A staple of postwar academic writing, “nationalism” is a contentious and often unanalyzed abstraction. It is generally treated as something “imagined,” “fashioned,” and “disseminated,” as an idea located in the mind, in printed matter, on maps, in symbols such as flags and anthems, and in collective memory. Between Frontiers restores the nation to the social field from which it has been abstracted by looking at how the concept shapes the existence of people in border zones, where they live between nations.
Noboru Ishikawa grounds his discussion of border zones in materials gathered during two years of archival research and fieldwork relating to the boundary that separates Malaysian from Indonesian territory in western Borneo. His book considers how the state maintains its national space and how people strategically situate themselves by their community, nation, and ethnic group designated as national territory. Examining these issues in the context of concrete circumstances, where a village boundary coincides with a national border, allows him to delineate the dialectical relationship between nation-state and borderland society both as history and as process. Scholars across the humanities and social sciences will learn from this masterful linking of history and ethnography, and of macro and micro perspectives.
Recent economic crises have made the centrality of debt, and the instability it creates, increasingly apparent. This realization has led to cries for change—yet there is little popular awareness of possible alternatives.
Beyond Debt describes efforts to create a transnational economy free of debt. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Malaysia, Daromir Rudnyckyj illustrates how the state, led by the central bank, seeks to make the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur “the New York of the Muslim world”—the central node of global financial activity conducted in accordance with Islam. Rudnyckyj shows how Islamic financial experts have undertaken ambitious experiments to create more stable economies and stronger social solidarities by facilitating risk- and profit-sharing, enhanced entrepreneurial skills, and more collaborative economic action. Building on scholarship that reveals the impact of financial devices on human activity, he illustrates how Islamic finance is deployed to fashion subjects who are at once more pious Muslims and more ambitious entrepreneurs. In so doing, Rudnyckyj shows how experts seek to create a new “geoeconomics”—a global Islamic alternative to the conventional financial network centered on New York, London, and Tokyo. A groundbreaking analysis of a timely subject, Beyond Debt tells the captivating story of efforts to re-center international finance in an emergent Islamic global city and, ultimately, to challenge the very foundations of conventional finance.
What is blood? How can we account for its enormous range of meanings and its extraordinary symbolic power? In Blood Work Janet Carsten traces the multiple meanings of blood as it moves from donors to labs, hospitals, and patients in Penang, Malaysia. She tells the stories of blood donors, their varied motivations, and the paperwork, payment, and other bureaucratic processes involved in blood donation, tracking the interpersonal relations between lab staff and revealing how their work with blood reflects the social, cultural, and political dynamics of modern Malaysia. Carsten follows hospital workers into factories and community halls on blood drives and brings readers into the operating theater as a machine circulates a bypass patient's blood. Throughout, she foregrounds blood's symbolic power, uncovering the processes that make the hospital, the blood bank, the lab, and science itself work. In this way, blood becomes a privileged lens for understanding the entanglements of modern life.
This study attempts to relate questions of rural leadership to the constantly changing social and economic environment of a rural district in Malaysia during the twentieth century. The study itself began as an effort to analyze a single instance of structural change in Malay village leadership which occurred while the author worked in Sik District as a Peace Corps Volunteer (1968–1971). A research proposal was developed positing a traditional pattern of behavior which could be identified as traditional leadership, the better to contrast this with the bureaucratic style of the district’s new penghulus (headmen of a mukim, or subdistrict).
As research progressed, it became obvious that there was in fact no single traditional leadership pattern to be discovered, but rather that over time adaptations were regularly made whenever a significant change in Sik’s social and economic environment occurred. Although the study has retained rural leadership as a primary concern, it has been found necessary to relate it to Sik’s social and economic history.
Buddhist Revitalization and Chinese Religions in Malaysia tells the story of how a minority community comes to grips with the challenges of modernity, history, globalization, and cultural assertion in an ever-changing Malaysia. It captures the religious connection, transformation, and tension within a complex traditional belief system in a multi-religious society. In particular, the book revolves around a discussion on the religious revitalization of Chinese Buddhism in modern Malaysia. This Buddhist revitalization movement is intertwined with various forces, such as colonialism, religious transnationalism, and global capitalism. Reformist Buddhists have helped to remake Malaysia’s urban-dwelling Chinese community and have provided an exit option in the Malay and Muslim majority nation state. As Malaysia modernizes, there have been increasing efforts by certain segments of the country’s ethnic Chinese Buddhist population to separate Buddhism from popular Chinese religions. Nevertheless, these reformist groups face counterforces from traditional Chinese religionists within the context of the cultural complexity of the Chinese belief system.
