Please note that I followed the format required by the funding institution when I prepared this research proposal. Please note as well that this research proposal was made for a small grant. Thus, it is not as thorough as other research proposals intended for big grants. It is hoped that this simple piece of work will help those who are still a beginner in research grant writing.
TITLE OF PROJECT
Indigenous Rights and the Politics of Recognition in Southeast Asia:
A Comparative Study Between the Penan and Manobo Peoples’ Struggle for Recognition
RESEARCH PROBLEM AND OBJECTIVES
Some of the wider and profound social impacts that we can witness in the development of the European colonial expansion and imperialism in Southeast Asia are the displacement and marginalization of the indigenous peoples. From the time of colonization to the contemporary form of economic globalization, the indigenous peoples in Southeast Asia, as in the case of all other indigenous peoples around the world, have been dispossessed of their lands, stripped off their identities, and deprived of their natural wealth. As Peter Calvert and Susan Calvert argue, the indigenous peoples are amongst the most disadvantaged peoples in the world today.
The Penan and Manobo indigenous peoples in Malaysia and the Philippines respectively are concrete examples of those indigenous peoples that have been directly impacted by economic globalization. Both the Penan in the Malaysian part of Borneo and the Manobo indigenous peoples in southern Philippines have been severely disenfranchised through indiscriminate logging and mining activities. They also have suffered massive land grabbing, militarization, and other forms of human rights violations.
As we can see, the social condition of the indigenous peoples in Southeast Asia in the face of economic globalization has been alarming; yet, little academic attention has been devoted to this problem. For this reason, this proposed research project attempts to do a comparative study between the Penan and the Manobo peoples’ struggle for recognition in order to: first, deepen and expand our knowledge and understanding of the social condition of the indigenous peoples in Southeast Asia in the face of economic globalization; second, address the lack of scholarship on this topic; and third, the empowerment of the Penan and Manobo indigenous peoples as some of the most marginalized groups in the region. I am convinced that an improved understanding of the social condition of the indigenous peoples in Southeast Asia would help us rethink and reshape for the better democratization in the region—one that is socially inclusive and culturally sensitive. A comparative study between the Penan and Manobo peoples’ struggle for recognition then is the first step toward the realization of this goal.
In particular, this proposed research project will critically investigate the impact of economic globalization on the Penan and Manobo cultures (with emphasis on environmental degradation and the structural transformation of their indigenous cultures), and the way in which they responded to this perceived threat. The theoretical underpinning of this proposed research draws heavily on my previous researches on indigenous rights and the politics of recognition in Southeast Asia.
The theme of my proposed research project revolves around the following questions:
- What is economic globalization, and what implications does it have on the Penan and Manobo cultures?
- What are the current social conditions of the Penan and Manobo indigenous peoples in the face of economic globalization, and how do they as indigenous political actors negotiate right claims with the government?
- What are the differences and similarities between the Penan and Manobo indigenous peoples in terms of negotiating right claims with their respective government? Given that the successes and failures of each indigenous group offer significant opportunities for mutual learning and replication, what lessons then can they learn from each other?
In order to answer the research questions raised above, I will employ content analysis and cross-cultural comparison as methods of research. I will employ content analysis in understanding the nature and dynamics of economic globalization and its implications on the lives of the peoples located at the margins of the global economic system, particular the indigenous peoples. I will employ cross-cultural comparative method in identifying, analyzing, and explaining similarities and differences between the Penan and Manobo peoples’ struggle for recognition, as well as in gaining greater awareness and deeper understanding of the social reality in these two national contexts. Data will be gathered primarily from existing materials, such as books, journal articles, press releases, position papers (of the indigenous peoples), and interpretation of the findings of previous researches on the topic. I will also look into government documents, most especially government policies on indigenous peoples in Malaysia and the Philippines.
Several famous scholars have already conducted studies on the Penan and Manobo indigenous peoples, such as Sabihah Osman, Bruno Manser, Christopher Joseph Fleming Skinner, Ma. Leny Felix, Manggob Revo Masinaring, and Douglas Fraiser. These scholars studied how the Penan and Manobo indigenous peoples have been impacted by economic globalization, as well as the way in which they struggled for the recognition of their rights as indigenous peoples. However, a comparative study between these two groups of indigenous peoples is extremely important as it will pave the way for the production of knowledge necessary for mutual understanding and replication. Moreover, given the continued marginalization of the Penan and Manobo indigenous peoples, a sustained understanding and analysis of this issue is therefore necessary. My proposed research will directly respond to this point as it also aims to highlight recent trends and developments on these indigenous peoples’ struggle for recognition, which might have been overlooked by previous scholarships on the issue. Let me briefly sketch the key concepts of the works of the scholars just mentioned.
