Frontier Strategies of Dayak Agabag’s Elite for Cultural Rights in Ulu Sembakung, North Borneo

Puji Hastuti


The local elites of Dayak Agabag are conscious of their community's position as minorities, which presents opportunities. As an Indonesian frontier people, the Dayak Agabag have formed solid social ties with the Murut Pensiangan, as a resident community in Malaysia, fostering cultural cohesion across national borders. These sociocultural ties are seen as a threat to sovereignty and nationalism, which, ironically, are often exploited by local elites for the benefit of frontier people. The Agabag's elites are using their minority status to advocate the development of modern-state infrastructure in their region. This article analyzes cultural rights challenges confronting the Dayak Agabag along the Indonesia-Malaysia border, aiming to comprehend the political role of Dayak Agabag elites in shaping affirmative policies for marginalized communities and their advocacy for human rights, shedding light on the movements of both the elite and the community in their quest for legitimacy. The ethnographic lens used in this article shows that the political agency of Dayak Agabag’s local elite created their own rule to counter the domination of the state spatiality to struggle for human rights as frontier people. This article describes how the local elites maintained their minority frontier people status, as it gave them access to political gain or privileges across state borders. The local agency of Dayak Agabag’s elite offers insight into how marginalized frontier people can leverage their political indigeneity power, obtain cultural rights, and maintain socially legitimate yet formally illegal cross-border mobility.


frontier; local agency; political indigeneity; cultural right

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