Orangutans, Islam, and Indigenous Knowledge: Confronting the Limits of Decoloniality in Southeast Asia

Juno Salazar Parreñas, PhD Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Science and Technology Studies scholar Michelle Murphy (2017) builds on decolonial scholar Zoe Todd’s (2015) call to “Indigenize the Anthropocene” as a way to argue against chemical violence committed upon North American “Black and Indigenous” bodies. The relations taking place on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia between critically endangered orangutans and the people who care for them bring to bear a different approach to the question of how to ‘Indigenize the Anthropocene.” What does “Indigeneity” mean in a place with longstanding histories of migration, in which claims to indigeneity are overdetermined by the politics of exclusion? What counts as “indigenous knowledge” if the category of indigeneity resonates with ethno-nationalism? This paper argues that recent efforts to center decoloniality and indigenous knowledges in MCTS and other related fields risks homogenizing perspectives at best and constructing reductive caricatures at worst. The paper relies on transdisciplinary ethnographic field research in Sarawak, present day Malaysia, with Malay and Iban orangutan-handlers and orangutans between 2010-2016.

Juno Salazar Parreñas (PhD Anthropology, Harvard University 2012) is an Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University and author of Decolonizing Extinction: The Work of Care in Orangutan Rehabilitation (Duke University Press, 2018). With the support of a DAAD Research Stay, she is currently working on a new multi-sited, multispecies project about retirement, work, and aging.

Related News in this category