Identities past and present
By Miriam Coronel Ferrer

Southeast Asia then and now is home to a multitude of peoples and communities whose past remains to be rediscovered, and their links to the present retraced.

As this humble collection of articles show, the sources and tools available to the committed scholar in his/her journey to rediscovery are multiple.

Among these tools is language, or the whole range of “linguistic repertoire” heard and spoken in this instance, in the small rural town of Sekadau in Kalimantan.

A fecund source can be epic literature, like the Subanen guinguman, sang by Apu Jaringilan Sayamba in Maralag, Zamboanga del Sur, recorded and studied for what its form and content can reveal of the Subanen’s love and aspirations for their ancestral domain.

Or, sources and tools can be as anachronistic to the tradition of oral history and as recent as an anthology of contemporary writings of the young lumad (indigenous peoples) of Mindanao.

Certainly, the available tools utilized in different academic disciplines – sociology, anthropology, history, politics, linguistics, cultural studies and the natural sciences – have been tapped well to unearth the mysteries of these old and new societies in the region. This variety of tools, in turn, has produced a multiplicity of meanings and existence that has seen the identity discourse in Southeast Asia penetrating all academic disciplines.

The beauty of the studies and their findings on identity construction in the region lies precisely in their power to unsettle standard categories, turn upside-down accepted beliefs, and stimulate introspection on what A.B.Shamsul has described as the “knowledge baseline” on Southeast Asia.

As a result, new or revitalized, non-monolithic (but equally contestable) knowledge constructions of identity have evolved.

Like their predecessors, these new interpretations engage in the battle for superiority in the real world.

Like the earlier knowledge, they reinforce or recreate new boundaries or ideational space -- Mindanao, Malay, and migrant, to name a few – to represent and to a certain extent find congruence with an equally dynamic and changing material space.

We welcome you to these papers that offer new articulations as examined from both small and big canvasses – a rural town, an epic, a community of young people, and that field of interest called, for better or worse, Southeast Asian studies.