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Iranun and Balangingi: globalization, maritime raiding and the birth of ethnicity. (Research Notes).

Introduction: An Ethnohistorical Enigma

The aim of this paper is to explore ethnic, cultural, and material changes in the transformative history of oceans and seas, commodities and populations, mariners and ships, and raiders and refugees in Southeast Asia, with particular reference to the Sulu-Mindanao region, or the "Sulu Zone" (Warren 1998a: 9-13; 198]: xix-xxvi). The oceans and seas of Asia, East by South, from Canton to Makassar, and from Singapore to the Bird's Head Coast of New Guinea, crossed by Iranun and Balangingi raiding and slaving ships, Southeast Asian merchant vessels and colonial warships, have been the sites of extraordinary conflicts and changes often associated with the formation of ethnic groups and boundaries, political struggles and national histories. Examining the profound changes that were taking place in the Sulu-Mindanao region and elsewhere, this paper creates an ethnohistorical framework for understanding the emerging inter-connected patterns of global commerce, long-distance maritime raiding and the formation and main tenance of ethnic identity. I begin by tracing the evolution of Iranun maritime raiding from its late eighteenth century origins to support the English supplies of tea from China, into the nineteenth century's systematic, regional-based slaving and marauding activity (Warren 1981: 149-214). I then draw out the implications of that evolution for colonial systems of domination, development, and discourse in the context of trans-oceanic trade, cross-cultural commerce, and empire building.

For several centuries, the Sulu-Mindanao region has been known for "piracy." In the early nineteenth century, entire ethnic groups--Iranun and Balangingi--specialized in state-sanctioned maritime raiding, attacking Southeast Asian coastal settlements and trading vessels sailing for the fabled Spice Islands, or for Singapore, Manila and Batavia. When people think of slavery in Southeast Asia, they rightly imagine tens of thousands of people stolen from their villages across the region and sent directly to work the large fisheries and wilderness reserves of the Sulu Sultanate. The insatiable demands of the sultanate for labor to harvest and procure exotic natural commodities, such as sea cucumbers and birds' nests, reached a peak in the first half of the nineteenth century as the China trade flourished (Warren 1998a: 39-45). In this new globalized world, Job, Balangingi, Canton and London were all intimately inter-connected. A major feature of this emerging global economy was that over two hundred years ago, Eu rope and the then-emerging markets of East and Southeast Asia were tangled in a commercial and political web that was in many ways just as global as today's world economy. Yet, another characteristic of late eighteenth and nineteenth century globalization was that it went hand in hand with degeneration and fragmentation. Even as economies of traditional trading states, such as Sulus, integrated, others, for example, the Sultanates of Brunei and Cotabato, disintegrated, while regional populations across Southeast Asia were fragmented, scattered and re-located in the process. This paper takes note of the massive forced migrations of the unfortunate mass of captives and slaves caught in the cogs of the Sulu economy, which shaped the destiny and demographic origins of the Iranun and Balangingi; and the overall population trends and settlement patterns of much of the Philippines and Eastern Indonesia well into the end of the nineteenth century.

Lanun. The name struck fear into the hearts and minds of riverine and coastal populations across Southeast Asia nearly two centuries ago. Also, recently, ethnohistorical research has shown that where Iranun or Lanun maritime raiding is concerned, old traditions die hard. The terrors of the sudden harsh presence of these well-armed alien raiders live on in the oral recollections, reminiscences, popular folk epics and dramas of the victims' descendants in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, to this day (Frake 1998: 41-54; Sandin 1967: 63-65, 127; Warren 1998a: 44). Only in this one part of the globe, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, did Europeans find "piracy" flourishing extensively; pursued as a vocation or calling, not by individuals, as was the case with most of those who had followed the profession of buccaneering in the West, but by entire communities and states with whom it came to be regarded as the most honorable course of life--a profession.

The Iranun were frequently the enemies of every community and nation from the Bird's Head Coast of New Guinea and the Moluccas (among the most productive spice islands of the Netherlands East Indies) to mainland Southeast Asia. Over two centuries ago, a Buginese writer chronicled that "Lanun" in double-decked prahus up to 90 or 100 feet long, rowed by perhaps one hundred slaves and armed with intricately wrought swivel-cannon cast in bronze, were plundering villages and robbing Malay fishers in the Straits of Malacca and the Riau Islands. Among other victims of their marauding were the coastal inhabitants and fishers of Thailand and Vietnam (Ahmad 1982). They also raided in the Philippines, where the central and northern sections of the archipelago were under the control of Spain (Warren 1981: 147-56, 165-81). Iranun squadrons regularly plundered villages and captured slaves. Their exploits and conquests had the immediate effect of both disrupting and destroying traditional trade routes. Chinese junks and tra ders were driven off from states such as Brunei and Cotabato, the former masters of the Iranun, robbing parts of the archipelago of the traditional trade and exchange of spices, birds' nests, camphor, rattans, and other items (Warren 1981: 152-53). The Iranun earned a fearsome reputation in an era of extensive world commerce and economic growth between the West and China. Writing in the late 1840s, the Dominican chronicler and public intellectual, Francisco Gainza, described the fearless maritime populations that lived along the eastern shore of Illana Bay, South Mindanao, who called themselves "Iranun":

This large population, designated by some geographers with the name of the Illana [Iranun] Confederation, in reality does not form a single political body except to defend its independence when it is found threatened.... They live loaded with weapons; they reside in dwellings artfully encircled by barricades...and they maintain their bellicose spirit by continuously engaging in robbery and theft. Through piracy they strive to gather slaves for aggrandizement and to provide their subsistence.... In short, this particular society can only be considered a great lair of robbers, or a nursery for destructive and ferocious men (Bernaldez 1857: 46-47).

