Thursday, November 29, 2012

Borneo: Variations of Cultural Homogenization

Keywords: globalization, the Bumiputera, Islamization, transmigration programs, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei.

During the period after the World War II, when globalization entered its modern faze, a row of theoretical works appeared where scholars analyze the phenomenon of globalization, review its history and represent their visions of its future trends. In the same time studying globalization researchers usually use only a global approach. No doubt it is a logical way, but it has such weak points as hyper-generalization and neglect of important details. Moreover, in the situation of the Post-Cold War reality, when globalization became a main stream of world development, the weak points of this approach even bring us to the threats of intercultural misunderstandings. It happened because after the Cold War the globalization entered the new, postmodern faze, when the phenomenon turned into the changeable mosaic of particular regional and local responds to the global challenges. It seems, the main characteristics of postmodern globalization mosaic are paradoxical numerousity and mutual vulnerability of its actors, as well as high speed changeability of those actors’ individual and group responds to particular global challenges. In such situation it seems reasonable to study the particular regional and local responds cases, which could help to see more objectively both the picture of whole mosaic and the nearest future trends of its change.

Taking into consideration all above mentioned, the target of current study is narrowed to the individual cases of the three Asia-Pacific regional actors of globalization, namely three new national states of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. In the period after World War II Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei didn’t play a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region. In the Post-Cold War period the situation changed: with collapse of Eastern bloc mutual vulnerability of all regional actors in Asia-Pacific highly increased. Such situation accordingly changed the regional and even global role of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. The case of those three nation-states is particularly interesting for comparison research in terms of their common historical and cultural background in combination with different experience of colonial dependence. Such development background caused nowadays problems of those regional actors of globalization. Their main inner problem as national states is multi-ethnicity, combined with diversity of religious beliefs. Such problem is a factor of high level inner political instability. At the same time ethnical, religious and regional conflicts within one of those states can affect others. Moreover, in nowadays situation of increased mutual vulnerability of regional and global actors, the triangular of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei interstates relations becomes a factor of high risk for regional and even global security. The situation is even more critical due obsolete political methods to keep up national stability in these countries. All three states till now hold on to ineffective policy of cultural homogenization.

In this research as a target of these states policies comparison the case of Borneo island was chosen, as soon as it gives a unique opportunity: the island territory is shared by those three nation states, and is populated by several indigenous and immigrant ethnic groups. This situation sometimes becomes a source of interethnic conflicts. For example, the Indonesian transmigration program that financed the relocation of poor landless families from Java, Madura, and Bali to Borneo resulted in violent conflict between some indigenous and immigrant groups in 1990s. Another important issue is in the fact that several of indigenous groups (Penan, Iban, Sama Bajau) live in territories separated by the states’ borders. Due to the states different political regulations the living standards of those groups also differ from each other. This paper compares efficiency of the three new nation-states policies concerning issue of interethnic relations.

Igor Sitnikov

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