On an occasion, I interviewed one of Southeast Asian analysts from
What and how is the distribution of ethnicity in
Firstly, the concept of “ethnicity” should be defined clearly. In anthropology, ethnicity is a central concept that has been studied since long time ago and the definition is continuosly changing until now. That changing of definition includes scope, description, and the recruitment of certain ethnic groups. In the perspective of evolution, human groups distribution is indicated by the distribution of human races to all corners of the world. We should not mistakenly consider ethnicity as same with race. There are possibilities of confused definitions between ethnicity, nation or nationality, and origin. Take a look at this one example. All this time we have been presented with ancient stories that our ancestors were originated from
Besides the concept of ethnicity, I also want to narrowing the concept of “ethnic distribution”. There are two comparable concepts. First, migration, which is usually understood as movement. Next, massive migration in a long period of time known as diaspora.
Then, what are the ethnic groups that have spread widely in
If we consider the Malays in term of language, which is one indicator of an ethnic group, then the spread of the Malay people also includes islands in central and eastern
The second in the group is the Chinese. This term—the Chinese—refers to the ancient monarchy system that has been known in
The third is the Arabs, particularly those who came from Yaman (Hadramaut). It could be classified as an ethnic group. Historically, they were known as great and adventurous merchants. Therefore, besides trading, they also stayed in one place for quite a long time, resided and bred their children to become the inhabitants of that new place. They applied this pattern in the
The fourth is the Indians, who originated in areas stretching from the Muslim dominated area of Gujarat, to Punjab and down to southern
The second category is ethnic groups that originated in archipelagos. Two ethnic groups that possess a strong adventuring nature are the Minangese and the Bugis people. The people of Minang have traveled out into the territories of Negeri Sembilan and Johor. They had even been able to be on the top stratum of the society there, became kings in many old Malayan monarchs. The Bugis people also traveled as far as the
A theory in migration studies usually associates population density as one of the causes of migration. In the colonial era, many Javanese people—whose amount were very huge while at the same time inhabiting a relatively small island—were relocated outside the island by the colonial government. Some of them went voluntarily or worked in plantations. In
How could they become so spread out? For what reason? Besides due to high population density, migration also relates with economic interests: looking for employment and trading. Moreover, regarding the ethnic groups from mainland
Are the Southeast Asian ethnic groups have one similar/identical character/identity?
In culture theory, anthropologists believe that all culture are naturally dynamic: always developing and changing. The development is often through imitation or cultural borrowing. Therefore, in the culture of the Southeast Asian ethnic groups, the influence from various ethnic groups in other countries has been very often occurred. The Malay culture for example, generally disseminated the keris weapon, the silat martial art, the sepak takraw sport, cockfighting, spin top games, sarong clothes, and, of course, language. Language is currently one of the strongest indicators of the Malay culture, although politically the Malay identity is often being connected with Islam.
For migrants originated in mainland
The Chinese group in the archipelagos were usually also involved in commerce, even though in the mainland Asia like Indochina, Myanmar, and Thailand most of them were farmers. Rich culinaries were the Chinese’s biggest contribution to the Southeast Asian region. Various kinds of their culinary have mixed with local flavors, but still maintain their original Chinese character. The Chinese culinary art have spread equally across the Southeast Asian mainland and archipelagos.
Historically, is there any solidarity among Southeast Asian ethnic groups?
Solidarity among different ethnic groups in
Solidarity between different ethnic groups seems to occur in form of specific alliances. Economy and politics often became the reasons, although sometimes the motivation was religion. Solidarity among the Malays in
In political history, the alliances of ethnic groups have often counterproductive and presented racial discriminations. The history of the establishment of
Do you see any possibility to develop regional solidarity among Southeast Asian people in the future?
Absolutely. However, the two main questions are what are the foundations for developing such solidarity and what are the goals? If the solidarity is going to be based on ethnic groups, then, I suppose, we should just forget about it. Ethnic group solidarity, in its most solid form, will be as dangerous as racialism. Ethnicity and racialism share one basic similarity in form of exclusivity, which is then extended into discrimination toward other groups on the basis of certain stereotypes. Therefore, this kind of solidarity should not be encouraged. In many cases, the colonialist power often treated solidarities within ethnic groups as their political commodities, just like in
Nevertheless, it is probably necessary to encourage the emergence of a cultural solidarity that recognizes various similarities of ideas or behaviors among the Southeast Asian people. This cultural solidarity can be used to promote social identity in search of nationality, nationalism, and nationhood. This kind of idea has been extensively recognized in the
What is the goal of establishing a regional solidarity? What is going to be achieved or opposed? Is it a political system? We have already agreed about democracy; in ASEAN, only