The 1950s and ’60s are now thought to be the Golden Age of Malay film. A big part of what made films of this era so popular was their beguiling music. In this absorbing study, the scholar and musician Adil Johan examines the social and cultural impact of the film music of the period, and its role in nation-making.
Drawing on analyses of lyrics and music, interviews with musicians, and the content of Malay entertainment magazines, in an approach that spans ethnomusicology and cultural studies, he reveals this body of work to be a product of a musical and cultural cosmopolitanism in the service of a nation-making process based on ideas of Malay ethnonationalism, initially fluid but increasingly homogenized over time. Malay film music of the period covertly expressed radical sentiments despite being produced within a commercialized film industry.
Written in a lively style and illustrated with musical examples, the book will satisfy ethnomusicologists, composers, and film studies scholars interested in Southeast Asia and the Malay world. It will equally be of interest to scholars interested in the role of culture in nation-making more broadly.
When the Portuguese seafarer Afonso de Albuquerque conquered the bustling port of Malacca in 1511, he effectively gained control of the entire South China Sea spice trade. Although their dominance lasted only 130 years, the Portuguese legacy lies at the heart of a burgeoning tourist attraction on the outskirts of the city, in which performers who believe they are the descendants of swashbuckling Portuguese conquerors encapsulate their "history" in a cultural stage show.
Using historical and ethnographic data, Margaret Sarkissian reveals that this music and dance draws on an eclectic array of influences that span the Portuguese diaspora (one song conjures up images of Lucille Ball impersonating Carmen Miranda on "I Love Lucy"). Ironically, she shows, what began as a literate tradition in the 1950s has now become an oral one so deeply rooted in Settlement life that the younger generation, like the tourists, now see it as an unbroken heritage stretching back almost 500 years. A fascinating case of "orientalism in reverse," D'Albuquerque's Children illuminates the creative ways in which one community has adapted to life in a postcolonial world.
Vietnam annually sends a half million laborers to work at low-skill jobs abroad. Angie Ngọc Trần concentrates on ethnicity, class, and gender to examine how migrant workers belonging to the Kinh, Hoa, Hrê, Khmer, and Chãm ethnic groups challenge a transnational process that coerces and exploits them. Focusing on migrant laborers working in Malaysia, Trần looks at how they carve out a third space that allows them a socially accepted means of resistance to survive and even thrive at times. She also shows how the Vietnamese state uses Malaysia as a place to send poor workers, especially from ethnic minorities; how it manipulates its rural poor into accepting work in Malaysia; and the ways in which both countries benefit from the arrangement.
A rare study of labor migration in the Global South, Ethnic Dissent and Empowerment answers essential questions about why nations export and import migrant workers and how the workers protect themselves not only within the system, but by circumventing it altogether.
Guns of February shows the Fall of Singapore and Japan's 1941 military campaign in Malaya through the eyes of Japanese soldiers who took part, based on interviews, memoirs, war diaries, and other Japanese-language sources. Although an enormous number of books have been published on Japan's wartime advance into Southeast Asia, few books in English make much use of Japanese sources, and they reveal little of what happened on the Japanese side. In the words of the author, the Japanese"'advance by brigade groups', 'outflank the defence', 'sustain many casualties', and remain altogether a largely faceless mass bicycling their way down to Singapore." In Guns of February some of the voices of these soldiers are finally heard, and they tell a fascinating story. A few of them were professional soldiers who served their country with commitment and dedication, but many were conscripts hoping to stay alive, curious and apprehensive about the countries they entered, and moved by the plight of the people whose cities and towns they sometimes destroyed. Many were young men, interested in girls and in the sights and sounds of Southeast Asia, but also missing their families and the familiar world of Japan. It is a picture far removed from the staple view of the remorseless and fanatic Japanese soldier totally devoted to his Emperor and determined to die for his country. In writing this account of the Japanese advance on Singapore, the author attempted to show the universal humanity of the actors concerned.
Although the Japanese interregnum was brief, its dramatic commencement and equally dramatic conclusion represented a watershed in the history of the young state of Sarawak.
In recent years, there has been a groundswell of interest in the war years, culminating in an attempt at reassessment of the Japanese occupation in Southeast Asia by Western and Japanese scholars as well as by those from Southeast Asia.
Presented here in a two-volume edition is a history of the Japanese occupation of Sarawak narrated through the compelling testimonies of the actual participants based on their recollections, memoirs, and correspondence.
