Genesis of state space

Frontier commodification in Malaysian Borneo

Authored by: Ishikawa Noboru

Routledge Handbook of Asian Borderlands

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138917507
eBook ISBN: 9781315688978
Adobe ISBN:




This chapter examines the genesis of state space by looking at historical trajectories of the frontier commodification (jungle produce, timber, rubber, and pepper) in the maritime borderland of southwestern Sarawak, Malaysia. The nonstate space is a region immersed in a dense web of commodity chains, while the organizational power of the state is nominal. In such a borderland, how does a border come into existence in the mental mapping of local peoples? This chapter concludes with the following findings. Both the state and local society contribute to the making of the state boundary in a type of call and response resonance rather than an antithetical relationship. The more illicit flows of goods and people intensify, the clearer the state boundary becomes. This seemingly paradoxical relation illustrates that the state and the borderland communities are more symbiotic, rather than two separate and dichotomous, or conflicting entities. The borderland under study also differs from counterparts in mainland Southeast Asia, where distance and elevation separate hills (highland) and plains (lowland), and such geographical and geomorphological factors therefore matter far less in the process of boundary making. Rather, global market forces play the transformational role in establishing a marker that separates identities of people and commodities on both sides of the porous border. These forces, for instance, include the imperial quota system for the production of rubber in the 1930s and the widening economic gap between Malaysia and Indonesia manifested in the monetary crisis in the 1990s. The structural forces enabling the genesis of the boundary have not been the expansion of state power, but the connectivity between the borderlands and commodity markets. This illustrates that where the state machinery is weak, global forces of capitalism are instrumental in making state space.

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Genesis of state space


How is a border recognized, when spatial demarcation is not obvious, both geographically and geomorphologically, and the state apparatus for boundary making is functionally weak? What forces, other than border control measures by the state, are at work to demarcate the line in the mental mapping of borderland peoples? To answer these questions, this chapter looks at the historical process of commodification in the borderland of western Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo as a case in point.

The borderland under study has the following three characteristics. First, it has been centrally located in a web of commodity chains linking resource-rich tropics with international markets. Second, the border is inconspicuous: “altitude” and “distance” from any political center are not the crucial factors that make this borderland a distinctively nonstate space (McKinnon and Michaud 2000; Michaud 2008, 2010; Scott 2009). Third, the borderland is a space where the organizational power of the state is nominal, if not nonexistent.

In the borderlands, commodification represents a process whereby value is added to products as they move across a territorial boundary. While the state attempts to generate revenue from this process, people do so illicitly. This chapter sees the genesis of the state space and boundary making within the context of long-term processes of frontier commodification, recognizing that non-timber forest produce, timber, rubber, and pepper have functioned as critical linkages connecting local society with regional and global market systems.

This chapter concludes with the following findings. First, the more illicit flows of goods and people intensify, the clearer the state boundary becomes. The unintended and paradoxical amalgamation of the state-repelling actions of border communities and the border-making actions of the state apparatus formulates a threshold between state and nonstate space. Second, the genesis of state space lies not in the expansion of state power, but in the transnational and global process of commodification. In other words, the organizational power of the state needs the structural power of global markets in the making of state space. 1

Borderlands in maritime history

In 1824, a profound spatial divide was inaugurated in maritime Southeast Asia (Map 12.1). The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of that year began transforming unbounded frontiers into the bounded territories of two European empires. The transfer of Bencoolen in Sumatra to the Dutch, and of Malacca on the Malay Peninsula to the British divided the region into two domains: one north and one south of Singapore. This division was useful in settling claims in Sumatra and Malaya, but it was of little use on the island of Borneo, where the boundary between local sultanates was zonal. In coastal western Borneo, located at the same latitude as Singapore across the South China Sea, the border between the Sambas and Brunei sultanates was defined by a central mountain range. Following the colonial division after 1824, the British and Dutch territories in this region remained an ambiguous political buffer zone. It was here that a British ex-officer of the East India Company, James Brooke, established his own kingdom in 1841. 2

