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Iranun and Balangingi: Globalization, maritime raiding and the birth of ethnicity

Warren, J.F. (2001) Iranun and Balangingi: Globalization, maritime raiding and the birth of ethnicity. Borneo Research Bulletin, 32 . pp. 126-145.


The aim of this paper is to explore ethnic, cultural, and material changes in the transformative history of oceans and seas, commodities and populations, mariners and ships, and raiders and refugees in Southeast Asia, with particular reference to the Sulu-Mindanao region, or the "Sulu Zone" (Warren 1998a: 9-13; 198]: xix-xxvi). The oceans and seas of Asia, East by South, from Canton to Makassar, and from Singapore to the Bird's Head Coast of New Guinea, crossed by Iranun and Balangingi raiding and slaving ships, Southeast Asian merchant vessels and colonial warships, have been the sites of extraordinary conflicts and changes often associated with the formation of ethnic groups and boundaries, political struggles and national histories. Examining the profound changes that were taking place in the Sulu-Mindanao region and elsewhere, this paper creates an ethnohistorical framework for understanding the emerging inter-connected patterns of global commerce, long-distance maritime raiding and the formation and main tenance of ethnic identity. I begin by tracing the evolution of Iranun maritime raiding from its late eighteenth century origins to support the English supplies of tea from China, into the nineteenth century's systematic, regional-based slaving and marauding activity (Warren 1981: 149-214). I then draw out the implications of that evolution for colonial systems of domination, development, and discourse in the context of trans-oceanic trade, cross-cultural commerce, and empire building.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Asian Studies
Publisher: Borneo Research Council
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