From Decolonial Indigenous Knowledges to Vernacular Ideas in Southeast Asia

Relations between humans and orangutans in present-day Malaysia show the historiographic and ethnographic problem of using the term “Indigenous knowledge.” Iban and Malay relationships with nonhuman animals are intersubjective and informed by particular subject formations, and indigeneity explains only one kind of relation. To analyze their relations simply in terms of decolonial Indigenous knowledge would be a culturally imperialist act from the Americas: decoloniality is specific to the development of racialization in the West via white settler colonialism, antiblack enslavement, and anti-Indigenous exploitation and genocide. Instead, this article draws from southern African historical sources and Southeast Asian ethnographic sources to advocate a historiography and ethnography of vernaculars, both vernacular knowledge and vernacular ignorance, in order to avoid autochthonous and potentially xenophobic claims.