For late eighteenth and nineteenth century Europeans, the problems of Iranun and Balangingi marauding and slave-raiding were complicated by their diverse modes of operation and geography. Whatever the exact cause(s) for the sudden advent of largescale, long-range Iranun maritime raiding, the geographical setting and opportunity or timing were right for these emergent seafaring peoples. The innumerable islands of Southeast Asia had been home to generations of people of "Malay" origin who had progressively converted to Islam from the fifteenth century, and engaged in trading, raiding and warfare before the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century. Early western explorers, travelers, and merchants recorded their exploits. More than two centuries later, at the height of the China tea trade, marauding and maritime slave-raiding were still going strong; stronger than ever before. The greatest threat to seaborne traders and the coastal populace came from the Iranun who operated from the mangrove-lined inlets, b ays, and reef-strewn islets in the waters around the southern Philippines and Borneo, especially the Sulu and Celebes seas. They preyed on an increasingly rich shipping trade of the Spanish, Dutch and English, and of Bugis and Chinese merchants, and seized their cargoes of tin, opium, spices, munitions, and slaves as the merchants headed to and from the trading centers of Manila, Makassar, Batavia, and Penang. (1)

Expeditions sent against the raiders promised no lasting results because the points to which they could retire were innumerable, and often off the charts. The Spanish officer, Don Jose Maria Halcon, in providing naval intelligence about Iranun and Balangingi "piracy" to an English officer at Manila in 1838, compared their haunts to extensive "nests or banks of rats" where they could fly from one refuge to another with impunity (Blake to Maitland, 13 August 1838: 4). Europeans, he believed, could never succeed in annihilating them. A decade earlier, Edward Presgrave, Registrar of Imports and Exports at the newly founded British settlement of Singapore, astutely pointed out one of the major reasons why Iranun maritime raiding was concentrated in that particular region of the world. He noted with some trepidation, "that piracy does exist to a very great extent even in the neighbourhood of our settlement is notorious ... the most casual view of a chart of these seas is sufficient to convince anyone that no corner of the globe is more favourably adapted for the secure and successful practice of piracy" (Presgrave to Murchison, December 5, 1828). Hence, geography as destiny was a sinister friend of the Iranun and Balangingi.

An ethnohistorically enigmatic case, the rise of Iranun-Balangingi raiding requires contextualizing within a cross-regional hemispheric framework. The period at the end of the eighteenth century was commonly recognized in Southeast Asian waters as the "Age of the Iranun." For seventy years or more, the fiercely independent raiders sallied forth from their bases in the Sulu and Celebes seas, and other parts of the archipelago, to prey upon the burgeoning inter-continental traffic sailing between Europe, India, and China, and the regional traffic from Penang and the ports of Batavia and Makassar to the east. The coasts of Borneo, Sumatra, and Sulawesi harbored Iranun communities that specialized in the trade. But Iranun raiders continued to think of Mindanao and Sulu as their homeland and main bases. An ethnohistory of the late eighteenth century which focuses on the Iranun as maritime raiders or "Malay pirates" does not, for the most part, fit into conventional categories of historical analysis in the study of Southeast Asia. The Iranun-Balangingi presence in that critical half-century was so bound up with world capitalist developments in Southeast Asia as to be almost inseparable, especially between the time of the establishment of the trading outpost of Penang in 1786, and the destruction of Balangingi in 1848. Similarly, the Sulu Sultanate's role is not intelligible if it is simply represented as a "pirate" state, the major haunt and outfitting center of the Iranun. Nor can it be divorced intelligibly from global-local trade and economic growth between the West and Asia in the era of "regional time" under consideration here (Warren 1998a: 9-12, 39-49, 58-64).

As in the case of my book, The Sulu Zone 1768-1898, the only solution is to develop a more nuanced framework based on global-local interconnections and inter-dependencies within which Iranun-Balangingi slave-raiding and marauding can be properly situated. Hence, in the case of the Sultanates of Cotabato and Sulu, cross-cultural trade and exchange involving China and the West and other related interactions may be seen to be major causative factors in the Iranun's sudden ascendancy, and in how and why the Sulu Zone developed its particular social and cultural forms. Greater scope must be created for understanding internal social and cultural transformation(s) and inter-regional relations, as expressed in the form of common events, entangled commodities, patterns of consumption and desire and the construction of ethnicities, thereby linking slavery and slave-raiding to the impact of capitalism and colonialism, and the rise of the Iranun. In this study, this viewpoint will be a fundamental frame of reference. No ethnic group, even those as apparently misunderstood as the Iranun and Balangingi, can be studied in isolation from the maritime world(s) around and beyond them (Warren 1978: 477-90). This ethnohistory of these "Malay pirates" will add to our view of how the maritime societies in which they lived took shape, and provide a better understanding of the cultural geographies and maritime spaces of the Southeast Asian world as a whole--as it was progressively integrated into the modern world system.

Impact: Cultures in Conflict

At the end of the eighteenth century, the Iranun raids had a great, indeed, decisive, impact on Southeast Asia. The Iranun and Balangingi have been rightly blamed for demographic collapse, loss of agricultural productivity, and economic decline, as well as the break-up of the Dutch stranglehold in the Straits of Malacca and Eastern Indonesia. But, the driving force for this terrifying process was still global and economic: the Iranun profited from Spanish, Dutch and English internal colonial problems and expansion, but were not the cause of these problems. The Iranun usually came a poor second to the great power rivalries and concerns in the priorities of the Dutch and British colonial rulers, and they were sometimes even welcomed as allies in their macro-contact warfare and regional struggles (Warren 1981: 162). Until 1848, colonial measures taken against the Iranun and Balangingi were often perceived by colonized subjects in the Netherlands Indies and the Philippines to be half-hearted. At the end of the ei ghteenth century, by demonstrating the ineffectiveness of Dutch and Spanish power, the Iranun were hastening its decline.

What exactly was the motivation of Iranun marauding and slave-raiding and what were the underlying causes? Was it simply the lure of booty and slaves, or were there deeper motives that encouraged so many lranun-Maranao and Samal-speaking males to embark on a life of roving and plunder? Iranun maritime raiding proved economically and politically useful in the global-regional competition between local Malayo-Muslim states and European maritime powers--powers that did not hesitate to channel considerable naval and military equipment into it through key entrepot such as Cotabato and Sulu. European diplomats had little success in separating global-regional trade from warfare in the eastern hemisphere and wars continued throughout the Asian region. Indeed, because it was usually the weaker naval power, the English East India Company resorted to Iranun privateering for commerce raiding against its Dutch counterpart. It is not widely recognized that the Iranun played leading roles in a region-wide drama of many acts that pitted colonial expansionist forces against one another as they attempted to establish political and commercial hegemony in Southeast Asia--in the Straits of Malacca, around the coasts of Borneo, and especially among the smaller islands beyond Sulawesi. Feeling the Iranun squeeze, the Dutch East Indies Company evacuated the bulk of their forces from Riau just opposite the Singapore-Johore coast; an area which "Lanun" raiders conquered from the Dutch in 1787 (Matheson 1973: 583-87; Riouw, 1787-1788: 20/3).

