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Leaves of the Same Tree

Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka

Leonard Y. Andaya
Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    Leaves of the Same Tree
    Book Description:

    Despite the existence of about a thousand ethnolinguistic groups in Southeast Asia, very few historians of the region have engaged the complex issue of ethnicity. Leaves of the Same Tree takes on this concept and illustrates how historians can use it both as an analytical tool and as a subject of analysis to add further depth to our understanding of Southeast Asian pasts. Following a synthesis of some of the major issues in the complex world of ethnic theory, the author identifies two general principles of particular value for this study: the ideas that ethnic identity is an ongoing process and that the boundaries of a group undergo continual—if at times imperceptible—change based on perceived advantage. The Straits of Melaka for much of the past two millennia offers an ideal testing ground to better understand the process of ethnic formation. The straits forms the primary waterway linking the major civilizations to the east and west of Southeast Asia, and the flow of international trade through it was the lifeblood of the region. Privileging ethnicity as an analytical tool, the author examines the ethnic groups along the straits to document the manner in which they responded to the vicissitudes of the international marketplace. Earliest and most important were the Malayu (Malays), whose dominance in turn contributed to the "ethnicization" of other groups in the straits. By deliberately politicizing differences within their own ethnic community, the Malayu encouraged the emergence of new ethnic categories, such as the Minangkabau, the Acehnese, and, to a lesser extent, the Batak. The Orang Laut and the Orang Asli, on the other hand, retained their distinctive cultural markers because a separate yet complementary identity proved to be economically and socially advantageous for them. Ethnic communities are shown as fluid and changing, exhibiting a porosity and flexibility that suited the mandala communities of Southeast Asia. Leaves of the Same Tree demonstrates how problematizing ethnicity can offer a more nuanced view of ethnic relations in a region that boasts one of the greatest diversities of language and culture in the world. Creative and challenging, this book uncovers many new questions that should revitalize and reorient the historiography of Southeast Asia.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6331-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    Of some six thousand ethnolinguistic groups in the world, about a thousand are found in Southeast Asia. This immense ethnic diversity has piqued the curiosity of linguists, anthropologists, and sociologists, but oddly, not that of historians until recently. In general the latter have tended to apply ethnic names loosely, giving insufficient attention to the nature of ethnic identity and the constant redefinition of groups, particularly in the precolonial period (i.e., before the late nineteenth century). Historians can therefore profit from social science insights regarding the shifting components that constitute an ethnic group and the complexity of ethnicity as a concept....

  6. Chapter 1 Malayu Antecedents
    (pp. 18-48)

    In many history books the story of the Malayu¹ begins with the fifteenth-century kingdom of Melaka and occasionally with the seventh- to eleventh-century kingdom of Sriwijaya. The first can be justified in terms of the history of the Malayu on the Malay Peninsula, while the second is based on growing evidence of the early development of Malayu culture in southeast Sumatra. But the story can be pushed back even further as a result of the latest linguistic and archaeological research. In reaching back into the past, the outlines of ethnic groups as we know them today become blurred and indistinct....

  7. Chapter 2 Emergence of Malayu
    (pp. 49-81)

    In this chapter I rely on linguistic and archaeological evidence to begin the story of Malayu. Identifying how the term was used is essential to understanding the shifting and multiple meanings it has acquired over the centuries. It also enables one to see how various layers of meaning were imposed and others removed under differing historical circumstances, most often instigated by changes in economic opportunities in the Straits of Melaka.

    After a brief overview of the early arguments regarding the origins of the Malayu language and culture, I offer a synthesis of research on Sriwijaya, now widely if not universally...

  8. Chapter 3 Ethnicization of the Minangkabau
    (pp. 82-107)

    The Majapahit Javanese in the fourteenth century referred collectively to areas in Sumatra as “bhumi Malayu,” in contrast to “bhumi Jawa.” In time, however, some areas decided to emphasize a separate ethnic identity from the Malayu in order to maximize economic and political advantage.¹ Among these new ethnic affiliations bound by a perceived common culture were the Minangkabau. The Minangkabau have been a popular source of study because of their matrilineal social organization and practice ofmerantau, where young Minangkabau men leave the homeland to seek knowledge and fortune abroad.² While matrilineality and themerantauare regarded by many today...

  9. Chapter 4 From Malayu to Aceh
    (pp. 108-145)

    For political reasons, histories written by the Malayu states of the Malay Peninsula and by the Dutch and British colonial administrators have encouraged the view that Aceh always had a unique entity with stronger links to lands “above the winds” than to those “below the winds.”¹ A closer examination of the sources reveals, however, that in Aceh’s period of greatness in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was very much an integral part ofalam Malayu.² It assumed the mantle of Malayu leadership after the conquest of Malayu Melaka by the Portuguese in 1511. Although Johor at the southern end...

  10. Chapter 5 The Batak Malayu
    (pp. 146-172)

    The Batak form a major ethnic community in the vicinity of the Straits of Melaka.¹ As in the case of the Minangkabau and the Acehnese, the formation of Batak ethnic identity in their early history was shaped by the presence of the Malayu. Despite certain common features, however, the Batak are not as closely related as the other three ethnic communities. Certain Austronesian-speaking groups such as the Batak and the Gayo of northern Sumatra were not part of the expansion of Western Malayo-Polynesian languages beginning c. 1500–1000 BCE. Instead, they formed a later development due to language replacement occurring...

  11. Chapter 6 The Orang Laut and the Malayu
    (pp. 173-201)

    The Orang Laut are well known in the history of Southeast Asia because they are associated with trade and piracy. The strong negative image of piracy has partially defined and delimited the Orang Laut’s ethnic boundaries. Yet it should be noted that in the past when the Orang Laut were an integral part of a Malayu polity, they were proud of their status and the high offices held by their leaders. They were arguably the most valued subjects or allies of the Malayu rulers because of their indispensable role in promoting international trade. Their intimate knowledge of their home seascapes...

  12. Chapter 7 The Orang Asli/Suku Terasing and the Malayu
    (pp. 202-234)

    The interior of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra is home to numerous groups who are distinguished from the Malayu by their nomadic or seminomadic lifestyles. In the past they were referred to by distinctive names or more generally by the areas where they lived or which they exploited. Only in the twentieth century were names such as “Orang Asli” (indigenous people) in Malaysia and “Suku Terasing” (isolated tribes) in Indonesia applied to all such groups as an administrative convenience.¹ While such terms convey marginality, this was not always the case in the long history of intercourse between these interior communities...

  13. Conclusion: Framing the Southeast Asian Past in Ethnic Terms
    (pp. 235-240)

    A well-established principle in ethnic theory is that ethnicity only emerges when one community encounters a distinct other. Such encounters produce separate ethnic affiliations that are identified by a name given by their members and/or a name imposed by outsiders. These ethnic names, however, do not determine their membership for all times. At some historical point a name attached to an ethnic community may incorporate a different membership because of the tendency for ethnic groups to redefine themselves periodically to maximize their advantage. Ethnic labels often survive, but they may represent an expanded or more restricted membership in accordance with...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 241-284)
  15. Abbreviations
    (pp. 285-286)
  16. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 287-314)
  17. Index
    (pp. 315-320)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-326)