Introduction: Unpacking indigeneity in Southeast Asia
In recent years, indigeneity and indigenous people have been subject to increasing scholarly and political interest. While certain environmental activists are valorising indigenous groups as warriors in the fight against biodiversity loss and climate change, certain authoritarian states (e.g. Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil) are systematically dismantling indigenous rights and livelihoods. Meanwhile, ‘decolonizing’ movements within academia are drawing attention to the systematic devaluation of indigenous and other marginalised voices within extant scholarship, opening up thorny questions about rights, ethics, representation, and knowledge-production.
What can the fine-grained, ground-up, anthropological study of indigeneity in Southeast Asia bring to these still-unfolding conversations and developments? How might dominant international models of indigeneity—largely built around settler-colonial legacies in North America and Australia/New Zealand—be destabilized and reimagined through Southeast Asian lenses? In this special issue, we critically examine the discourses, practices, enactments, and politics of indigeneity at play in multiple Southeast Asian contexts, asking, in turn, how these can reframe contemporary scholarly and political understandings of indigeneity.