Borderlands in Southeast Asia are often portrayed as being outside state influence, as zones of anarchy where identities are flexible, loyalties ephemeral and state authority largely avoided. Depicted by shifting state administrators as rebels and outlaws roaming the border hills the populations inhabiting these edges of states further seem especially resistant towards officialdom through their engagement in law bending practices and a heightened sense of autonomy. This paper examines these dynamics as they unravel on the island of Borneo during the Dutch colonial administration in the mid nineteenth century and thus aims to contribute to the growing historiography of Southeast Asian borderlands and the more localized dynamics of state formation. By contrasting local Iban narratives with colonial records in the border regency of Boven-Kapoeas in Dutch West Borneo I show how renowned rebel leaders, did their best to take advantage of the differing terms and conditions that colonial rule offered on either side of the border and thus openly challenged colonial state authority.
Journal of Borderlands Studies, 2014, Vol 29, Issue 1, p. 11-25