Malay maritime world

Map 12.1   Malay maritime world

Copyright by NUS Press

Lundu District, located at the western corner of Sarawak and sharing an international border with Dutch East India, was one of the first administrative districts under Brooke rule (Map 12.2). The borderland was divided by the low mountain range that runs from Cape Dato on the coast to the interior. The boundary between Sarawak and Dutch Sambas coincided with that of the Brunei and Sambas sultanates. Cape Dato, at the western edge of Lundu District, was located at the heart of a maritime trading network that linked Singapore, the west coast of Dutch Borneo, Sarawak, and Brunei. The 1869 opening of the Suez Canal further boosted trading activities significantly in the region.

Sarawak and West Kalimantan (Dutch West Borneo)

Map 12.2   Sarawak and West Kalimantan (Dutch West Borneo)

Copyright by NUS Press

In the Sarawak/Dutch Borneo borderland, policing by state agencies was minimal, and where it did exist, it was largely ineffective. Lundu District at the turn of the century covered an area of 1,870 km2 and had a population density of fewer than three persons per square kilometer. The borderland lacked physical signs of demarcation such as immigration posts or border gates. Only one European and one native Malay officer administered the district with an 80-km-long border. Most areas of the district were covered by dense primary forest and were inaccessible by sea during the half-year long monsoon season. Officers stationed at Lundu fort had to walk overland to inspect sparsely populated inland communities, a trip that usually took more than a week. It was impossible to put borderland communities under close surveillance.

Transborder swidden practice

During the early period of development of Lundu District, one of the first recorded border disputes between Sarawak and Dutch West Borneo occurred over the affiliation of the Dayaks, who engaged in swidden cultivation. 3 Both governments claimed the Jagoi, a group of Dayak in upper Sarawak, as their subjects, and thus the right to collect a head tax on them. As early as 1874, the Committee of Administration of Sarawak and the Dutch authorities discussed the matter of border crossing by Jagoi Dayak ( Sarawak Gazette, May 16, 1874: n.p., Sarawak Gazette, May 1, 1893: 78) and the demarcation of the colonial boundary ( Sarawak Gazette, July 24, 1874: n.p.; Sarawak Gazette, August 1, 1884: 80). 4 The affiliation and farming practices of the migratory Jagoi remained an issue into the 1930s, and involved negotiations between high-level officials in Kuching and Pontianak, the respective capital cities (Sarawak Gazette, December 2, 1935: 228).

From the beginning of Brooke’s rule, claiming subjects was crucial, even in the sparsely populated mountain region of southwestern Sarawak, because the head tax contributed substantially to district revenue. In 1892, for example, the Dayak head tax constituted 40 per cent of the total revenue of Lundu District ( Sarawak Gazette, May 1, 1893: 78). Neither the national affiliation nor the permanent residence of these swidden cultivators was a critical issue for either government. As long as tax was paid, mobile Dayaks were allowed to engage in shifting cultivation of rice in both Sarawak and Dutch West Borneo:

The Jagoi Land Dayaks are growing very short of land for farming purposes, and are anxious to take up land across the Dutch border, where there is a large area of old jungle available. They were informed that permission for them to do this would have to be obtained from the Netherland Indies authorities, and that in any case, if they farmed over the border, they were liable to find themselves paying two separate sets of taxes.

(Sarawak Gazette, April 1, 1935: 51)

Apart from the payment of head tax, authorities were also indifferent to Dayak mobility because they were not involved in the commercial estates where labour was indispensable and had to be controlled. 5

Forest products

During the initial period of Brooke colonization, forest products attracted commercial interest. The commodification and taxation of forest products only became possible, however, with the formation of colonial governments on both sides of the Sarawak–Dutch West Borneo border. Products such as damar, jelutong, beeswax, gutta-percha, and camphor commanded high prices on the Singapore market, and Sarawak inhabitants collected them as far inland as Dutch Sambas territory. 6 In 1876, in response to a complaint from the Sambas Sultan, Charles Brooke, the successor to James Brooke, issued an order discouraging border crossing to gather forest products. The order alerted Sarawak residents that the Sultan would demand ‘a payment of 10 per cent on primitive produce… before such produce can be taken out of his country’ ( Sarawak Gazette, June 5, 1876: 3). Even into the 1890s, when a monopoly on forest product collection in Sambas District had been granted to T.W. Kaat of Java, forest exploitation by Sarawak subjects had not stopped, prompting additional complaints and a ban by the Brooke government ( Sarawak Gazette, October 10, 1890: 125).

