This chapter describes the historical trajectory through which Batam has been transformed from an obscure island located “between” different centers of commerce and power into a major development project and part of a transnational economic zone. In turn, it maps the changing regional forms of mobility and the transformation of space on Batam, thus beginning to describe the place that the migrants and tourists who are the subjects of this book come to inhabit for a period of time. The chapter uses the stories of two elderly Malay fishermen, Pak Awang Ali and Pak Padil, as starting point for considering the historical transformations that have shaped channels of human mobility in the “Malay world,” a region that encompasses contemporary Malaysia, Singapore, and large parts of Indonesia.
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