CSEAS Graduate Colloquium Fall Lecture Series: Cynthia Chou

Cynthia Chou

Department of Anthropology

C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family Chair of Asian Studies

University of Iowa


Title: “Sea Nomadism and the Art of Not Being Governed”


Register for this event: https://niu-edu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcsce6opz4jH9z2FcUeUDpj4Oj04Um9ZqQA


Southeast Asia is a region of long-established maritime traditions, and sea nomadism has been common within its waters for centuries. Until today, widely scattered communities of sea nomads can be found across the region. Historically changing commitments of power holders in the region’s macro-politics have forged the rise and decline of the sea nomads. Presently, the wider society views them as a backward and unprogressive people. In the name of modernization and development, policy makers have tried to forcibly settle and assimilate them. Yet, their continued widespread distribution in Southeast Asia bears testament to their proficiencies to strike- and push back against state intrusions. The ethnography of the Orang Suku Laut who are one of the largest populations of nomadic tribal mariners in Southeast Asia provide glimpses into their wide-ranging strategies to ward off the State. For them, Southeast Asia is a social space that is constructed in terms of permanent mobility and whatever can be reached by sea.


Cynthia Chou is Professor of Anthropology, C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family Chair of Asian Studies and Director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Iowa, United States. She received her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom in 1994 and was awarded in 2011 the highest Danish academic degree of dr.phil. by the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in recognition of her work on the Orang Suku Laut (People of the Sea). Her publications include The Orang Suku Laut of Riau, Indonesia: The Inalienable Gift of     Territory (2010) and Indonesian Sea Nomads: Money, Magic and Fear of the Orang Suku Laut of Riau (2003).  

This lecture is sponsored by the Graduate Colloquium program at NIU.

Dial-In Information


Friday, November 19, 2021 at 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

Peters Campus Life Building, 100
545 Lucinda Ave, DeKalb, IL 60115

Event Type

Lectures, Presentations and Workshops, Graduate Colloquium


Arts and Culture, Research, Academics, Diversity

Target Audience

Students, Faculty and Staff, Alumni, General Public, Prospective Students


CSEAS Lecture





Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Contact Name

Rachael Skog

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