Sea Nomads of Southeast Asia: From the Past to the Present

$36.00 SGD

edited by Bérénice Bellina, Roger Blench, and Jean-Christophe Galipaud

With contributions from David Bulbek, Cynthia Chou, Brunna Crespi, Laure Dussubieux, Richard Engelhardt, Aude Favereau, Dominique Guillaud, Charles Illouz, Jacques Ivanoff, Michelle C. Langley, M Mahirta, Murray Cox, Kazufumi Nagatasu, Lance Nolde, Chandra Nuraini, Sue O’Connor, Pradiptajati Kusuma, Elena Piotto, Christian Reppmeyer, Francois-Xavier Ricaut, Ayesha Pamela Rogers, Nicolas Brucato, Thierry Letellier, Philippe Grangé, Herawati Sudoyo

Sea nomads have been part of the economic and political landscape of Southeast Asia for millennia. They have played many roles over the longue-durée: in certain periods proving central to the ability of land-based polities to generate wealth, by providing valuable maritime commodities, facilitating trade, forming a naval force to secure and protect vital sea lanes and providing crucial connectivity. They have existed in complex, codified relations with different sedentary populations, as pirates, guardians of the sea-lanes, merchants and explorers. Paradoxically, as modern states emerged, the sea-nomads became progressively marginalized and impoverished.

For many years, the sea nomads were assumed to be without history, and even without archaeology. This has proven far from the case, and recent archaeological findings allow us to more closely describe sea nomadism from the Pleistocene through the early Holocene up to the present. Integrating these findings with the latest in historical research, linguistics, ethnography and historical genetics allows us to better understand sea-nomad ways of life over a scale of millennia and to appreciate the diversity and flexibility of this sea-nomad world. This in turn enriches our understanding of nomadism and mobility as a way of life, and the sea not only as a landscape of resources, but as a home and spiritual landscape as well.

"An ambitious and provocative book. Relying on new archaeological, genetic, linguistic, historical and social science evidence, it traces the story of sea nomadism in Asia from the late Pleistocene to the modern period.  It forces scholars to re-examine the role of sea nomads, particularly in the history of Southeast Asia." – Leonard Y. Andaya, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Bérénice Bellina is an anthropological archaeologist implementing anthropology of techniques to study cultural exchanges and in particular in relation to trade in the eastern part of the Indian Ocean.

Roger Blench is a linguist, anthropologist and ethnomusicologist with archaeological interests, who has a particular interest in cross-disciplinary methodologies and conducts fieldwork in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

Jean-Christophe Galipaud is an archaeologist specialising in Pacific islands archaeology and maritime archaeology. His main focus has been on islands initial discovery in remote Oceania and islands southeast Asia.


Publication year: 2021
400pp / 229 X 152mm
56 b/w images, 36 b/w maps, 20 tables
ISBN: 978-981-3251-25-0