Malaysia's "Original People": Past, Present and Future of the Orang Asli

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Edited by Kirk Endicott
Contributions by Duncan Holaday, Signe Howell, Sandra Khor Manickam, Alan G. Fix, David Bulbeck, A.S. Baer, Niclas Burenhult, Nicole Kruspe, Rosemary Gianno, Peter Laird, Juli Edo, Kamal Solhaimi Fadzil, Andy Hickson, Sue Jennings, Alberto G. Gomes, Wazir Jahan Karim, Mohd Razha Rashid, Barbara S. Nowak, Diana Riboli, Ivan Tacey, Csilla Dallos, Yogeswaran Subramaniam, Shanthi Thambiah, Zanisah Man, Rusaslina Idrus, Karen Heikkilä and Anthony Williams-Hunt

The Malay-language term used for indigenous minority peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, Orang Asli, covers at least 19 culturally and linguistically distinct subgroups. Until about 1960 most Orang Asli lived in small camps and villages in the coastal and interior forests, or in isolated rural areas, and made their living by various combinations of hunting, gathering, fishing, agriculture, and trading forest products. By the end of the century, logging, economic development projects such as oil palm plantations, and resettlement programmes have displaced many Orang Asli communities and disrupted long-established social and cultural practices.

The chapters in the present volume provide a comprehensive survey of current understandings of Malaysia's Orang Asli communities, covering their origins and history, cultural similarities and differences, and the ways they are responding to the challenges posed by a rapidly changing world. The authors, a distinguished group of Malaysian (including Orang Asli) and international scholars with expertise in anthropology, archaeology, biology, education, therapy, geography and law, also show the importance of Orang Asli studies for the anthropological understanding of small-scale indigenous societies in general.

"Malaysia’s Original People should be required reading for all Malaysians .... [the book has] insightful essays about Orang Asli religion, language and culture; and the legal battles and political situation that renders them displaced and marginalised." Subashini Navaratnam, The Star

"...No other book presents an overview of the Orang Asli with such depth, breadth, and conceptual clarity as Malaysia's Original People." Cynthia Chou, Bijdragen KITLV

"...provides a wealth of updated information on the Orang Asli from diverse angles and disciplinary sources. Malaysia’s Original People would also be of interest to more general study of Indigenous Peoples worldwide." Nathan Porath, Asian Ethnography


Kirk Endicott is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at Dartmouth College. He has been researching and writing on the Batek and other Orang Asli since 1971.

Publication Year: 2015
464 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-861-4

NUS Press

Related Title:
Taming the Wild: Aborigines and Racial Knowledge in Colonial Malaya by Sandra Khor Manickam