Migration, Imagination and Identity in Modern Sarawak

Jennifer Alexander

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This analysis of changing perceptions of ethnic identity in Sarawak revolves around migration and imagination. The research is based on a case study of one longhouse, Levu Lahanan, and its imagined community from the mid-1980s on the Balui River to their resettlement in the Bakun Resettlement Scheme in 1999. One of fifteen longhouse communities belonging to five different ethnic groups, they were resettled to make way for Bakun Dam, which was completed in 2012. My use of the term imagination is linked to Sarawak state planning in organising the staged migration of the fifteen longhouse communities, the appeal to emerging Christian communities by calling the operation Exodus, and the exercise in salvage ethnography by recording oral histories, songs and other evidence of migration and difference. My argument is linked to recent developments in communication technology in the form of Facebook, WhatsApp and mobile phones which link the Lahanan longhouse and its urban and international diasporas. In their imagination, if not in reality, members of the diaspora return to their apartments of origin to revive their sense of belonging to a longhouse community, a place and an ethnic identity in a time of state, national and global change.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)264-280pp
    JournalThe Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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