An analysis of Iranun raiding highlights the fact that most attacks took place in the waters of local principalities and developing colonies--ports, towns, and villages--close to the coast. Slave taking and theft were the main motives. Their mobility, kinship, and diplomatic connections, and their capability to either protect or disrupt trade, enabled the Iranun to forge regional-wide links, a powerful fluid political confederation of sorts, that could make or break local states and destroy regional trade networks and population centers (Warren 1981: 150-51; Mednick 1965: 47). James Brooke, the self-styled White Rajah of Sarawak, who was an arch political rival and sworn enemy of the Iranun, interviewed the commanders of an "Illanun" fleet in 1841. He remonstrated "with them on the crime of piracy," and described their wide ranging piratical exploits as a "devastating system" (Brooke to Stanley, October 4, 1852).

In Sulu, the ethonhistorian can see at work the same extrinsic factors that had given rise to "piracy" and slave-raiding elsewhere around the region. But here they play themselves out in the "zone" in a somewhat different manner, owing to specific cultural-ecological factors and socio-political circumstances which arose from well-established patterns of ethnic inter-relations, stratification, and mobility. The Iranun and Balangingi needed a primary center from which to operate, somewhere to hide, and a means of converting their "spoils," namely slaves, into common purpose currency in the form of "modern" trade commodities--especially firearms and textiles. To be successful, they also required a degree of cooperation from various indigenous rulers and colonial powers, or at least for local authorities on the spot to sometimes turn a blind eye and not take effective action.

At the end of the seventeenth century, the Dutch, a new global maritime power, emerged along the cold grey coasts of the North Sea to challenge the mercantile supremacy of both the Spanish and the English throughout the ensuing centuries (Boxer 1973; Glamman 1958; Blusse 1986). The larger international rivalries of these colonial powers--principally the British and Dutch--culminated in a protracted struggle for commercial dominance in the seas of Southeast Asia as both nations were inevitably drawn into the macro-contact wars of the eighteenth century. In this context, international economic and political considerations were often hidden from view within the larger confidential diplomatic manoeuvrings of the Great European powers and their respective trading cartels.

What, for instance, can be made of the activities of the late eighteenth century English country traders? The powerful British East India Company of the period was instrumental in introducing a tacit system, dominated by both the indiscriminate sale of arms and opium and intelligence gathering, to assist the Bengal Company against its Dutch and Asian competitors (Furber 1951: 160; Parkinson 1937: 141; Greenberg 1951: 16; Singh 1966: 1-3). The picture that emerges of Southeast Asia toward the end of the eighteenth century is one of a vast entrepot for the China trade and for foreign influence over almost every aspect of life including politics, economics, religion, and the social fabric. A large proportion of the population, including women, in Sulu, Brunei, Cotabato, Bone, Aceh, and elsewhere across the archipelago, were drawn into the international Chinese market economy. Important trade decisions were based on analyses of economic and political intelligence culled from Europe as well as ships' logs and jou rnals of private English country traders who were circulating wealth and sowing seeds of discontent in the farthest outposts of the Dutch trading empire. As the small states of the fabled spice islands struggled to stand up to the Dutch (with their own political and economic bloc), the British East India Company took advantage of political instability, production shortages and sustained losses in one area--Sulawesi and the Moluccas--to eliminate the Dutch as competitors, while profiting in another--the Straits of Malacca.

European commercial expansion and geo-political rivalry at the end of the eighteenth century promoted the international trade of Sulu and its Bornean dependencies, and made the Iranun "piracy" what it was. In the late 1780s, the Dutch East India Company was at its lowest ebb. The appearance of English East India Company "country traders," like Thomas Forrest, paved the way for the eventual British takeover because of the contacts they established with local rulers in the Moluccas, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Mindanao, and Sulu (Forrest 1779). As the eighteenth century ended, the activities of Forrest and his fellow ship captains trading in war stores, coupled with the growing numbers of dreaded Iranun, meant an inevitable increase in shipping losses with yet more coastal raids throughout the Moluccas, the Celebes Sea, and the Malacca Straits.

However, had Iranun mercenaries always operated according to the dictates of the English, the tacit "privateering" system of sorts might well have functioned in the interest of the British and local Malay rulers. In practice, Iranun raiders proved too difficult to control, and, once away from the semi-official representatives of various Malayo-Muslim states, their raiding and plundering was frequently indiscriminate. They tended also to prey on the ports, towns and vessels of so-called friendly European nations, not just those of the "enemy," as Francis Light, the founder of the British East India Company factory and settlement at Penang, learned, much to his dismay, in the early 1790s, and as did his counterparts in the Moluccas a decade later (Light to G.G., 22 December, 1790; Clodd 1948: 75; Bonney 1971: 90-92).

To the Spanish, the Iranun, irrespective of whether there were war or peace around the globe, were simply the archenemy --"moros," "piratas," and "contrabandistas" (Warren 1998b: 3: 39; Frake 1980: 3 14-18; Mallari 1986: 257). However, because of Spain's involvement in the Seven Years War, the British invaded Manila in 1762. Taking full advantage of British intervention and friendship, Cotabato and Sulu-based Iranun maritime raiding increased. Avid for the gunpowder weapons of the English, which were readily obtained at Jolo, the Iranun descended on coastal settlements throughout the central and northern parts of the Philippines, and even ventured inland, to pillage and burn churches and towns. Rampaging from one end of the archipelago to the other, they carried out "a pattern of tragedy so recurrent as to become almost tedious" (Owen 1984: 27), as particular communities were repeatedly battered with a vengeance. The Iranun preyed upon cargo-laden sailing vessels, government merchantmen, and cruisers, disrupt ing inter-island and regional trade, and they turned Philippine waters into a vast Muslim lake. Between 1762 and 1848, no one in the Philippines was safe because of the global geopolitical drama that had begun to unfold in a series of acts involving the Seven Years War, Britain's entry into the China market, the sudden rise of the Sulu Sultanate as a redistributive entrepot for the Canton trade, and the widespread advent of the Iranun slavers (Warren 1998a: 9-19; 1981: 252-55). A Spanish writer described the wholesale misery inflicted over the next eighty-six years by the Iranun on the inhabitants of the archipelago as a chapter in the history of Spain in the Philippines "written in blood and tears and nourished in pain and suffering" (Fernandez 1979: 203).