This study confronts the double paradox of state-regulated labor migration: while markets benefit from open borders that allow them to meet the demand for migrant workers, the boundaries of citizenship impose a degree of limitation on cross-border migration. At the same time, the exclusivity of citizenship requires closed membership, yet civil and human rights undermine the state’s capacity to exclude foreigners once they are inside the country. By considering how Malaysia and Spain have responded to the demand for foreign labor, this book analyzes the unavoidable clash of markets, citizenship, and rights.
“This truly comparative book will become a standard work in the field. It opens new research venues, with major implications for a state migration control theory that has too long been Atlanto-centred.”—Leo Lucassen, Leiden University
Invariably, armies are accused of preparing to fight the previous war. In Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl—a veteran of both Operation Desert Storm and the current conflict in Iraq—considers the now-crucial question of how armies adapt to changing circumstances during the course of conflicts for which they are initially unprepared. Through the use of archival sources and interviews with participants in both engagements, Nagl compares the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and practice in the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960 with what developed in the Vietnam War from 1950 to 1975.
In examining these two events, Nagl—the subject of a recent New York Times Magazine cover story by Peter Maass—argues that organizational culture is key to the ability to learn from unanticipated conditions, a variable which explains why the British army successfully conducted counterinsurgency in Malaya but why the American army failed to do so in Vietnam, treating the war instead as a conventional conflict. Nagl concludes that the British army, because of its role as a colonial police force and the organizational characteristics created by its history and national culture, was better able to quickly learn and apply the lessons of counterinsurgency during the course of the Malayan Emergency.
With a new preface reflecting on the author's combat experience in Iraq, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife is a timely examination of the lessons of previous counterinsurgency campaigns that will be hailed by both military leaders and interested civilians.
People within the Malay world hold strong but diverse opinions about the meaning of the word Melayu, which can be loosely translated as Malayness. Questions of whether the Filipinos are properly called "Malay", or the Mon-Khmer speaking Orang Asli in Malaysia, can generate heated debates. So too can the question of whether it is appropriate to speak of a kebangsaan Melayu (Malay as nationality) as the basis of membership within an aspiring postcolonial nation-state, a political rather than a cultural community embracing all residents of the Malay states, including the immigrant Chinese and Indian population.
In Melayu: The Politics, Poetics and Paradoxes of Malayness, the contributors examine the checkered, wavering and changeable understanding of the word Melayu by considering hitherto unexplored case studies dealing with use of the term in connection with origins, nations, minority-majority politics, Filipino Malays, Riau Malays, Orang Asli, Straits Chinese literature, women's veiling, vernacular television, social dissent, literary women, and modern Sufism. Taken as a whole, this volume offers a creative approach to the study of Malayness while providing new perspectives to the studies of identity formation and politics of ethnicity that have wider implications beyond the Southeast Asian region.
In 1931 a book full of thrilling adventures set mostly in Malaya appeared in London under the title A Yellow Sleuth: Being the Autobiography of “Nor Nalla” (Detective-Sergeant Federated Malay States Police). Reviewers concluded that the stories were just barely plausible, but agreed that the author knew Malaya intimately.
Nor Nalla is an anagram for Ron Allan, who spent four years working on a rubber plantation in Malaya shortly before World War I. Like Kipling’s famous colonial spy, Kim, the “yellow sleuth” is a master of undercover operations, and this reissued work explores vast locales, from the forests of Malaya to the ports of Java, from London’s underbelly to the camps of Chinese laborers in WWI Flanders. Throughout, readers are left to differentiate between fiction and fact, and ponder questions of authorship, in this “impossible fantasy of hybridity,” as Phillip Holden calls it in his perceptive introduction.
Contemporary readers will not only savor the book’s tales of adventure and detection, they will also appreciate the ways that the author brings to life— and reveals the contradictions of—late colonial society.
The oil palm industry has transformed rural livelihoods and landscapes across wide swathes of Indonesia and Malaysia, generating wealth along with economic, social, and environmental controversy. Who benefits and who loses from oil palm development? Can oil palm development provide a basis for inclusive and sustainable rural development?
Based on detailed studies of specific communities and plantations and an analysis of the regional political economy of oil palm, this book unpicks the dominant policy narratives, business strategies, models of land acquisition, and labour-processes. It presents the oil palm industry in Malaysia and Indonesia as a complex system in which land, labour and capital are closely interconnected. Understanding this complex is a prerequisite to developing better strategies to harness the oil palm boom for a more equitable and sustainable pattern of rural development.