For one, Sabihah Osman critically narrates the responses of the Penan to economic globalization. For Osman, since the Penan (and other indigenous groups in Sarawak) have been brutally oppressed by the agents of globalization, such as the mining and logging companies, it is but normal for these indigenous peoples to struggle for recognition, especially land rights recognition. And according to Osman, blockades and unlawful occupations of state lands are the primary form of resistance that the Penan took as a way of responding to economic globalization.
Bruno Manser, a famous Swiss activist who had lived with the Penan themselves and was credited for making the Penan’s struggle for recognition known internationally, did not only study the culture of the Penan but also exposed the dynamics of domination and resistance in the Penan communities, which is primarily aimed at the promotion of social justice and equality. For example, in Voices from the Rainforest, Manser reports that a total of 478 individuals from various Dayak (but mostly Penan) groups were arrested and imprisoned in the years 1987 to 1994. Manser also narrated in the same work how the Penan had been brutally subjected to militarization. As Manser would have argued, this conundrum manifests concretely how “power” at the center of the global system has been imported to new emerging ones—which eventually becomes one of the centers of the global system—in cooperation with the said emerging local power.
Christopher Joseph Fleming Skinner’s “The Varying Treatment of Selected Human Rights Issues via Internet Media in Sarawak, East Malaysia” has clearly documented the complaints of the Penan people. Skinner’s study reveals that the most common complaints of the Penan people has something to do with the sporadic timber extraction in the region, which has directly contributed to the uprooting of the jungle’s sago palms. Highlighting this point is important for Skinner because in his analysis, the Penan depended so much on sago palms for their survival as these are their traditional staple food. Simply put, destroying the sago palms would mean destruction of the lives of the Penan people. Skinner also notes that logging destroyed many fruit bearing trees, as well as those from which the Penan extract blow dart poison, which they use for hunting. In addition to the loss of items needed for their subsistence, the Penan are deeply affected by the obliteration of their gravesites, which are almost always located on the same mountain ridges where logging roads are constructed. With this, we can clearly understand why the Penan as a peace-loving people have struggled for the protection of their rights as indigenous peoples.
Meanwhile, Ma. Leny Felix, in her work titled “Exploring the Indigenous Local Governance of Manobo Tribes in Mindanao”, argues that the Manobo tribes had their own indigenous systems and practices in governance which survived even before the coming of the colonizers. According to Felix, this indigenous system of governance includes patterns of leadership, administration of justice, fiscal administration, security and defense, and property and human rights. However, today, as Felix noted, the Manobos could hardly practice their system of governance because of the entry of migrant settlers, the presence of logging corporations, and the introduction of barangay council system in the Manobo communities. Thus, for Felix, these changes in the Manobo communities have caused the marginalization of the Manobos, thereby undermining their indigenous systems and practices. Felix even argues that such marginalization has caused poverty among the Manobo communities as well as the crystallization of ancestral land conflicts.
Manggob Revo Masinaring, in his book titled Understanding the Lumad: A closer look at a Misunderstood Culture, argues that the Manobos’ struggles for ancestral domain are not just purposely for economic reasons but for their right to self-determination and self-governance. In fact, according to Masinaring, some Manobos turned into fugitive because of their struggle to defend their ancestral domain, as in the case of Talaingod Manobo Datu Guibang Aposaga, who waged a tribal war against a giant logging corporation. Because the Manobos’ culture and their political and economic systems are closely linked with their land, for Masinaring, taking away their ancestral lands means taking away their indigenous way of life and their identity.
Lastly, Douglas Fraiser, in his paper titled “Land Conflict of the Cotabato Manobo People”, argues that the Cotabato Manobos have difficulty in retaining their ancestral lands because of the involvement of the powerful players. For Fraiser, these powerful players include the logging companies, local elites, and lowlander settlers who have secured titles and concession permits from the Philippine government through its forestry, logging and titling programs. According to Frasier, these government-initiated programs have dispossessed the Manobos of their lands and forced them to move into steep mountains. In his analysis, Frasier noted that the logging company is “seven times” more powerful than the Manobos. Thus, according to Fraiser, the Manobos will only have access in their native lands through a reservation or a community stewardship agreement.