Certainly no ethnohistory of the Iranun and Balangingi since the late eighteenth century, no description of the meaning and constitution of their "cultures," and no anthropologically informed historical analysis of the transformation of their societies can be undertaken without reference to the advent of the China tea trade and the rise of the Sulu Sultanate; and the integral role in both those processes of Iranun and Balangingi slave-raiding--a role which was so forcefully felt by most indigenous groups in island Southeast Asia. Yet, despite their major historical importance, the Iranun and Balangingi, the infamous "moros" still remain among the least known and most misunderstood ethnic groups in the modern history of Southeast Asia.

While there are occasional references to them in earlier histories, travel accounts, and official reports, recent historians have had to burrow deeper and deeper into the sources at the Archivo de Indias, the Rijksarchief, the Public Records Office, and various archives in Southeast Asia, especially the Philippine National Archive, in order to reconstruct a detailed ethnohistorical account of these maritime peoples and their relationships to one another. As I have shown in The Sulu Zone 1768-1898, sources are of critical importance, but they are of little value unless the historian knows what to do with them (Warren 1998a: 51-58). The main impetus for fashioning a new understanding of the Iranun and Balangingi past has been the radical change in perspective that some historians have adopted to study the region's recent history and its continuing integration within the world capitalist economy. These changes in perspective attempt to combine the historiographical approaches and ideas of the Annales historians with the conceptual framework of world system theorists and solid ethnography (Burke 1990; Baran 1957; Frank 1978; Wallerstein 1974). Here, I pay particular attention to the path-breaking book Eric Wolf wrote in the early 1980s, Europe and the People Without History (1982). Wolf argues that no community or nation is or has been an island, and the world, a totality of interconnected processes or systems, is not, and never has been, a sum of self-contained human groups and cultures. The modem world-system, as it developed, never confined global capitalism to the political limitations of single states or empires. Wolf's postulations, if accepted, imply that an analysis of global capitalism not limited to the study of single states or empires will be more complete and, in certain ways, less static. The point is that history consists of the interaction of variously structured and geographically distributed social entities which mutually reshape each other. The transformation of Britain and China and the rise of th e Iranun in modem Southeast Asian history cannot be separated: each is the other's history.


The change in perspective(s) to which I have been referring has also meant moving away from the "Eurocentric" history which had been practiced by colonial and postcolonial historians. This perspective was first challenged as early as the 1930s by J.C. Van Leur, who advocated an "Asia-centric" history of Southeast Asia (Van Leur 1967). By the mid 1950s. in the new histories being written, despite some historians following Van Leur's direction-a direction in which the Iranun and Balangingi could have been seen as subjects worthy of consideration in their own right-the marauders still tended to fade into the background in the face of the European presence. In reviewing the writing of these new historians on the "Malay" or "moro" system of raiding, trading, slavery and political organization, it is apparent that beginning with the latter part of the eighteenth century, the Iranun and Balangingi world was still usually "observed from the deck of the ship, the ramparts of the fortress, and the high gallery of the t rading-house" and consequently, this world remained "grey and undifferentiated" (Van Leur 1967: 153, 261).

In the early 1980s, publication of The SuZu Zone 1768-1898 enabled us to begin to understand the momentous changes which took place in the Mindanao-Sulu region and across Southeast Asia at the end of the eighteenth century. And whereas colonial officials and historians had seen the marauding of the Iranun and Balangingi throughout the island world as evidence of the decadence and decline of the Sulu Sultanate, their activities can now be viewed as an integral part of the Sultanate's economic vitality, as a major participant in the world capitalist economy, as they were drawn into contact with the West and the China trade. The numerous islands of the Sulu archipelago and coastal stretches of Southeast Asia were home to generations of Iranun and Balangingi "pirates" several centuries ago; their exploits were recorded by Spanish, Dutch and English naval officers, colonial officials, friars and merchant traders, and were often woven, myth-like, into the fabric of local folk tales and colonial national histories. These memories and histories commemorated attempts to "eradicate" the great Muslim threats of "piracy" and slavery and invariably failed to place Iranun maritime raiding activity in a proper context. Past and present historians of the colonial period, in considering the Iranun-Balangingi slave raids, have uncritically adopted the interpretation perpetrated by interests "on the right side of the gunboat" (Warren 1981:147). They have relied heavily on sources inherently antagonistic to the nature of the society and values of the Iranun and Samal raiders, such as the hostile accounts of the Spanish friars, the printed reports of Dutch and English punitive expeditions, and Sir Stamford Raffles' and James Brooke's influential reports on "Malay Piracy." In these Euro-centered histories, which dwell on the activity of the Iranun and Balangingi at length, the term "piracy" is conspicuously present in the titles (Barrantes 1878; Bernaldez 1857; Montero y Vidal 1894-1895; Tarling 1963).

