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IAS Working Paper on the Iban of Temburong

The Institute of Asian Studies at Universiti Brunei Darussalam is pleased to announce the publication of IAS Working Paper No 65: The Iban of Temburong: Migration, Adaptation and Identity in Brunei Darussalam by Victor T. King and Magne Knudsen. Please see below for details.

Abstract: The Iban are the most well-documented and studied of all Borneo indigenous peoples; there is a wealth of material on their language, history, social organisation and culture which can be used for comparative purposes. Yet, the Iban of Brunei are relatively under-studied. This paper is based on fieldwork on selected Iban communities in Temburong, Brunei Darussalam during research visits there between 2018 and 2021. The focus is on current developments and the ways in which the Iban have adapted to life in the sultanate and come to terms with its politico-legal and socio-economic environment. The heartland of Iban society and culture is located in the neighbouring state of Malaysian Sarawak, where the Iban comprise around 30 per cent of the total population, which on current estimates amounts to about 840,000. In Brunei, the Iban are a minority population of about 20,000 and, in terms of its Constitution and the Nationality Act of 1961, they are not considered as one of the recognised indigenous populations (puak jati) of the state. Despite being marginal to the Brunei state, they have chosen to make their home here and enjoy the support and the employment opportunities that the state provides. This paper aims to fill a gap in Iban Studies by providing recent data on the Temburong Iban’s social organisation, economic activities and cultural identity in conjunction with their responses to their minority status in Brunei. It is also an ethnographic prelude to a prospective major study of the Iban of Brunei.


Victor. T. King is is Professor of Borneo Studies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Emeritus Professor in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds. He was formerly Executive Director of the White Rose East Asia Centre, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield (2006-2012). He has long-standing interests in the sociology and anthropology of Southeast Asia. Among his recent publications are an edited book, UNESCO in Southeast Asia: World Heritage Sites in Comparative Perspective (2016, NIAS Press), and co-edited books on Human Insecurities in Southeast Asia (2016, Springer), Borneo Studies in History, Society and Culture (2017, Springer), Tourism and Ethnodevelopment: Inclusion, Empowerment and Self-determination (2018, Routledge), Tourism in East and Southeast Asia (2018, Routledge 4-volume reader), Tourism in South-East Asia (Routledge reprint 2019, with a new Preface). His recently published papers have appeared in Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia; South East Asia Research, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Current Issues in Tourism, Journal of Human Security Studies, Suvannabhumi: Multi-disciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, International Journal of Asia Pacific Studies, Asian Journal of Tourism Research, Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences Research and Pertanika: Journal of the Social Sciences and Humanities.

Magne Knudsen is is Assistant Professor and Programme Leader of Sociology and Anthropology, Universiti Brunei Darussalam. His research broadly focuses on change and continuity in livelihood, family and community relations in coastal and upland regions of Southeast Asia. Magne holds his Doctorate in social anthropology from the Australian National University. Before coming to the UBD in 2015, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the National University of Singapore.

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