Natural resources within Sarawak’s territory were similarly attractive to outsiders and provided the state with an opportunity to levy taxes. Because of its proximity to Singapore and such regional commercial centers in Dutch West Borneo as Pontianak, Mempawah, and Sambas, the coastal area of Lundu District was frequented by non-Sarawakian nakoda traders who came to cut timber and build sampan boats. 7 The Lundu authorities reported enforcing the regulation that ‘[n]o strangers are permitted to work timber without first obtaining a permit at the Court House,’ and in at least one case, ‘in lieu of taxation [collected] one boat out of ten…’ ( Sarawak Gazette, February 1, 1893: 26).

In 1894, Charles Brooke ordered his officials in Lundu to open up forestland in Sematan on the east coast of the district to facilitate logging by anyone wishing to do so ( Sarawak Gazette, December 1, 1894: 208; Sarawak Gazette, August 1, 1895: 144). Consequently, officials in the Lundu District Office were kept busy collecting export duties as the volume of exports from Lundu and the Sematan coast increased. They kept an eye on incoming and outgoing vessels to ensure the legal traffic of goods and devised ways to improve surveillance (Sarawak Gazette, September 1, 1900: 175). As the timber market expanded in Singapore and Java in the latter half of the century, a substantial number of traders extracted timber on the coast. These traders were not regarded as foreign intruders, but rather welcomed as long as they paid duties on the exported timber. It is intriguing that despite the government’s open policy welcoming natural resource exploiters from outside the territory, a Malay engkabang tree owner asked Brooke officials to protect his interests against foreign intruders from across the border: 8

Tan Ahmat begged that persons from other districts should be forbidden to collect engkabang fruit in this district and the Court Writer at Simatan wrote in asking whether permission to collect this fruits might be refused to natives of Sambas and a notice to that effect might be sent to him.

(Sarawak Gazette, February 1, 1912: 33)

State–society symbiosis

In the first five decades of colonization under the Brooke Government, physical demarcation of the Dutch–Sarawak boundary itself did not exist, let alone effective regulations that prevented the illicit flows of commodities. Following the enactment of regulations during the reign of the second Rajah, Charles Brooke (1868–1917), the Sarawak Gazette and the Lundu District Monthly Report recorded numerous reports on border crossing and control issued to outstation officers. Such records reflect the will of the colonial state to determine the affiliation of peoples as well as the origin of natural and cultivated biomass in Sarawak, yet attests to their failure to do so. During this period state–society relations were not explicitly antagonistic. Rather, the colonial state of Sarawak and local society of Lundu were in a symbiotic relationship of mutual engagement, constitution, and transformation. These relations embodied specific representations of the colonial world in an incubator stage at the margins.

Enforcement and violation of border regulations took place repeatedly. Measures implemented by the Charles Brooke administration to counter recurrent problems were ad hoc and inconsistent. It was only after specific “border problems” were reported that new regulations were written and notification made to administrative officers. Laws were rarely announced directly to inhabitants of the borderland; instead they were published in government gazettes and official reports. Even where prohibitions were announced, certain violations, such as border trespassing, exploitation of banned forest products, and cross-border swidden cultivation, never ceased. Such cases were reported to the capital, which led to the issuing of almost identical regulations or orders, as the cat-and-mouse game between administrators and “untamed” locals continued. State–society relations at the periphery of Sarawak were contentious—albeit at a low intensity—and in a sense, complementary. Officials reported cases of offence and nominal punishment ensued. Yet despite the state’s repeated intent to enclose a national space, locals never really stopped maneuvers for personal profit. State and society formed a reflexive relationship in which a dialectical process between state policing and the adaptive strategies of local society contributed to the gradual formation of a national space.

