About Us

Case Studies

Bandar Seri Begawan
Brunei Darussalam

Kampung Berangan, Kampung Tamoi, and Kampung Pintu Malim

Neighborhood Responses to Urban Development in Brunei Darussalam 

Emerging Issues 

Brunei Darussalam became a fully independent nation in 1984, almost eight decades after the kingdom accepted its first British Resident in 1906. For several centuries prior, Kampong Ayer, a massive, stilted settlement in the Brunei River, had served as the Bruneian empire’s capital. Bandar Brunei [Brunei Town], later renamed Bandar Seri Begawan in 1970, became the new capital of the kingdom during the British Residency period as part of the cumulative terrestrialization of Bruneian society. Hence, many of the towns and residential areas that make up Brunei’s contemporary society are relatively young, although we should also note that pockets of land-based settlements had existed in the kingdom before this. 

Various researchers and writers consider the British Residency to be the birth of a modern nation in Brunei. One of the aspects of Bruneian society’s modernization is the urbanization of its population, including its residents’ lifestyle and the gradual increase in the number and sizes of its urban settlements. For example, new residential emerged as part of the relocation of residents from the water-based Kampung Ayer villages to land-based ones. Additionally, various ministries and state departments have also been relocated from Bandar Brunei to the adjacent mukim [sub-district] of Berakas to ameliorate the pressures of increasing geographical density in Brunei Town. Such changes that have taken place in the last four decades have resulted in the decline of Bandar Brunei as the nation’s center of administration and commerce. 

We propose to conduct community-engaged research at three neighborhoods namely Kampung Berangan, Kampung Pintu Malim, and Kampung Tamoi Ujung. Kampung Berangan, located in Mukim Kianggeh, is predominantly populated by Chinese residents. The presence of the Chung Hwa Middle School and the Teng Yun Temple in this neighborhood attest to Brunei society’s ethnic diversity. Kampung Tamoi Ujong is one of Kampung Ayer’s villages, the old capital, that comes under the jurisdiction of Mukim Tamoi. Currently, there are approximately 261 residents in this neighborhood. Simultaneously part of the historic Kampung Ayer and close to the old core of Bandar Seri Begawan, its residents’ lifestyle and livelihood feature a blend of tradition and modernity. 

Similarly, Kampung Pintu Malim is a neighborhood that constitutes part of the historic sub-district of Kota Batu. Kota Batu was the Brunei Empire’s seat of authority before its relocation to Kampung Ayer near the end of the seventeenth century. All three neighborhoods are immediately adjacent to Bandar Brunei. The proximity of these neighborhoods to the old core of Bandar Seri Begawan implies that their residents’ lifestyles have been shaped by the activities and functions of Bandar Brunei and the latter’s decline because of the diffusion of administration, commercial activities, and residential settlement. 

In 2007, the geographical boundaries of Bandar Seri Begawan were reorganized. The capital city’s geographical size expanded almost ninefold as a result. Once located at the outskirts of urban Brunei, the three identified research sites now constitute part of Brunei urban development plans’ geographical center. In 2009, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced Vision 2035, a development program for the kingdom whereby the empowerment of its population through human resource development, increasing the quality of life, and generating a dynamic and sustainable economy are the program’s primary goals. How might these changes and plans impact on the lifestyle and livelihoods of the residents of these neighborhoods? This is the central question that guides our SEANNET research and community engagement activities in Brunei Darussalam. 

Neighborhood-community-city-state relationships 

Brunei Darussalam’s development plans for Bandar Seri Begawan are wide ranging and cover various issues of concern and sectors of the society and economy. Included in its strategies and goals are economic diversification, reducing the country’s reliance on the production and export of oil, reducing unemployment, and empowering its residents through the encouragement of entrepreneurship. Some noticeable trends that have stemmed from these efforts include the emergence cottage industries at the individual and neighborhood level, new community-based tourism products and services, and online and offline home-based businesses. Interestingly, we observe that this trend has experience a sharp growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. We plan to investigate this trend further to document and discuss the various ways that residents of the three neighborhoods respond to the opportunities and challenges that arise from the state’s development plans and efforts. 

Relevance to SEANNET Collective 

We observe that the Brunei state’s development plans have profound impacts for state-society relations. Like other oil-producing countries, the benefits acquired from the export of oil have been central to providing for Brunei’s residents’ education, development, and employment. The situation is changing rather quickly as Brunei gears up towards economic diversification. For example, the Brunei state’s support for entrepreneurship encourages individuals and groups to capitalize on the space it provides for them to make autonomous decisions at the individual and community levels. The emergence of home-based businesses, community-based cottage industries through the 1 Kampung 1 Product scheme, and even home-based cold storage operations attest to this. 

Place-making is another one of SEANNET Collective’s themes that is highly relevant to our project in Brunei. In recent years, Brunei residents have become more active in promoting interest for their respective neighborhoods among other members of society. For example, various hiking trails that are maintained by resident-volunteers around Bandar Seri Begawan have emerged through community-led initiatives. Put differently, ‘pride in locality’ has increased in recent years. We will explore the various place-making activities in the three identified neighborhoods through field research observations and discussions with residents, including the Majlis Perundingan Kampung [Village Council]. 

Research Focus and Proposed Methodology 

The research team will employ various research methods. We will collect oral history accounts, conduct surveys, ethnographic field research, and archival research to document the histories, lifestyles, and livelihood of Kampung Berangan, Kampung Pintu Malim, and Kampung Tamoi Ujong. The data and findings from our community-engaged research activities will be synthesized and presented in the form of research articles, an ethnographic film, and undergraduate courses at Universiti Brunei Darussalam. We will also compile a bibliography of source materials about Bandar Seri Begawan, which will benefit anyone interested in researching the city in the future. 


This research is endorsed by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences [FASS] at Universiti Brunei Darussalam [UBD] where all research team members are based. As the largest faculty in a research-intensive university, FASS is enthusiastic about research activities and collaborations among its staff and internationally. The research, pedagogical, and community engagement thrusts of SEANNET Collective mirrors those of FASS. The research that will be undertaken as part of SEANNET Collective will become a springboard for the founding of a new research group in FASS that will involve other faculty members interested in studying cities from the neighborhood perspective. 

FASS willingly supports the SEANNET Collective’s research team in Brunei’s project activities. Additionally, it is keen to host SEANNET Collective members during the proposed field visits and workshops in Brunei and international visiting researchers and fellows to UBD. FASS is also eager to discuss further possible developments in engagement and collaboration with other institutional members of SEANNET Collective. 

Researchers and Community Partners


Muhammad Arafat bin Mohamad, Ph.D. in Social Anthropology — Coordinator, International PI 

Shariza Wahyuna Shahrin, Ph.D. in Social Anthropology — Local Co-PI 

Asmali Haji Sulaiman, Ph.D. in Sociology — Local Co-PI 

Md Shafi Noor Islam, Ph.D. in Environmental and Resource Management— International Co-PI 

Community Partners

Residents and business operators in Kampung Berangan, Kampung Pintu Malim, and Kampung Tamoi Ujong. The various Majlis Perundingan Kampung will be our primary contact points for access to conduct field research and community engagement activities.