marginal citizens like the Iban borderlanders and their nation-state.
Original languageEnglish
JournalModern Asian Studies
Pages (from-to)1423–1463
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2011

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