Reggie, according to his niece Wendy, 'only told you what Reggie wanted you to know.' Reggie was my father. He had honed the technique of talking with apparent openness and using that talk as a decoy duck: while you were listening to it quack around the pond, you weren't noticing all the others hiding in the reeds. What follows includes tales that Reggie told repeatedly but, on the whole, it's about what Reggie didn't tell me.
So begins a stunning personal account of a Eurasian family living in Malaya. One of the many gaps in Reggie's account of his family was that his mother was Eurasian. When Rebecca Kenneison discovered this omission after his death, she set out to learn more about her extended family on the other side of the world. Her voyage of discovery is compelling in itself, but Playing for Malaya has a much larger purpose. Set in the 1930s and 1940s, it recounts the experiences of an extended Eurasian family during the invasion and occupation of Malaya by the Japanese. Colonial society considered Eurasians insufficiently European to be treated as British, but they seemed all too European to the Japanese, who subjected the Eurasian community to discrimination and considerable violence. Because many Eurasians, including members of the Kenneison family, supported the Allied cause, their wartime experiences are an extraordinary account of tragedy, heroism and endurance, presented here with great consequence and clarity.
In the 1970s, A. Terry Rambo conducted fieldwork in Peninsular Malaysia with a group of Semang people. The community he studied had a seminomadic lifestyle: at times they stayed in houses or lean-tos in a village, and at other times they foraged in the surrounding rain forest for food. Rambo’s goal was to assess this group’s impact on the local environment. He found that, through domestic fires and cigarette smoking, they caused significant air pollution at the household level, but because of their small population size, they did not have much of an ecological impact.
Red Star Over Malaya is an account of the inter-racial relations between Malays and Chinese during the final stages of the Japanese occupation. In 1947, none of the three major race of Malaya - Malays, Chinese, and Indians - regarded themselves as pan-ethnic "Malayans" with common duties and problems. With the occupation forcibly cut them off from China, Chinese residents began to look inwards towards Malaya and stake political claims, leading inevitably to a political contest with the Malays. As the country advanced towards nationhood and self-government, there was tension between traditional loyalties to the Malay rulers and the states, or to ancestral homelands elsewhere, and the need to cultivate an enduring loyalty to Malaya on the part of those who would make their home there in future.
As Japanese forces withdrew from the countryside, the Chinese guerrillas of the communist-led resistance movement, the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), emerged from the jungle and took control of some 70 per cent of the country's smaller towns and villages, seriously alarming the Malay population. When the British Military Administration sought to regain control of these liberated areas, the ensuing conflict set the tone for future political conflicts and marked a crucial stage in the history of Malaya. Based on extensive archival research, Red Star Over Malaya provides a riveting account of the way the Japanese occupation reshaped colonial Malaya, and of the tension-filled months that followed Japan's surrender. This book is fundamental to an understanding of social and political developments in Malaysia during the second half of the 20th century.
Amok, one of the few Malay words commonly appearing in English, names a syndrome of unpredictable and indiscriminate homicidal behavior with suicidal intent. In tracing the development of this behavioral pattern, Spores examines historical data, including frequently colorful colonialist accounts of such episodes, from British Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies during the period 1800–1925.
Spores presents a basic etiological distinction between reactive-motivated and a spontaneous, unmotivated amok; the one an intentional act capable of establishing or restoring dignity and self-respect; the other a result of organic disturbance. He also explores the social-psychological dynamics of engagement in the two types of solitary amok and suggests possible behavioral chains. Further, his study demonstrates the impact of social forces and processes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century which significantly altered factors in traditional Malay society important in generating expressions of solitary amok.
Running amok demonstrates the utility of bringing historical data to bear on the examination of specific social phenomena, particularly suggesting that the understanding of some present-day forms of mental disorder or other aberrant or deviant behavior can be facilitated and enriched through such analysis.
The Suharto (1966-98) government of Indonesia and the Mahathir (1981-2003) government of Malaysia both launched Islamisation programmes, upgrading and creating religious institutions. The author argues that, while generally ulamas, or religious teachers, had to support state ideologies, they sometimes succeeded in ŸcapturingŒ the state by influencing policies in their favour. The author builds his argument on strong fieldwork data, especially interviews, and he engages in critical discussion of comparative politics paradigms and the concept of capture.
The first of two studies included is “Music in Kelantan, Malaysia and Some of Its Cultural Implications,” by William P. Malm. Kelantan is the northernmost province on the east coast of Malaysia. It is considered to be the most orthodox area in a nation whose state religion is Islam. At the same time it must be noted that it borders to the north with the Buddhist country of Thailand and to the west is the Malaysian province of Perak whose jungles and mountains contain many “pagan” tribal traditions. Beyond Perak is Kedah with its larger Indian and Chinese populations and to the south is Trengganu where some Indonesian traits are still to be found. It is in this context that Malm’s study of music is made.
