Home Web Specials 2013 Web Specials It’s borders with long(er) histories, stupid

It’s borders with long(er) histories, stupid

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Patricio N Abinales traces the larger historical backdrop surrounding the Sulu intrusion into Sabah.

Map: Philippine Daily Inquirer
Map: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Anyone honestly curious and concerned about what is happening “down south” these days may wish to purchase a recent book put out by the Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Arli Nimmo’s “A Very Far Place: Tales of Tawi-Tawi” is about his long sojourn as a graduate student in this wonderfully distinct place of hundreds of islands and islets. He writes about communities whose notions of boundary are antipodal to how the rest of the country understands the term.

Where Manila and Kuala Lumpur classify residents of Tawi-Tawi and neighboring Sabah as “Filipinos” and “Malaysians,” respectively, the inhabitants see these official tags as skin-deep and their utility limited (to be brought up only during elections and when they pass official immigration posts). Instead of these “modern” categories, they are comfortable with how they really call themselves—Tausug, Sama Dilaut, Sama Delaya, Kazadan, etc. These are identities that persist and to which a new layer—citizenship—would be added.

Hence, where Manila and Kuala Lumpur see Tawi-Tawi as “a far distant place,” the communities in these places (if we add Borneo) regard their location as one of many nodal points of a maritime trading network that predates as well as transcends the constricting official national territories. Theirs are places that are regional in outlook, a fact often glossed over.

Full article
in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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