In an effort to lay out the wide-ranging activities of these sea raiders--activities which extended from the Bay of Bengal to the Timor and Arafura seas--and to outline the structural lines of the basic system of social and political organization which united them, it is necessary to piece together a description of their way of life from a variety of sources. These include travelers' accounts, like that of Thomas Forrest, the captivity narratives of Ebenezer Edwards and Luis de Ibanez y Garcia, and oral recollections, as well as the vitally important statements or testimonio of fugitive captives and Iranun and Balangingi prisoners (Parliamentary Papers, 1851, Vol. LVI, PG. I [1390]; de Groot, 112-113; Rutter 1986: 45-48; Ibanez y Garcia 1859; Warren 1981: 297-98, 299-315). The captivity narratives of Ebenezer Edwards and Luis de Ibanez y Garcia with the Balangingi, while highlighting motif images of the "lanun" and "moros" as barbaric and uncivilized, also contain important personal introductions to the subje ct of captivity itself, and to the raiders' warlike activities. Significantly, Luis de Ibanez y Garcia, who traveled with the celebrated Balangingi leader, Taupan, nine years after the destruction of his people's stronghold at Balangingi, offers a bird's-eye view of how his small band of seafarers roamed the Visayan Sea in search of slaves, plunder, and, revenge. The historical record rarely provides us with sufficient insight into the career and fate of individual leaders like Taupan, who achieved lasting fame through his daring exploits, travels and stubborn resistance against Spanish warships. (2) However, the orally transmitted local history of such men in the Mindanao-Sulu region also provides the historian with additional rare information about their activities and followers, and detailed knowledge about aspects of global-local trade and slave-raiding.

The historian can, by also studying the statements of fugitive captives and captured slave raiders, comprehend the forces that shaped the way of life of the Iranun and Balangingi in the early nineteenth century and explore the uprooted lives and fate of those captured and enslaved. The statements of the fugitive captives [cautivos fugados] carry a self-affixed stamp of authenticity. Most statements and captivity narratives have a first person observer-narrator--an authentic voice of experience--attempting to present a narrative that usually shows similarities with other accounts dealing with the same subject(s), such as the dominant ways of organizing maritime life, slave-raiding and marauding, and the forms and allocation of labor and whether these fit into a widely accepted social and cultural pattern. Spanish and Dutch naval officers and colonial administrators, in their interrogations, invariably dealt in part one with the biography and circumstances of capture, the "event" or "plot," which usually pivote d or turned on seizure by the sea raiders or a shipwreck. The second part was generally descriptive, recounting the captivity experience and the social organization of raiding from the inside," drawing a broader sketch of the society and culture of the Iranun and Balangingi (Warren 1998a: 33-35).

However, Haraway warns the historian about the difficulties of assembling an ethnohistorical mosaic from sources such as specific statements of fugitive captives and slave raiders and the danger of "appropriating the vision of the less powerful while claiming to see from their positions" (Haraway 1991: 191). In other words, the historian must question the authority of these statements and narratives regarding insistence on "truth" and the exercise of historical representation. What is of central concern here is the historiographical issue and problem of how to create a point of entry or angle of vision from below, and whether a historian can resurrect voice(s) and/or reconstruct the world(s) of maritime raiders and slaves, employing a nuanced ethnohistorical methodology (Warren 1998a: 51-58; 1998c: 183-199).

Framing and Representation

I now want to shift the discussion away from the sources to the historiographical problem of "Malay piracy" and the issue of historical representation. The heartland of "piracy" in Southeast Asia has been considered for centuries to be in the waters around the southern Philippines and Borneo, especially the Sulu and Celebes seas. The various Malayo-Muslim peoples who dominated the archipelago flanking mainland Southeast Asia, including what is now the southern Philippines, the east Malaysian state of Sabah, and the Sultanate of Brunei, engaged in maritime raiding and warfare before the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century. But it was the intrusion of these alien traders, Christian missionaries and colonizers--the Spaniards in the Philippines, the British along the coasts of Malaya and later, North Borneo, the Portuguese and then the Dutch in the East Indies (now Indonesia)--that, because of their fatal impact in destroying traditional trade routes and triggering commercial decline, seemingly created a kind of pirate cult. Nicholas Tarling, the principal advocate of the decay and decline theory, described it in these terms:

The old empires decayed, but were not replaced, and within their boundaries marauding communities appeared, led by adventurous sharifs, or deprived aristocracies, or hungry chiefs. The invasion of the Europeans did not destroy the native states, but it destroyed the dynamic of the state system; it reduced the old capitals from splendour to poverty and their chiefs from heroism to ambivalence, from constructiveness to stagnation (Tarling 1963: 8).

This historical representation of the character, culture, and place of "Malay piracy" in the history of the Sulu Sultanate was widely accepted until quite recently. Most Spanish, British and Dutch colonial and post-colonial studies examined the history of European policy towards the Sulu Zone rather than the history of the zone itself, with its global-local interconnections and interdependencies. In particular, historians, of whom Nicholas Tarling and Cesar Majul are the most notable, have studied in great detail both British and Spanish efforts to suppress Sulu "piracy" (Majul 1973). Unlike his colonial predecessors, Tarling questioned the use of the term "piracy" to describe the slave-raiding and marauding activities of the Iranun and Balangingi. He suggested that in the eyes of those who pursued it, marauding came to be regarded as an honorable activity. But this somewhat tentative shift in viewpoint added little to our understanding of the place of slave-raiding in the statecraft and social structure of t he Sulu Zone. Tarling conformed to the theory handed down from Raffles and Brooke that "piracy," the stealthy nemesis of free trade and British dominion, was a sign of decay and decline in the Malayo-Muslim world, and that various Sultans and chiefs had turned to marauding because their traditional local-regional trading activities and networks had been disrupted by the growing commercial strength and interference of Europeans. Aspiring empire builders, such as Stamford Raffles and James Brooke, had every reason to characterize the neighboring territories they hoped to rule or dominate in trade as areas of decadence, turmoil and decline, and whether or not they were sympathetic to colonial rule, later historians generally tended to adopt their view uncritically.