The second study is “Professional Malay Story-Telling: Some Questions of Style and Presentation” by Amin Sweeney. In view of the hitherto almost exclusive concern with the content of such tales as those of Sang Kanchil or Pak Pandir, Sweeney throws some light on the form, style, and presentation of oral Malay literature, with special reference to that class of story-telling popularly known as penglipur lara, or what Winstedt termed “folk romances.”
Malaysia’s stunning 2018 election brought down a ruling party that had held power since independence in 1957, marking the first regime change in the country’s history. This book tells the full story of this historic election (officially called the 14th Malaysian General Election or GE14), combining a sharp analysis of the voting data with consideration of the key issues, campaign strategies, and mobilization efforts that played out during the election period. This analysis is then used to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the core debates about Malaysian political ideas, identities and behaviors, debates that continue to shape the country’s destiny.
After the election, many Malaysians were optimistic about the possibility of a more representative, accountable, participatory, and equitable polity, but Meredith L. Weiss and Faisal S. Hazis do not see GE14 as a clear harbinger of full-on liberalization. While the political aftermath of the election continues to play out, the authors provide a clarion call for deeper, more critical, more comparative research on Malaysia’s politics. They upend commonly held beliefs about Malaysian politics and bring forward lesser-known theories, and they suggest agendas for empirically interesting, theoretically relevant further research. They also point to the broader insights Malaysia’s experience provides for the study of elections and political change in one-party dominant states around the world.
Winner of the 2020 Shelley Fisher Fishkin Prize from the American Studies Association
Texts written by Southeast Asian migrants have often been read, taught, and studied under the label of multicultural literature. But what if the ideology of multiculturalism—with its emphasis on authenticity and identifiable cultural difference—is precisely what this literature resists?
Transitive Cultures offers a new perspective on transpacific Anglophone literature, revealing how these chameleonic writers enact a variety of hybrid, transnational identities and intimacies. Examining literature from Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, as well as from Southeast Asian migrants in Canada, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland, this book considers how these authors use English strategically, as a means for building interethnic alliances and critiquing ruling power structures in both Southeast Asia and North America. Uncovering a wealth of texts from queer migrants, those who resist ethnic stereotypes, and those who feel few ties to their ostensible homelands, Transitive Cultures challenges conventional expectations regarding diaspora and minority writers.
Using a wealth of material including interviews, official documents, and student writings, the authors recount the rise of newly independent states in postwar Malaya and Singapore through the engagements of a left-wing group of university student activists. The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaya brings to life various contemporary movements, including democratic, Marxist, socialist, ethnicity-based groups which seek to influence postcolonial Malaya, as well as their fluid relationships with one another, at a time when allies became enemies, and vice versa. An original and vital study, this volume delves into the complex mental worlds and historical milieu of political and student activism.
Violence and the Dream People is an account of a little-known struggle by the Malayan government and the communist guerrillas, during the 1948-1960 Malayan Emergency, to win the allegiance of the Orang Asli, the indigenous people of the peninsular Malaya. The author argues that the use of force by both sides in their attempts to woo or coerce the jungle dwellers to support one side or the other in the conflict, caused tensions among the Orang Asli that resulted in counter violence against the interlopers and internecine killings in the tribal groups.
This study challenges the depiction of the Orang Asli as naïve innocents, unwittingly manipulated by outsiders for their own purposes. Heavily outnumbered, they looked to their own resources to survive, in the face of relocation, conscription, random bombings, and haphazard killing. Leary argues that they were shrewd enough to recognize the winning side and backed their judgment with force where necessary.
Violence and the Dream People is an important study of a much neglected facet of the Malayan Emergency and of the history of the indigenous peoples of the Malay Peninsula.
This book presents a tale of heritage politics in the Malaysian historical city par excellence. Already celebrated as the first Malay sultanate and an important colonial trading port, Melaka has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2008, on the strength of its multi-ethnic and multi-religious urban fabric. Yet, contrary to the expectations of heritage experts and aficionados, the global mission of safeguarding cultural heritage has become a tumultuous issue on the ground in Melaka. World Heritage and Urban Politics in Malaysia analyses how the World Heritage 'label' is being used by different actors- such as international organizations, nation states, and society at large- to generate new economic revenues and to attract investment for large-scale real estate development projects. In doing so, it reveals the complex and often contradictory stories behind heritage designations in urban milieus.