Asian Review

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This essay has been developed from the conviction that scholars of all disciplines, particularly from Southeast Asia, must work together to prioritize the task of recording the traditions of “marginalized peoples” before practices, beliefs and memories disappear completely. Although anthropologists dominate contemporary studies, historians have much to offer, especially in dealing with the relationship between such groups and the state. Here I provide a background to historical work on sea peoples, tracking the evolution of the now accepted view that, traditionally, they were respected by land-based states and that this relationship was mutually beneficial. However, the demise of reciprocity combined with state pressure for the adoption of a sedentary existence led to a decline in regard for the maritime skills of sea peoples and the services they once provided. In seeking to resurrect a past that emphasizes indigenous agency, there is a need to break out of disciplinary confines and develop methodologies and approaches that more effectively link the past with the present.



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