Good Human–Turtle Relationships in Indonesia: Exploring Intersecting Legalities in Sea Turtle Conservation

Annet Pauwelussen, Shannon Switzer Swanson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The world of the Bajau in the Asia Pacific is shaped by the entanglement of sea people and sea turtles, sharing spiritual kinship and companionship through their common migratory and amphibious way of life. Over the last decades, sea turtles have also risen to the center of attention of national and international conservation programs, which has spurred legal interventions around sea turtles as endangered wildlife. Articulated as bans on eating and trading turtles and their eggs, these legal interventions have intersected with Bajau claims to their customary right to do so for their livelihood and social-cultural wellbeing. While this complexity of intersecting narratives of justice can be analyzed through the lens of legal pluralism, we critically reflect on the anthropocentric bias that underpins socio-legal scholarship. Drawing from long-term ethnographic research in Indonesia among Bajau fishers and traders, conservationist practitioners, and sea turtles in Indonesia this chapter shows how conflicts over turtle conservation are underpinned by different notions of what a turtle is in relation to the human, which also brings into the picture the turtle itself as a legal object and subject. Feminist and Indigenous perspectives provide inspiration to explore the contours of a more-than-human legality, through a reflexive and political engagement with the question of what is a good human-turtle relationship in situated practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaws of the Sea
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Currents
EditorsIrus Braverman
ISBN (Electronic)9781003205173
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2022


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