Chua, “Gifting, Dam(n)ing and the Ambiguation of Development in Malaysian Borneo”

Chua, Liana. 2016. Gifting, Dam(n)ing and the Ambiguation of Development in Malaysian Borneo. Ethnos 81(4):737-757.

Abstract: This article seeks to move beyond the critical politicizing impulse that has characterized anthropologies of development since the 1990s towards a more open-ended commitment to taking seriously the diverse moral and imaginative topographies of development. It explores how members of four small Bidayuh villages affected by a dam-construction and resettlement scheme in Sarawak draw on both historically inflected tropes of gifting and Christian moral understandings in their engagements with Malaysia’s peculiar brand of state-led development. These enable the affected villagers not to resolve the problems posed by Malaysian developmentalism, but to ambiguate them and actually hold resolution at bay. I conclude by considering the implications of such projects of ambiguation for the contemporary anthropology of development.