Rubber smuggling

Colonial management of commodity flows, however, drastically changed with the advent of rubber production in western Borneo in the 1920s. With the arrival of rubber, an early form of a nationally singular economic space emerged. The rubber trade in the boom periods necessitated the demarcation of the colonial boundary between Sarawak and Dutch Borneo to ensure revenue flowed to the respective governments. As we see in the following, rubber smuggling from Dutch West Borneo into Sarawak Kingdom exhibits a departure from the previous mode of transnational flows of commodities.

The advent of rubber cultivation in western Borneo marked a new era for the borderland. Rubber tied the periphery of the European colony directly to the international commodity market. Signficantly, the focus of commodification shifted from forest produce to cash crops during the 1920s. This gave rise to a rampant smuggling economy in the borderland. During the interwar period, demand for rubber rose as supply was first restricted by the Stevenson Scheme in 1922–1928. 9 The temporary price recovery peaked in 1925 before declining toward the end of the decade. Thereafter, the Great Depression resulted in a prolonged slump in the market and rubber production and export. Rubber-producing colonies concluded the International Rubber Agreement (INRA) of 1934 to maintain a minimum rubber market price after the Great Depression. All new planting was forbidden and state-wide tapping holidays were declared every fourth month. An imperial quota system for the production of rubber created a price difference between the two colonies and swiftly generated cross-border flows of raw rubber from the Dutch territory to Sarawak. 10 The difference in demand as well as price created by the international production scheme therefore became an instrument for the formation of difference in a borderland located between two opposing imperial market domains, the British and the Dutch. Locals engaged in transnational smokel (smuggling) of rubber were also keenly aware of the price difference between the two colonies. Regulation of cultivation and export through a national quota system resulted in tighter control of the cross-border movement of rubber. Smuggling was conducted both overland and by sea. Smugglers’ boats came around Cape Dato to bring rubber sheets to Kuching by sea. Two Malay villages located near the cape functioned as transit points. Smugglers also carried the bulky sheets across the border on foot, entering Sarawak in places such as Biawak and Serikin (see Map 12.2). By land or by sea, local peasants brought rubber sheets to transit points, and Chinese merchants shipped them to Kuching and Singapore. At the same time as this transnational smuggling of rubber began to flourish, peasants began to smuggle other commodities from Dutch colonial territory and sell them to Chinese taukay in Sarawak. 11

By the 1930s, Lundu District had been incorporated into the state-led commodity production system. Hinterland peasants and merchants swiftly established transnational networks of a corresponding scale to evade border control measures imposed by the state. The production quota presented both new limitations and opportunities for the locals; smuggling of rubber and other dutiable commodities between Dutch West Borneo and Sarawak was their strategic response. It should be noted here that rubber cultivation had started earlier in Dutch West Borneo than in Sarawak, and yields were considerably higher, as Dutch Borneo trees were more mature. In Sambas District of Dutch Borneo adjacent to the Sarawakian border, rubber production was mostly undertaken by Malay peasants along the major rivers and by Dayaks along the border in the interior (Sarawak Gazette, April 1, 1936: 86; Sarawak Gazette, May 1, 1936: 107).

The emergence of a smuggling economy coincided with the development of a national and supra-national order. For the first time in history, the Sarawak colony became recognized as a full-fledged territorial state, because of its incorporation into the world-wide rubber production system and rubber restriction schemes. Its participation in rubber quotas gave Sarawak internationally recognized status as an independent economic unit required to control the production and distribution of an important commodity.

The hinterland of Lundu District, adjacent to the border, remained in curious isolation at the periphery of the colonial space during the heyday of smuggling. Over the course of the 1950s and early 1960s, the economy of Lundu became dependent on smuggling. With the Kuching-based distribution network far away, bazaars in the frontier district continued to obtain Indonesian goods from smugglers and redistributed them to local merchandizing networks. Many peasant communities adjacent to the border gave up planting commercial crops and chose the more profitable smuggling business (LDR 12 2nd Half Year 1959). The “aversion” to agrarian production and the frequent changes of livelihood strategies have remained a hallmark of these borderlands until this day.

