Only a few decades ago, there was not a country in Asia that recognised the existence of specifically and legally defined ‘Indigenous Peoples’. In recent years, however, that has changed, albeit unevenly. The concept of indigeneity is being increasingly accepted, both by governments and the public, although it remains highly controversial, even in countries where it has made some ground legally. For example, in the region we now frequently refer to as ‘Southeast Asia’, the governments of the Philippines and Cambodia now define particular ethnic groups of people as Indigenous, and are providing these groups with particular rights. In other countries in the region, the concept of Indigenous Peoples is still not legally recognised, but there is increasing acceptance of the concept, or at least recognition of it amongst certain groups. Questions related to the proliferation and contested nature of the concept of Indigenous Peoples were addressed during a multidisciplinary workshop organised by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in March 2015. This special issue of the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies is devoted to considering some of the conceptions of indigeneity in Southeast Asia that brought together a group of scholars and activists from various countries in Asia and the United States for the workshop, which was financially supported through a grant provided by Open Society Foundations.
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