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Indigenous Agency and Compliance: Contemporary Literature about Dayaks

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


Based on an analysis of three literary texts about Dayaks—the indigenous peoples of Kalimantan (Borneo) in Indonesia—this essay argues that strategic submission can play an important role in indigenous peoples' attempts to obtain and maintain agency under the shadow of dominant discourse. Discussions foundational to the field of postcolonial studies have tended to focus on the importance of subversion, resistance, and counterdiscourse in liberating the oppressed subject. Taking reading cues from anthropological and sociological accounts of Dayak compliance with various constructions of Dayaks, this essay looks at how the writing of literature about Dayaks (by both non-Dayaks and Dayaks) functions as an enactment of and meditation on the application of dominant discourse to indigenous peoples and the opportunities that such discourse affords for carving out spaces of autonomy.

Research Article
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2016

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