Non-agrarian characteristics

Both under Brooke rule and within the modern nation state of Malaysia (the State of Sarawak), the borderlands have never witnessed the rise of a sedentary peasantry that undertakes agrarian production, despite state interventions and corporate enterprise initiatives. 13 Border communities have maintained multifaceted livelihood strategies, combining various modes of subsistence rather than solely depending on perennial cropping regimes. Locals have, at different points in time, engaged in swidden cultivation, foraging, forest produce extraction and trade, crop cultivation during boom periods, cross-border smuggling of dutiable commodities, wage labor (albeit to a limited extent), and so forth. Through such diversified economic portfolios, borderland communities have upheld a distinctive non-agrarian character.

These strategies are made possible by extremely low population pressure, high biodiversity, and abundant biomass of both fauna and flora. The need to produce and store resources via settled agriculture has never been acute. In addition, linkage to international commodity chains has secured diversified income sources. Forest produce such as natural rubber for submarine cable insulation, latex used in foods as a clouding or glazing agent, iron wood for roofing and construction materials, and rattan for furniture, handicrafts and even grenade basket cases, just to name a few, are all items highly valued in the global commodity market (Jayl and Ishikawa 2017). Borderland society has thus been primarily based on flows and exchanges of such items rather than sedentary agrarian production.

Even with the advent of the oil palm plantation system and the arrival of economies of scale to the frontier, a substantial part of contemporary Sarawak’s borderlands has retained its non-agrarian character. Unlike neighboring Kalimantan of the Indonesian frontier, where oil palm cultivation has rapidly expanded with corporate capital investment and the active participation of smallholders, the Sarawak borderlands still lack basic infrastructure, most importantly a road network that links the interior with downstream markets. Because of the peculiar nature of the oxidation-prone oil palm, fresh fruit bunches need to be processed within 24 hours after harvest to be marketed as an industrial commodity. Although larger roads now connect major cities and towns, the insufficient road network in Sarawak’s frontier has discouraged the development of large-scale plantations as well as the engagement of local smallholders.

Other regions in Sarawak are currently witnessing both corporate and smallholding expansion of oil palm cultivation on a massive scale. Oil palm now accounts for about 8 per cent of the total land area and 70 per cent of the area used for agricultural crops in the state of Sarawak. Almost half (46 per cent) of the area planted with oil palm trees is located on a flat-to-undulating coastal belt. Over the past decade, oil palm tree cultivation has expanded in every administrative division of the state, from downstream to Sarawak’s extensive peatlands and further into the hilly interior (Cramb 2013: 1). While Sarawak has experienced a more than 40-fold increase in oil palm cultivation since 1980, the boom has yet to reach the borderlands.

Osmotic pressure between states

Just as osmotic pressure is determined by the difference in the concentration of a liquid between two organs, the difference between two national economies determines the direction of the movement of people and goods across borders. The widening economic gap between post-independence Indonesia and Malaysia accelerated movements of natural resources and agricultural commodities from Indonesian Kalimantan to East Malaysia. In response, the two countries strengthened the international border with official immigration posts and customs houses, which eventually gave further impetus to illicit flows of traded goods and undocumented laborers. The Cross Border Agreement of 1984 proposed the opening of 10 points of entry and exit, known as Pos Lintas Batas, along the Kalimantan–East Malaysia border. These were: Paloh, Sanjingan, Sungai Aruk, Saparan, Jagoi Babang, Sidding, Bantan, Merakai Panjang, Nanga Badau, and Entikong (Map 12.3). On October 1, 1989, the completion of the first sealed road linking Kuching with Pontianak via the border towns of Tebudu in Sarawak and Entikong in West Kalimantan created a new entry–exit point where border trade has since increased tremendously.