In the case of the historiography of the Sulu Sultanate, the Raffles' view was first seriously challenged by Anne Reber who traced the genesis of a historical misconception about British writings on "Malay piracy" with particular reference to Sulu. She argued that the commercial expansion of the English East India Company into China, with the likes of Dalrymple, Rennell and Forrest fanning out over the eastern archipelago in search of suitable commodities for the Canton market, brought with it a pronounced shift to sponsored marauding in the Sulu archipelago (Reber 1966). In other words, by the end of the eighteenth century, it was European trade linked to China, and the insatiable desire for tea-a singular Chinese commodity--that made Iranun and Balangingi maritime raiding what it was. Tarling maintained that this global economic expansion, "scarcely reached these piratical regions, despite the efforts of Alexander Dalrymple and others" (Tarling 1963: 9). More recently, I have shown the inextricable relation ships between maritime slave-raiding, the economic and social structure of the Sulu Zone, and its global-regional links to the world capitalist economy (Warren 1981: XI-XVI, 252-255; 1998a: 9-24; 5864). Whereas Tarling and others had seen the marauding of the Iranun and Balangingi throughout Southeast Asia as evidence of decadence of the Sulu Sultanate, slave-raiding can now be read as an integral part of the sultanate's remarkable economic activity with the West and China. Iranun and Balangingi marauding was not the result of some sort of "decay." Indeed, I demonstrated that the Sulu Zone was an area of great economic vitality. This vitality was based on global-local links to the China trade. Commodities--marine and jungle products found within the zone--were highly desired on the Canton market, and, as Sulu chiefs prospered through regulation of the redistributive economy, they required more and more labor to collect and process these products. It was the Iranun and Balangingi, clients of the Sultan of Sulu , who roamed about the island world in their swift raiding boats, finding slaves to meet this burgeoning labor demand. In the context of the world capitalist economy and the advent of the China trade, it should be understood that the slave-raiding activities of the Iranun and Balangingi, so readily condemned in blanket terms as "piracy" by European colonial powers and later historians, were a means of consolidating the economic base and political authority of the Sultan and coastal chiefs of Sulu, and which functioned as an integral, albeit critical, part of the emerging statecraft and socio-political structure(s) of the zone. Thus, viewed from within the Sulu world of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the term "piracy" is difficult to sustain. However, in its practical devastating effects, particularly when Iranun and Balangingi attacks were systematically directed against colonial coastal settlements and shipping, the Spanish, Dutch and English authorities could hardly be blamed for reacting to it in these terms, despite, from the late eighteenth century onwards, the word itself being bound up with larger colonial strategic implications and resonances.

A different sort of "decline theory" was proposed by Cesar Majul, and others following him, with respect to the history of the Magindanao (Cotabato) and Sulu Sultanates. For a period of four centuries, the Spanish attempted to colonize and Christianize Mindanao and areas of the Sulu Archipelago. The earliest Spanish officials and friars referred to the various major ethnic groups--Tausug, Magindanao, Iranun and Balangingi--as "moros." Frake notes that the word "moro," both in Spanish and in languages spoken by Philippine Christians, quickly became not only a religious label but an ethnic one as well; a label for social identity to which cultural behaviors, especially a propensity for "piracy," and even physical features could be ascribed (Frake 1980: 314-18; 1998, 42-43).

The pejorative label "moro" provided a major intellectual and spiritual justification for Spanish retaliation and religious incursion against Mindanao and Sulu over the ensuing four centuries. Until recently, it was associated with ignorance, depravity and treachery. The label "moro," by turning history into myth, in a struggle between civilization and "savagism," connoted Muslim people(s) in the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao, who were considered in the eyes of most Spaniards and Filipinos to be savages or demons, and pirates and slavers (Warren 1998b: 39). Thus, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, Spaniards and others viewed Sulu's relations with Spain in the Philippines in terms of a pseudo-historical cycle, the "moro-wars cycle," according to which "moro-piracy" led to the repeated enslavement and humiliation of Christian Filipinos, which in turn called for some form of consistent retaliation at once "punitive, imperial, and morally imperative" (Kejeb 1982: 346).

Majul in his arguably classic, The Muslims in the Philippines, reiterated this version of cultural confrontation and "Sulu piracy" while romanticizing it to a certain extent as a holy war--jihad--between the "moros" and the Iberian infidel invaders, who slaughtered their kith and kin and blasphemed their sacred faith (Majul 1973: 107-3 16). Though religious zealotry verging on fanaticism certainly existed in both camps, such an overall interpretation remains too simplistic to account for the dynamic of cultural-ecological transformation and the multi-faceted changes that occurred in the Mindanao-Sulu region over more than four centuries. It says little about the political economy and social organization of "moro" maritime raiding in general, or Iranun and Balangingi slave-raiding in particular, and the processes of engagement with world commerce and economic growth. Iranun and Balangingi marauding at the end of the eighteenth century, as has already been noted, was primarily a consequence of the onset of the China trade and never was a strictly Islamic enterprise. It was heavily commanded by Philippine and "Malay" renegades in search of fortune and a new way of life, and it used many European merchants, including Spaniards, for intermediaries who frequently traded war stores for the spoils and deployed the captives' ransom money and labor for their private commerce.

Hence, two perspectives have dominated the historiography of the Sulu Zone and have tended to obscure the complex but integrated patterns of global-regional trade, maritime raiding and slavery. On the one hand, the "decay theory" has presented Iranun and Balangingi marauding as a symptom of the decline of traditional trade and the fragmentation of the kerajaan or negara, the Malayo-Muslim maritime state. On the other, Sulu slave-raiding is interpreted within the framework of the "moro wars" cycle as retaliation against Spanish colonial incursion and Christianity--a holy confrontation.

Both perspectives have underestimated and misunderstood the precise relationship between slavery, the advent of Iranun and Balangingi maritime raiding and the rise of the Sulu Sultanate in the years between 1768 and 1848, all set within the wider framework of the intersections of the world capitalist economy, involving both China and the West when Sulu became a crucial part of the global economic system.

Ethnicity, "Culture," and History

Global-regional trade spawned slavery in the Sulu Zone. The enormous increase in external trade which affected state formation and economic integration made it necessary to import captives from outside the zone to bolster the labor force population. As commodities from China, Europe and North America flowed to Job, the Tausug aristocrats thrived, and the Iranun and Balangingi, strong, skilled maritime people who were the scourge of Southeast Asia, raiding in 90-foot long prahu, emerged. The sea and tropical forests were the life force of the sultanate, where tens of thousands of banyaga (slaves) labored annually to provide the exotic specialties for the China trade. The arrival of captive slaves on a hitherto unprecedented scale for intensive labor or skilled work, and their gradual "disappearance" through processes of cultural accommodation and incorporation into the lower levels of Tausug and Samal society, was central to the development and expansion of the Sulu state and the redistributive system.

