An Intimate Journey: Finding Myself Amongst the Sama-Bajau


Aoyama Waka

Kyoto University Press + Trans Pacific Press, 2020

Publisher’s website

About the book: This book offers an answer to the question of how we should best understand the world around us in order to live alongside one another by comprehending and overcoming differences.

This is a dialogic and performative “ethnography of intimacy”, born of the author’s experience of interacting with the six Sama-Bajau families for over two decades since her first encounter with them in the Philippines at the end of the 1990s. The accounts it contains are heart-warming stories that unveil the interior of each character and reveal to the reader how instantaneous and inseparable the past, the present and the future are.

Modern/Western scientific knowledge is built on the tacit premise of orientation toward an integrated self. It observes others by maintaining a certain distance from them and never confuses one’s pain with the pain of others, despite the experience of empathy. In contrast, this book proposes another form of knowledge that engages with others, internalizes part of them, shares their pain and achieves mutual transformation. The author engages with others rather than distancing herself from them and overlaps with others rather than observing them. Her book aspires to achieve the freedom of the Sama-Bajau to challenge the existing order by taking a united stand against their predicaments.

An Intimate Journey invites the reader to take this compelling journey. As they travel through the book, it is hoped that they will reflect on the way they live and reacquaint themselves with their own memories of the past.

About the authorAoyama Waka was a HYI Visiting Scholar from 2013-14.