We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Melayu: Politics, Poetics and Paradoxes of Malayness

Edited by Maznah Mohamad and Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied

Publication Year: 2011

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 over whether Filipinos or Mon-Khmer speaking orang asli in Malaysia are to be properly called "Malay" can generate controversy and heated debate. 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 -- as a political rather than a cultural community embracing all residents of the Malay states, including the immigrant Chinese and Indian population. In Melayu: 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.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (218.5 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (117.8 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (120.8 KB)
pp. vii-viii

In the face of waning scholarly interest in Area Studies, the global significance of the Malay World and Malayness as a field of critical study is in need of revitalization. This volume, Melayu: The Politics, Poetics and Paradoxes of Malayness is but a part of an emerging genre of both scholarly and popular literature ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (430.4 KB)
pp. ix-xxii

The passages above refer to attempts at recognizing, reconstructing and communicating an identity. Rizal’s reflections evoke images of hope, idealism and the commitment to liberty among a subjugated group of peoples. Yet, at the same time, just who were the “Malays” as against “Filipinos” was not clear ...

MALAYSIA: Contending Imaginations of Malayness

read more

Chapter 1 Boundaries of Malayness: “We Have Made Malaysia: Now It is Time to (Re)Make the Malays but Who Interprets the History?”

pdf iconDownload PDF (933.7 KB)
pp. 3-33

In the heyday of European nationalism, 19th-century Italian historian Giuseppe Mazzini, observed the role of the state in creating and shaping a people: “We have made Italy: now we have to make Italians” (ch’e fatto l’Italia, bisogna fare gli italiani). The subtitle of this chapter paraphrases a similar observation. ...

read more

Chapter 2 Like a Shady Tree Swept by the Windstorm: Malays in Dissent

pdf iconDownload PDF (1007.0 KB)
pp. 34-67

Outside of the Malay Peninsula, it was only in East Sumatra and Brunei that there was the existence of a strong Malay sultanate in colonial times. But in East Sumatra, the movement toward a postcolonial Malay identity formation was thwarted with the demise of the kerajaan,1 through a violent social revolution against ...

read more

Chapter 3 Malay Racialism and the Sufi Alternative

pdf iconDownload PDF (1002.0 KB)
pp. 68-100

In studies of identity construction and evolution of social groups whose members are seen to possess shared features and characteristics, the concepts of “race,” “ethnicity” and “nation” often end up being conflated with one another. In Malaysia, the majority Malay community has commonly been referred to ...

read more

Chapter 4 Malays and Orang Asli: Contesting Indigeneity

pdf iconDownload PDF (722.9 KB)
pp. 101-123

Malays, as spelled out in the statement above by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, lay claim as the indigenous people of the land.4 This positioning is based on their stance as the first group to establish a government, traced to the 15th-century Malaccan Sultanate. The Orang Asli,5 the “other” indigenous group ...

read more

Chapter 5 Gender, Islam and the “Malay Nation” in Fatimah Busu’s Salam Maria

pdf iconDownload PDF (620.1 KB)
pp. 124-142

The effort to write oneself into the “nation” and the Body Politic has often been seen and recognized as a masculinist enterprise by the Malaysian state. Thus far, Malaysia’s National Laureates (Sasterawan Negara) have been men from one ethnic group who write in the national language, Bahasa Malaysia. ...

SINGAPORE: Malays as Minorities and the Politics of Identities

read more

Chapter 6 Malay Identity in Postcolonial Singapore

pdf iconDownload PDF (712.3 KB)
pp. 145-167

This chapter aims to capture the continuous interactions between minority identities and those of global, regional, and local developments. Toward that end, I explore the dynamics and politics of identity formation within the Malay-Muslim minority community in postcolonial Singapore, which much like its ...

read more

Chapter 7 Tudung Girls: Unveiling Muslim Women’s Identity in Singapore

pdf iconDownload PDF (845.0 KB)
pp. 168-194

In contemporary multicultural Singapore society, the wearing of the tudung (head covering) among Malay women is very visible. Very often, this is read by both Malays and non-Malays as an expression of Malay Muslim women’s identity.2 This is not surprising. In the implementation of Singapore’s “multi-racial policy,” ...

read more

Chapter 8 Malayness as Mindset: When Television Producers Imagine Audiences as Malay

pdf iconDownload PDF (724.0 KB)
pp. 195-216

While media have long been studied as a site for the representation and contestation of ethnicity, however understood, much of the work done has been through the detailed analyses of media texts or by studying how audiences respond to or interpret them in relation to a number of modes of identification.2 ...

INDONESIA and the PHILIPPINES: Borderland and Forgotten Malays

read more

Chapter 9 Riau: A Malay Heartland at the Borders

pdf iconDownload PDF (857.7 KB)
pp. 219-240

Attempts to persuade people that they form a group with others sharing certain key characteristics and solidarity while being distinct from other groups, is a normal practice in the politics of a society or a country. Often, these groups are designated certain categories such as “race,” “nation,” “class,” ”ethnicity,” ...

read more

Chapter 10 Filipinos as Malay: Historicizing an Identity

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
pp. 241-274

“Googling” the key words “Filipinos as Malay” produces thousands of at least minimally relevant results. Among other possibilities, it suggests the idea’s widespread currency. In a site called Yahoo! Answers, for instance, someone posted a question, “Filipinos, do you know that you look like Malays?”1 ...

ACROSS NATIONS: Representing/Rejecting Malayness

read more

Chapter 11 Absent Presence: The Malay in Straits Chinese Literature

pdf iconDownload PDF (745.1 KB)
pp. 277-299

This chapter is an attempt to understand how the Malay figure appears, or fails to appear, in Anglophone Straits Chinese Literature. The Straits Chinese are cultural hybrids whose identity is the result of five centuries of history and interactions with Malays. Yet, from the time they started imagining a distinct ...

read more

Chapter 12 Melayu and Malay — A Story of Appropriate Behavior

pdf iconDownload PDF (951.9 KB)
pp. 300-329

27 February 1850, high noon. The sun is fierce, the land is shrouded in a glistening mist. The East coast of Sumatra. The Dutch Indies government official has given orders to strike the sails of the proa on entering the shallow waters of the bay. The maps have told him there should be a settlement here, inland, ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (926.9 KB)
pp. 330-360

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (180.4 KB)
pp. 361-364

Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid is Associate Professor of Political Science at the School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. He has held visiting fellowships at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and the Asia Research Institute, ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (217.9 KB)
pp. 365-370

E-ISBN-13: 9789971696085
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695552

Publication Year: 2011

Edition: New