By arguing for a broader global economic perspective, interesting complex questions are raised about what constitutes our conception of "culture." In the period under consideration, while thousands of captive people were allocated throughout the zone each year as slaves, the borderlines of race, "culture," and ethnicity were increasingly blurred by the practice of incorporation and pluralism. I maintain in The Sulu Zone 1768-1898 that the Tausug and Samal not only lived in an increasingly interdependent world but that they also lived in an emergent multi-ethnic society, the multicultural inhabitants of which came from many parts of eastern Asia and elsewhere in the world. How are identities--single or multiple--forged? What symbols, rituals and perceptions create a strong sense of collective identity? The traditional assumption of a "culture" as enduring over time despite outward changes in people's lives and value orientations is both "empirically misleading and deeply essentialist" (Keesing 1991: 46). As Ro ger Keesing noted, there is no part of eastern Asia where both the production and reproduction of "culture" and cultural meaning can be characterized as unproblematic, without glossing over or disguising radical changes in relation to ethnicity, power, and hierarchy that have differentially affected states like Sulu and urban-rural settings like the zone (Keesing 1991: 46). In terms of not exaggerating the boundedness, discreteness and homogeneity of a way of life taking shape in the zone at the end of the eighteenth century, I have increasingly recognized the power of language, memory and commodities as symbols in the construction of new identities and communities.

Filling a conspicuous gap in the literature, this aspect of my ethnohistorical research explored the formation and maintenance of ethnicity in light of tightening ties to the global-capitalist economy and the wider world of darul Islam. The question of the conditions under which these new identities were formed, and ethnicity accomplished, creating a semblance of cultural homogeneity throughout the zone, especially in the first half of the nineteenth century, has aroused considerable subsequent interest. I stressed in The Sulu Zone 1768-1898 the inextricable relationship between slave-raiding, forced migration, "homeland" and identity as being critical factors that led to the emergence of new communities and diasporas.

The expression of "ethnicity" was suddenly recognized as being bound up with the accelerating process of global-regional trade, especially in the classic case of the Balangingi Samal. The only historical work which deals with the Balangingi does not consider their ethnic origins (Tarling 1963: 146-85). Avoidance of this question presents a deceptive picture of a static "society" with a homogeneous population. Samal groups in the Sulu archipelago were emergent populations; the success of the Balangingi as slave raiders was due in large measure to their ethnic heterogeneity. Captives' statements present a picture of Samal populations undergoing constant readjustments until 1848. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was an infusion of ethnically diverse captive people among the Balangingi--mostly through demands for their labor on raiding prahus and in the tripang and pearl fisheries--that complicated the identity of the Samal populations.

Many of the captives or slaves who were brought to Balangingi turned Samal--borrowing language, religion, and customs. Insufficient data prevents a precise reconstruction of the overall size and origin of Samal populations at that time. What information there is for the nineteenth century has survived in the statements of fugitive captives; these show that the incorporation of foreign elements took place on a large scale, especially in the second and third generation. In 1836, it was estimated that only one-tenth of the male population were "true" Balangingi Samal; the remainder were renegados (renegades), more particularly Visayan and Tagalog or other captives (Warren 1978: 477-90). The Tausug economy was expanding rapidly enough at this time for the Samal population to absorb larger and larger numbers of captives. An apparently conscious recruitment policy of the datus changed the numerical structure and ethnic composition of Samal groupings in less than two generations (1820-48). Barth considers a 10 per c ent rate of incorporation in a generation drastic (Barth 1969: 22). By those standards, the flexibility of the system was incredible. Village populations in 1836 appear to have risen from just over three hundred people with ten to twelve raiding prahus (garay) at Tunkil, to more than a thousand people, with thirty to forty prahus, at Balangingi. In less than a decade, Balangingi's population roughly quadrupled; in 1845 the village had an estimated four thousand people and 120-150 large vessels. The overall Samal population devoted to slave-raiding reached an upper limit in 1848 often thousand people with two hundred raiding prahus. The consequences of extraordinary economic-demographic growth was the creation of an "emergent" slave-raiding population within the Sulu Sultanate--the Balangingi Samal.

Central to my approach to demographic expansion and the advent of a vast number of newer societies in the Sulu Zone was the notion that "cultures" are dynamic rather than static. Migratory rhythm and population patterns depended significantly on the dynamics of international trade. A population explosion took place in the first half of the nineteenth century, followed by pioneering expansion and settlement in the margins of the zone, the exploitation of the wilderness and marine gardens, and a victory for the Tausug entrepreneurs at the expense of their arch rivals, living from the profit of trade and redistribution. While this model of change is fundamentally economic, ecological and demographic, there is a central place in it for exploring the relationship between these critical factors and the historically specific social and economic contexts in which "culture" is constituted and reinvented across maritime spaces and regional dividing lines.

A cacophony of new sounds, sights, objects and tastes, along with an accelerated, materially oriented life in the Sulu Zone, created a new demand for slaves by the early nineteenth century. The labor power demand was derived, based primarily on a European demand for tea, which Chinese peasants cultivated in the mountains of Fujian (Gardella 1994). Hence, at the same time, there was also an interdependent parallel rising demand for slaves to work in the fisheries and forests of the Sulu Zone. The demands of Europeans and Chinese for exotic commodities like sea cucumbers and birds' nests increased slaving activity among certain groups in the zone who were lords of the sea and skilful warriors. To obtain more guns and ammunition, metal tools, textiles and opium for the Tausug, these maritime marauders had to obtain more and more slaves to collect and process particular commodities to sell to the China tea traders. Thus, there was a rising demand for tea in Europe and a concomitant increase in regional-wide slav e-raiding in Southeast Asia. Tausug datus partially repatterned the life of particular maritime groups to meet the soaring European and Chinese demand, and to gain direct access to western technology and Chinese trade goods.

