Beginning in the sixteenth century, a small, not very important community in South Sulawesi known as Gowa rose with astonishing speed to become the most powerful polity in the eastern Indonesian archipelago (see Map 10.1). Its empire extended across the seas around Sulawesi until it was conquered by the Dutch East India Company and local allies in the 1660s. Gowa’s rise has long been recognised as a remarkable story, and it has attracted the attention of numerous scholars who have charted its century-long trajectory of territorial expansion, economic prosperity and political centralisation. 1 Collectively, however, we have left unasked questions about the precise nature and mechanics of these dynamic developments. The one that most concerns me here is: What exactly does polity expansion mean in this historical time and place? Gowa’s empire. https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-u.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780203481998/87869f9b-af59-4c00-824d-a01e299799eb/content/map10_1_B.jpg"/>