This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. The Indonesian island of Batam is exemplary in contemporary debates concerning globalization. While some observers view the creation of economic zones such as Batam as a route to development and improved welfare, others insist that such zones facilitate new forms of inequality that allow multinational corporations to profit at the expense of vulnerable workers. Using three Indonesian concepts—merantau (migration), liar (wild), and malu (shame)—to organize the ethnographic description, the book provides an understanding of Batam not strictly as a place that is “offshore” in relation to Singapore, as part of the Growth Triangle, or even as a case study for export processing zones, but rather as a node in a system of human mobility that is territorially and culturally unbounded and that draws together Indonesian factory workers and prostitutes, Singaporean working-class tourists on Batam, and Indonesian migrant workers in Singapore and Malaysia.
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