BAJO CONFERENCE: International Science Conference of Sea Gipsy

Monday, 8 May 2017 - Monday, 8 May 2017

In 2010, 103 “boat people" entered the sovereign territory of Indonesia through the waters of Berau District, Eastern Kalimantan, from the two neighboring countries of Indonesia, which are Malaysia and Philippines. The results of the KKP team investigation that involved academics identified that the "boat people" are known to be Sea Gypsy (hereinafter referred as "Bajo People”). The large entourage arrived using 16 boats that carried 19 families. They entered the Indonesian territory after being outcasted by the two countries, as they were viewed not eligible for citizenship. Their arrival to Indonesia is not only due to the close distance of the region, but also because of how they considered Indonesia to be highly tolerant of the Bajo Ethnicity, as well as the historical aspect.

Newspaper and electronic media coverage utilized the terminology of "boat people" for the Bajo People and committed of the scientific terminology. The same term has been used for dark immigrants that entered a country through the sea routes. The terminology of "boat people" has even been linked to the refugees of Rohingya, Sudan, Somalia, and some countries that face turmoil in their home state. Social Bachelors also have a number of terms given for the Bajo People, which are: Bajo, Bajau, Sama, Samma (Lapian, 2009), Sea Gipsy (Zacot, 2008), and The Boat People (Warren, 1981).  Some coastal communities in Indonesia also have given differing terms for this particular ethnicity.

Their arrival in massive numbers also caused a moral debate, with the collision of state sovereignty with the historical and humanitarian aspect of the issue. Historically, Bajo People are truly close with the Indonesian, Malaysian, and Phillipinian communities. In the past, Bajo People's ancestors established the partnership with the businessman residing in a number of kingdoms located in the three mentioned countries above, including among them, Kingdom of Sriwijaya, Gowa, and Bone (Indonesia), Malaka and Johor (Malaysia), and Sulu in Phillippines. The results of a history research indicate that their role is the core center of the Kingdom's sea force, leading to the stabilization of maritime security, even during the colonization phase of Asia by Europe (Lapian, 2009). Proof in the form of folklore, whether vocal or mythological, also indicates a historical relation of kinship and authority (Liebner, 2005).

Historians has identified that a number of Bejo People that lived in boats, roamed to places, and became politically loyal to those that have offered protection. They are known for the three primary characteristics. First, as a roaming community that is not bound to a state's sovereign territory. This territorial awareness is based on historical aspects, kinship and ease to attain livelihood. Second, as a fisherman community that is identical with the locations and biota associated with corals. In this category, the Bajo People are viewed as an ambiguous community, environmentally wise yet the source of coral damage. And third, Bajo People is known as a form of de-stabilization of the maritime security. Bajo People are identified as the suspect of crimes especially piracy.

In Indonesia, the Bajo People established settlements in coastal areas and small islands. Some archipelago regions became the center of shelters for the Bajo people, including islands in the National Island of Taka Bonerate, Togian Islands in the Tomini Gulf-Central Sulawesi, Wakatobi Islands in Southeast Sulawesi islands near the East and West Nusa Tenggara, as well as Islands in the Berau District of East Kalimantan. The other small numbers persisted to stay in the shallow waters by building houses near the coral reefs, as what happened in the Bajo Villages in Torosiajie, Gorontalo, Wuring (NTT)  and Wakatobi Islands. The similarities between the two settlement areas are that they are located in rural areas or less crowded, the population of Bajo People is dominant and very close to the locations of coral reefs. The contacts of the Bajo People and other ethnicities has caused transformations especially with the use of machines and fishing tools, as well as their involvement in fish markets, especially coral reef associated commodities. Their capacity in diving and their objective knowledge towards biota and coral reefs but their limitation in understanding production utilities makes them vulnerable of exploitations by irresponsible actors.

The Bajo People has the inherent right to live and seek for livelihood. But the nomadic customs that could not be left behind by the Bajo People establishes problems for the state and inter-state relations. The issues that surface also are complex, including the enumeration number, permanent housings, role of the state in their welfare, and maritime issues, as being the core matters. It is thus essential to discuss the position of Bajo People in the context of modern community. But an introduction to the contemporary motive of living, future orientation and views on the territory of the state are of greater importance.


International Science Conference of Sea Gipsy


The event will be conducted in the form of a one-day seminar on 08 May 2017, in the Swiss Bell-Inn Hotel, Ujung Pandang Road No.8, Makassar, Indonesia.


Specifically, the event is hoped to be able to ignite the intensive study of nomadic communities in the modern context, in particular on the Bajo People. This study is essential to establish clear limitation lines between nomadic communities and refugees, as well as build new perspectives in the socio-cultural context of nomadic communities in the context of state and inter-state relations.


a.       Attain early information related to the contemporary condition of the Bajo community in the perspectives of social, cultural, and political.

b.       Establish constructive discussion to explore the essential issues that can be the basis for future research.

c.       Disseminate the information to academics, government and the general community on the contemporary condition of the Bajo people.

d.       Establish early studies on the Bajo community in the context of modern life.


a.       Conference proceeding.

b.       Chosen articles will be published in Scopus Indexed International Journal.


a.       Prof. Dr. Phillippe Grange (Ethno Linguist, La Rochelle University, France)

b.       Prof. Dr. Nazaruddin Suyuti, M.Si (Anthropologist of Halu Oleo University)

c.       Prof. Nagatsu Kazufumi, Ph.D (Socio-Anthropologist, Toyo University, Japan)

d.       Prof. Dr. Moses Usman (Eco-Linguistic Anthropologist)

e.       Dr. Munsi Lampe, MA (Marine Anthropologist)

f.        Dr. Tasrifin Tahara, M.Si (Politic Anthropologist)

g.       Dr. Abdul Manan (President of Bajo People)

h.       Dr. Chandra Nuraini (Ethno Linguist, La Rochelle University, France)


This event is conducted by the partnership of the Ministry of Maritime Coordination and Universitas Hasanuddin. In the level of conduct, the organizing committee is in full established by Universitas Hasanuddin.