The efforts of ambitious datus to participate in this burgeoning world-capitalist economy, with its extraordinary profits and markers of differential status and prestige, forced the demand for additional labor up and swelled the flow of global-regional trade. The need for a reliable source of labor power was met by the Iranun and Balangingi Samal, the slave raiders of the Sulu Zone. Indeed, the rapid growth of slave-raiding was to keep pace with Sulus global trade by providing the essential requisite for the continued growth of commodity collection and processing in the zone--labor power. One extraordinary feature of the interconnections between Sulu slave-raiding and the advent of the world-capitalist economy was its rapid movement across the entire region as one Southeast Asian coastal population after another was hunted down. From the end of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth, Southeast Asia felt the full force of the slave raiders of the Sulu Zone. Their harsh exploits were carried ou t on a large scale; with well-organized fleets of large, swift prahus, they navigated along the west coast of Borneo and crossed the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca and the Bay of Bengal. In the south, their raiding vessels thrust through the Makassar Strait and fanned out over the Indonesian world. They crossed the Banda Sea to New Guinea, made raids along the coasts of Java, and circumnavigated Borneo. In pursuit of captives, Iranun and Balangingi terrorized the Philippine archipelago. They preyed on the poorly defended lowland coastal villages and towns of southern Luzon and the Visayan Islands. They even sailed and rowed their warships into Manila Bay; their annual cruises reached the northern extremity of Luzon and beyond. They earned a reputation as daring, fierce marauders who jeopardized the maritime trade routes of Southeast Asia and dominated the capture and transport of slaves to the Sulu Sultanate (Warren 1981: 147-211). Captive people from across Southeast Asia in the tens of thousands were seized by these sea raiders and put to work in the zone's fisheries, in the Sultan's birds' nest caves, or in the cultivation of rice and transport of goods to markets in the local redistributive network. Thus the Sulu state created and reproduced the material and social conditions for the recruitment and exploitation of slaves in the zone. More than anything else it was this source and use of labor power that was to give Sulu its distinctive predatory character in the eyes of Europeans in the nineteenth century as a "pirate and slave state."

Southeast China's tea trade and the global capitalist economy changed the pattern of maritime warfare and economic and social relationships among certain zone populations, increasing its intensity and scope across the region. It led to widespread decimation and displacement of entire populations throughout the Christian Philippines and much of the rest of Southeast Asia. Sulu was primarily an ascendant commercial state, standing at the center of a widely spread redistributive economy. But it was under Tausug sponsorship and in the service of that interdependent global-regional economy that others raided throughout the Malay world. It is worth emphasizing again the powerful economic forces that were pushing the Tausug aristocracy in the direction of acquiring more and more slaves; in the first place, their demands for all kinds of products coming in from external trade had to be satisfied--demands that were constantly increasing. These demands were both a consequence and cause of slavery. In order to trade, it was necessary for the Tausug to have something to give in exchange. Hence the collection and redistribution of produce was dominated by those datus with the largest number of slaves; that is by the Sultan and certain datus on the coast who were most directly involved in Sulus global trade. Secondly, the more dependent Sulus economy was on the labor power of slaves, the larger loomed the question of its supply of slaves. The only way for the Tausug to obtain the commodities which formed the basis of their commerce was to secure more slaves by means of long-distance maritime raiding. In the early nineteenth century the rate of growth of the sultanate's population had not kept pace with its expanding international trade economy. Since it was the labor of slaves that made possible global-regional trade, slavery rose markedly from this time and became the dominant mode of production. This also explains why Job quickly became the principal center in the zone for the importation of slaves and the outfitting of mara uders.

The Sulu Sultanate was successful because it achieved global scale in particular types of commodity production, integrating labor acquisition and allocation-slaving and slavery-commodity production, marketing and other functions on a global-regional scale. The losers in this contest were traditional states and ethnic groups that neither achieved nor specialized on a global-regional scale, but relied on an entrenched position in their local markets for the bulk of their power and profits. This essentially marketdetermined commercial encounter in the latter part of the eighteenth century, as the tangled fateful relationship between Britain, China and Sulu was established, transformed the population and history of Southeast Asia. In their remorseless search for captives and slaves, the Iranun and Balangingi brought the "illegible" maritime spaces, "border arcs" and moving frontiers of the margins of the Malayo-Muslim world, and the various colonial peripheries, home to the centers, striking back at the empire's heart(s) around Batavia and Singapore, in the Straits of Malacca and Manila Bay, and beyond, reaching right across the top of Northern Australia. (3) These fearsome alien marauders originated from areas beyond the pale--unknown "illegible" sites still well outside the reach of colonial dominion. The Iranun and Balangingi profited from the expanding China trade, which they supplied with captives and slaves taken on the high seas and along the shores of Southeast Asia, in return for weapons and luxury goods. These sea raiders--the lords of the eastern seas--were the "shapers," a set of ethnic groups that specialized in longdistance maritime raiding, but did it on a regional scale. This paper also details, albeit briefly, the complexities of relations in the struggle over power and autonomy on the seas, between the maritime Islamic world of the Iranun and Balangingi and the conflicting interests and machinations of the colonial western powers bent on controling the oceans and sea lanes. The paper further demonst rates how a pathology of physical and cultural violence associated with global macro-contact wars and empire building, particularly with political struggles between the English and Dutch in various parts of Southeast Asia, led to widespread conflicts and regional tragedies.

Finally, this brief study of the Iranun and Balangingi also offers a range of insights about the process of ethnic self-definition and

the meaning and constitution of "culture" in the modern world system. The problem of ethnic identity and the formation and maintenance of "cultures" are elusive, complex and contested processes, practices and attributes which defy simple explanations and definitions. This approach to re-presenting the Iranun and Balangingi and their history also provides a possible new conceptual framework for understanding the problem of ethnic self-definition and political processes and conflicts in the recent history and cultural geographies of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

(1.) For an important study of how Southeast Asia became a crucial part of a global commercial system between the fifteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries, see Reid (1993).

(2.) A particularly valuable biographical sketch of Panglima Taupan is provided by Margarita De Los Reyes Cojuangco in her 1993 history of the Samal diaspora, spanning four generations of exiles.

(3.) Jim Scott uses the term "illegible" to define non-state spaces where people can move about with impunity, just out of reach of the State. Non-state spaces generally include swamps, marshes, deltas, reef girdled islets, mountains etc. See Scott (1999).


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