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Indigenous migrations, Southeast Asia

Migration A–Z


  1. Geoffrey Benjamin

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm583

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Benjamin, G. 2013. Indigenous migrations, Southeast Asia. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Southeast Asia – and the Malay World in particular – is often characterized as the pathway through which the Indo-Pacific region was originally populated. This idea has undoubtedly been influenced by the funnel-like shape of the Malay Peninsula, through which ancient migrants supposedly poured from a heavily populated Asian mainland into a presumptively empty archipelago. One consequence has been the repeated assertion in the popular and semi-scholarly literature since the 19th century that the region has witnessed successive racial “waves” (such as “Negrito,” “Proto-Malay,” “Deutero-Malay”) of north to south migration at intervals of several millennia. The claimed number of such waves has varied with the number of distinct “races” and “cultures” thought of as constituting the ethnically plural character of current Southeast Asian polities. On the basis of this “layer cake” approach, the present-day ethnic and “racial” differences in the region are still often regarded as the unaltered and stratified residue of differential migrations that took place in prehistoric times – a view that continues to be presented in many of the textbooks studied in the region's schools and universities.


  • anthropology;
  • cultural diversity;
  • disease;
  • farming;
  • human evolution;
  • indigenous peoples;
  • linguistics;
  • social change