Penan Natives’ Discourse for and against Development

  •  Sivapalan Selvadurai    
  •  A. C. Er    
  •  Novel Lyndon    
  •  Sarmila Md Sum    
  •  Suhana Saad    
  •  Azima Abd Manaf    
  •  Zaimah Ramli    


Modernization and capitalist penetration in developing countries have impacted rural communities differently. The Penan natives who are settled in the peripheral and isolated areas close to the forest are on the receiving end of development. Often authority-defined development discourse has been dominant but lay-defined discourse provides an alternative understanding and contestation to this discourse. This paper examines the development discourses of the Penan natives who have settled in the Belaga Area of Bintulu, Sarawak. The discourses entail the impact of development, as well as the natives’ view for and against development. A total of 25 heads of households from 6 villages were involved in this research that utilized the non-probability sampling technique. Data in this research was collected using the technique of in-depth interview and informal group discussion. The findings revealed that the Penan natives are displaced and excluded from mainstream market development and as such their exposure to the market ideals requires adaptation of skills, information, education and even welfare provision which are still distant to them. Findings also revealed that the Penans are for development that entails sustaining their existing ecological relationship, with adequate provision of amenities and infrastructural development such as long houses, schools, recreational areas, roads, and other utilities. However, they are against development that disrupts their livelihood and habitat, for example those involving activities such as logging, oil palm plantation and major infrastructural projects. Contrasting worldviews held by the Penan natives for a sufficiency and ecological model of development can provide alternative views to mainstream development discourse.

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