Borneo border checkpoints

Map 12.3   Borneo border checkpoints

Copyright by NUS Press

As hubs for local cross-border traffic were transformed into official entry–exit points under the supervision of postcolonial nation states, the small paths traditionally called jalan tikus, or rat paths, used for informal border crossing, were replaced by larger roads to facilitate increasing traffic. Some of the paths through which raw rubber sheets were illicitly brought to Sarawak during the rubber boom were upgraded to major corridors connecting the state capitals of Pontianak and Kuching. Traditional jalan tikus became jalan gajah, or elephant roads, connecting border towns not only to Pontianak and Kuching, but to other major towns in Kalimantan and East Malaysia.

Although the border-crossing inspection post of Entikong functions as a crucial commercial hub between the two countries, the development of the Entikong–Tebudu trade route at first yielded more economic benefit to West Kalimantan than to Sarawak. In 1998, West Kalimantan’s trade surplus reached US$3 million due to the depreciation of the Indonesian rupiah. Many traders in Entikong came to depend on the weak Indonesian rupiah. The outflow of commodities from Indonesian territory continued as long as the depreciated Indonesian rupiah rendered profits to locals who were marginalized from the Pontianak-based commercial network. The opening of the Entikong post did not therefore eliminate illicit cross-border trade. The most commonly smuggled goods were cigarettes, rice, bird’s nests, clothing, household items, and hewn timber (Fariastuti 2000, 2002; Riwanto and Haba 2005).

The downturn of the Indonesian economy during the last phase of President Soeharto’s rule in the late 1990s was regarded as a favorable opportunity not only by traders engaged in commercial activities at frontier marketplaces, but also by peasants and Indonesian traders at the margin of the national territory. Weak Indonesian currency meant a stronger Malaysian ringgit, which, as residents of the borderland, they could readily access. Saving cash in ringgit rather than rupiah was safer and more profitable for many in the borderland villages of West Kalimantan.

The dramatic depreciation of the rupiah after the economic crisis of 1997 transformed the lives of cultivators of commercial crops, especially pepper. For instance, an Indonesian pepper producer living near Cape Dato made a substantial profit from selling his pepper seeds to Malaysian middlemen who came from across the border. He had previously sold pepper to Malaysian middlemen at exchange rates in the range of Rp (rupiah) 750 (1992) and Rp 1,200 (1994) to one ringgit. When the exchange rate surged to Rp 3,500 in 1997, he sold his pepper at a value 4.7 times higher than that of five years before.

State–society reflexivity

An analysis of the century-long formation of the western Borneo borderland suggests that the state-repelling actions of the frontier community, and its acknowledgement and strategic usage of the state boundary, have not always been contradictory or irreconcilable. On the contrary, the seemingly opposing dynamics have constantly co-existed, gradually bridging the territorialization of the state, the global forces of capitalism, and daily life on the border, to form a resonance of sorts. What is observable at this periphery of the state territory is not the counterpoising of state and society—an assertion of a “strong” society versus a “weak” state or vice versa. The dynamics of state and nonstate spaces is not entirely a story of state power extending to the periphery, nor of the decline of the power of local elites, traders, and peasants. While the state may have been weak, the local society was also not strong enough to form its own collective social organizations. Social groups such as corporate descent groups, domestic business networks, rigid patron–client dyads, and ethnically mobilized interest groups were all missing from this border space.

The maritime border area under study illuminates the local dynamics of a borderland transitioning from nonstate to state space where the synergy and resonance between state policy implementation and cross-border flows of people and things are at work in the realization of state territoriality. The historical analysis shows how both the state and local society contributed, in a slow and gradual process, to the making of the state boundary in a type of call and response resonance rather than an antithetical relationship. The historical evidence suggests that in the borderland area of western Sarawak, the more illicit flows of goods and people intensified, the clearer the state boundary became. This seemingly paradoxical relation does not comfortably comply with the zero sum perspective, where one or more player’s gain or loss equals the loss or gain of others. The state and the borderland communities are more symbiotic rather than two separate and dichotomous, or conflicting, entities. State and society thus responded to each other in turn, eventually engraving a borderline in a collective enterprise of boundary making. 14

Workings of global forces

The Bornean borderlands in this study are located in a maritime frontier densely incorporated into international commodity chains. What sets this particular territorial margin apart from others is its maritime accessibility to both coastal and regional trading hubs, making it particularly susceptible to global forces of market expansion. The existence of navigable rivers that connect the coast with the inland and allow for the collection of forest produce enabled frequent contact between local communities and traders from afar.