TIMETABLE AND EXPECTED OUTCOMES
June to August 2017:
I will conduct a thorough review of literature on economic globalization and its impact on the Penan and Manobo communities. This is important as it sets the background of the study.
September to November 2017:
I will research on the lives of the Manobo people in the face of economic globalization. In doing so, I will pay special attention to their demands and the way in which they negotiate rights claims with the government. I will also inquire into the government’s responses to their claims.
December 2017 to February 2018:
I will research on the lives of the Penan people in the face of economic globalization. In doing so, I will pay special attention to their demands and the way in which they negotiate rights claims with the Malaysian government. I will also inquire into the Malaysian government’s responses to their claims.
During this time, I will also research on the differences and similarities between the Manobo and Penan peoples in terms of negotiating right claims with their respective government, as well as the lessons that they learned from each other.
March to May 2018:
I will now prepare the first draft of my research paper.
DR. JEFFRY OCAY
Professor of Philosophy
For some tips in writing philosophical research which may be relevant to research grant writing, see “Philosophical Research Handout,” http://philonotes.com/index.php/2017/11/24/philosophical-research-handout/
Calvert, Peter and Susan Calvert, Politics and Society in the Third World, 2nd ed. London New York: Longman, 2001.
Felix, Ma. Leny E. “Exploring the Indigenous Local Governance of Manobo Tribes Mindanao.” Philippine Journal of Public Administration, Vol. XLVIII, Nos. 1 & (January-April 2004): 124-154.
Fraiser, Douglas M. “Land Conflict of the Cotabato Manobo http://philippinestudies.net/ojs/index.php/ps/article/viewFile/425/429 (12 February 2017).
Manser, Bruno. Voices from the Rainforest. Kuala Lumpur: Institute of Social 1996.
Masinaring, Manggob Revo. Understanding the Lumad: A Closer Look at a Culture. Baguio City: Tebtebba Foundation, 2011.
Ocay, Jeffry. “Ethics of Refusal: Globalization and the Penan Peoples’ Struggle Recognition.” Budhi: A Journal of Ideas and Culture, 19.2 & 19.3 (2015): 169-195.
Osman, Sabihah. “Globalization and Democratization: The Response of the Peoples of Sarawak.” Third World Quarterly 21, no. 6 (2000): 977–88.
Skinner, Christopher Joseph Fleming. “The Varying Treatment of Selected Rights Issues via Internet Media in Sarawak, East Malaysia.” MA Thesis, Fraser University, 2010.
 Peter Calvert and Susan Calvert, Politics and Society in the Third World, 2nd ed. (London and New York: Longman, 2001), 132.
 Jeffry Ocay, “Ethics of Refusal: Globalization and the Penan Peoples’ Struggle for Recognition”, Budhi: A Journal of Ideas and Culture, 19.2 & 19.3 (2015): 173.
 Sabihah Osman, “Globalization and Democratization: The Response of the Indigenous Peoples of Sarawak”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 6 (2000): 977.
 Bruno Manser, Voices from the Rainforest (Kuala Lumpur: Institute of Social Analysis, 1996), 266.
 Christopher Joseph Fleming Skinner, “The Varying Treatment of Selected Human Rights Issue via Internet Media in Sarawak, East Malaysia” (MA Thesis, Simon Fraser University, 2010), 10.
 Ma. Leny E. Felix, “Exploring the Indigenous Local Governance of Manobo Tribes in Mindanao”, Philippine Journal of Public Administration, Vol. XLVIII, Nos. 1 &2 (January 2004): 124.
 Ibid., 125.
 Ibid., 147.
 Ibid., 143- 145.
 Manggob Revo Masinaring, Understanding the Lumad: A Closer Look at a Misunderstood Culture, (Baguio City: Tebtebba Foundation, 2011), 4.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ibid., xviii.
 Douglas M. Fraiser, “Land Conflict of the Cotabato Manobo People” http://philippinestudies.net/ojs/index.php/ps/article/viewFile/425/429 (accessed 25 December 2016).
 Fraiser, “Land Conflict of the Cotabato Manobo People”, 218-219.
 Ibid., 226-232.