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Ethics of Refusal: Globalization and the Penan People’s Struggle for Recognition

Jeffry Ocay


In this article I explore ways in which the Penan of Sarawak, Malaysia, whose lives have been impacted by globalization, draw on their rich cultural heritage to demand recognition. I argue that an articulation of a new rather than traditional form of struggle for recognition should come from the margins of the global system. Their indigenous practices, when linked to neocolonial domination, point to a possible “outside” of the system by highlighting the system’s destructive potential rendered invisible “at the center” and by embodying ways of living that promote
social solidarity and preserve the environment. I argue further that by serving as alternative to globalization and their being an exploited social class, the Penan can serve as potent agents of social transformation and represent an “ethics of refusal.”


globalization; Penan people; struggle for recognition; indigenous culture; ethics of refusal

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