49. Space does not permit a full comparison here, but a related sort of transformation to what I have been discussing is nicely described in Metcalf 2002. Metcalf looks at the role of political economy and the sheer scale of environmental changes, and how these have affected forms of everyday life, even altered the old use of descriptive terms as new ethnonyms in new social formations. I bring out the point about cultural death, which may seem obvious to some of my readers, because of the tone and preponderance of discourses about ever-decreasing nomadism and ever-increasing sedentarism. Since practically, and also ideologically, their “identity” is linked to notions of them as “sea people,” these discourses imply not just nostalgia for vanishing ways presumed to have existed, but also an anxiety about Sama cultural death—a version of “disappearing primitives.” Perceptions of Sama cultural disappearance are not uncommon in the anthropological literature as well as in contemporary Indonesian journalism. Pelras wrung his hands over what he described as increased contact with other descent groups as a result of Bajo settlement, especially in the Pulau Sembilan group, in the 1970s. Contemporary popular media portray a “death knell” for the Bajo, although what they describe is much more a widespread problem of infrastructural “improvements” on some more densely populated coasts and harbor regions. These infrastructural projects, if they do not remove coastal people outright, make life in the strand a health hazard and make a seafaring life for the poor well-nigh impossible. See Hudijono and Azis 2001.
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