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Alice Interview 07 – Alberto Gomes – Maria Paula Meneses – 25/01/2013

Alberto Gomes’s interview discussed at length how indigenous onto-epistemology can contribute to the quest for alternative epistemologies and visions for sustainable futures. In a dialogue with the epistemological project at the heart of ALICE project – the epistemologies of the south – Alberto Gomes advanced some lessons, especially emphasizing the gift of ‘indigenous ontologies in perilous times’: the sacred ecology of indigenous peoples in Malaysia, which will help to radicalize human ecology and their historical consciousness which will assist us to ‘naturalize histories’ and challenge and re-map western historiographies which have detached in truly Cartesian way nature from human history.

Interview in English


Alberto Gomes, a well-known anthropologist,  has been appointed new director of La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue from 2013. Professor Alberto Gomes has taught anthropology at La Trobe since 1990. Widely recognized for excellence in teaching, he has also taught in Malaysia, Finland and Spain. He was the Development Studies Program Coordinator at La Trobe for more than 10 years and Convener of the Sociology and Anthropology Program between 2006 and 2009. His research on the Orang Asli (Malaysian aborigines,) spanning more than 30 years has resulted in numerous articles and three books. He is currently working on the anthropology of civility and on the nexus between equality, sustainability and peace.



  1. Please give us an autobiographical window into your life. Who is Alberto Gomes?
  2. Let us explore your work as an a scholar and as an engaged intellectual. You have produced scholarship that has helped enlighten major paradigm shifts, namely, a greater scrutiny of the premises and simplistic binaries that have undergirded a significant part of the academic and political writing about the ‘indigenous peoples’. Your recent article, ‘alter-native ‘development’: indigenous forms of social ecology’ represents perhaps the most precise guide yet to the way you conceptualize the persistence of a monocultural, hegemonic knowledge produced by western capitalism. As you argue, indigenous communities’ social ecology offer an alternative to development model, involving multiple actors, knowledges and practices, that are usually not valorized. Could you take us through the conceptual maps that unite these diverse bodies of work and show us the intellectual compass, if any, that guides actual work?
  3. Could you explain how your trajectory of as a scholar, as well as on the implications of your shifting institutional locations – in Malaysia, and Australia – have shaped your contribution towards the ‘epistemologies of the south’?
  4. Having been at CES, in Coimbra, and having had the chance to discuss with ALICE’s director, Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s contribution in the filed on North-South cooperation, which lessons do you foresee as important for the global North, including Australia and Europe? Do you think Europe can learn (in the sense that understands its complexity and diversity) from the global South?


  • Gomes, A. G., 2012, ‘Alter-Native ‘Development’: indigenous forms of social ecology’, Third World Quarterly, 33:6, 1059-1073.
  • Lim, T. G.; Gomes, A. G.; Rahman, A. (eds), 2009, Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present and Future. Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre and USCI University.
  • Gomes, A. G., 2007, Modernity and Malaysia: Settling the Menraq forest nomads. London: Routledge.
  • Gomes, A. G.,  2007, ‘Cultural Syncretism, Civility and Religious Diversity in Goa, India’, Suomen Antropologi (Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society), 32(3): 12-24.


Flash mob in the first introductory anthropology lecture by Alberto Gomes at La Trobe University, Australia in February 2011. Watch to the end when all 500+ students dance in unison. Dance routine choreographed by Bollywood dance instructor, Kajal.