Ecotourism and Malaysia’s Orang Asli: the social construction of indigeneity in community boundary-drawing

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This qualitative study conducted in Malaysia’s Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve applies the concept of indigeneity as a social construct to examine status ascription by two competing groups: the Orang Asli and the Malays. Through indigeneity, the Orang Asli assert themselves as the rightful inhabitants of Belum-Temengor and brand the Malays as outsiders. By contrast, the Malays downplay indigeneity and describe themselves as ‘the locals’ whose entrepreneurism should be lauded. Tourism in Belum-Temengor influences the discourse of indigeneity in two paradoxical ways–it reinforces the Orang Asli’s indigeneity by accentuating the indigenous culture in tourism products; but it also exerts the pressure of assimilation as a pre-condition of participation. The theoretical implication lies in demonstrating that the interplay of indigeneity influences the socio-psychological boundary of a community, such that a group that sees itself as part of a community is considered by the competing group to be the outsider.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Ecotourism
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Apr 2021


  • Community conflict
  • ecotourism
  • indigenous people
  • Malaysia
  • social construction of indigeneity

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