This article looks at changes in the coastal environment and political economy of Eastern Indonesia and considers how these changes have created transformations in the lives of coastal people, primarily of the Sama. Scattered throughout island Southeast Asia, the Sama live and work at sea and along the rural littoral—the vast stretches of this archipelagic region's nonurban coastal zone. Historically Sama people have played a key role in the maritime produce trades of the region. Like artisanal fishers elsewhere, they have seen their resource base depleted and their labor marginalized by the expansion of commercial fishing. Drawing on a mix of archival research, oral history interviews, and long-term ethnographic fieldwork, the current essay describes and examines particular shapes of social transformation. Along with cultural analysis, geographical perspectives offer tools to help explain the spatial reorganization and decentralization of production that has affected women and men, older livelihood pursuits and newer ones.
Research Article|May 01 2010