These borderlands therefore differed from counterparts in mainland Southeast Asia where distance and elevation separate hills (highland) and plains (lowland), and such terrestrial factors therefore mattered far less in the process of boundary making. Rather, global market forces connected to regional commodity chains have played a transformational role in establishing a marker that separates identities of people and commodities on both sides of the porous border. These forces included the imperial quota system for the production of rubber in the interwar period and the economic gap between Malaysia and Indonesia manifested in the 1992 monetary crisis. The structural forces toward the genesis of the boundary have not been the expansion of state power, but the connectivity between the borderlands and commodity markets. This illustrates that where the state machinery is weak, the global forces of capitalism are instrumental in making state space, particularly in the mental mapping of borderland peoples.


For a detailed account of the transformation of the borderlands in southwestern Sarawak, see Ishikawa (2010).

As a reward for helping the Sultanate of Brunei fight insurgency, James Brooke was granted the landmass of Sarawak in 1841. The Brooke family then established a monarchy, referred to as the White Rajahs of Sarawak Kingdom, which lasted for the next 100 years. The White Rajahs’ dynasty continued through Brooke’s nephew and grandnephew, the latter of whom ceded his rights to the United Kingdom in 1946. For a comprehensive analysis of colonial policies under James Brooke (1841–1868) and Charles Brooke (1868–1917), see Ishikawa (1998) and Reece (1988).

Dayak refers to a member of an indigenous group of peoples, including the Iban, the Orang Ulu, and the Land Dayak.

Charles Brooke created a gazette in 1871 to transmit his official proclamations, internal appointments, and any important news. The Sarawak Gazette is a unique resource, featuring detailed reports made by officers stationed in outstations.

For the development of Lundu plantation economy, see Ishikawa (2010).

Damar, obtained from the Dipterocarpaceae family of trees, is used in incense, varnish, and other products. Jelutong (Dyera costulata) is best known for its use in latex production in the manufacture of chewing gum. Gutta-percha latex is biologically inert, resilient, and is a good electrical insulator with a high dielectric strength. It served as the insulating material for some of the earliest undersea telegraph cables, including the first transatlantic telegraph cable.

Nakoda means ship captain in Malay, and generally refers to Muslim traders. On the activity of nakoda in colonial southwestern Sarawak, see N. Ishikawa (1999) and M. Ishikawa (2005).

Engkabang, the oil-bearing nuts of the forest tree species Shorea spp., is used in confectionery industries, especially for chocolate manufacturing.

In accordance with a strict export quota, the British colony banned new rubber planting, controlled harvesting, and regulated the number of rubber sheets circulating through domestic trade networks. It is important to note that this was not the case in the Dutch territory where there was no such policy (Drabble 1973: 192).

A coupon system regulated the number of rubber trees planted and the quantity of rubber sheets sold to local dealers. Both rubber producers and dealers were issued government coupons, which authorized them to market an approved quantity of rubber.

Taukay is a common word of Hokkien origin, meaning the head of a firm or shop.

Short for: Lundu District Report (The Sarawak Museum).

Vast tracts of uncultivated land regarded as “no man’s land” were redistributed to the “Sarawak” subjects for agricultural production. For the general process of spatial configuration by the state, see Greenblatt (1991). For the detailed description of Sarawak land administration, see Porter (1967).

Theory generated from the state–society relationship in the “outer islands” of maritime Southeast Asia necessarily differs from that of the irrigated lowlands of mainland Southeast Asia or densely populated Java. This study has thus sought a new way of locating society and the state in locally specific history (cf. Warren 1981; Tagliacozzo 2005; Lumenta 2010).


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