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Questioning Modernity in Indonesia and Malaysia

Edited by Wendy Mee and Joel S. Kahn

Publication Year: 2012

Processes of transformation typically defined as "modernising" have been pervasive in Indonesia and Malaysia over an extended period of time and have played a central role in shaping the societies of both countries. Questioning Modernity in Indonesia and Malaysia engages critically with the concept of modernity, considering the way it has been used in the analysis of cultural, social, economic and political processes in the two countries. The book argues that while Indonesia and Malaysia can both be considered fully modern, their modernities are not merely derivative of the Western understanding of the word. Written by scholars from both "inside" and "outside" the region, the case studies presented in this volume highlight the extent to which the intellectual tools, concepts, and theories commonly used in academic research reflect a European/Western modernist imaginary. Starting from the premise that modernity viewed from a local rather than a Western perspective takes on different qualities, the authors show how the process of conducting social research in Asia might be re-conceptualized on the basis of a revised understanding of this crucial idea. Their essays make a compelling case for the need to re-assess the application of a supposedly "Western" concept to the study of Asia.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Half title, Title, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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Chapter 1: Introduction

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pp. 1-18

This book brings together theoretical debates on the concept of modernity on the one hand, and the study of Indonesian and Malaysian modern social and cultural formations on the other. It represents a contribution to a much broader and ongoing project, namely, the critical engagement with the concept...

Transnational and Border-zone Modernities

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pp. 19

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Chapter 2: Islam and Capitalism in the Frontiers and Borderlands of the Modern Malay World

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pp. 21-59

Much ink has been spilled over the question of the relationship — or non-relationship — between Islam and capitalism. This paper explores this issue by focusing on the relationships between Islam, capitalism and modernity in urban and rural “frontier” and “borderland” regions of insular and peninsular Asia...

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Chapter 3: Malay Social Imaginaries: Nationalist and Other Collective Identities in Indonesia

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pp. 60-90

By the late twentieth century, the conditions that sustain nationalism in Western societies — most notably in Europe — have changed. These institutional and socio-economic changes have led, in most parts of the Western world, to a fragmentation of the prevailing narratives of social identity; a plurality...

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Chapter 4: Networking the Pan-Dayak

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pp. 91-112

It is widely acknowledged that cultural identity is constructed (King 1982; Vickers 1989; Hall 1992; Eriksen 1993; Kipp 1993; Kahn 1993; Kahn 1995; Picard 1997; Wood 1998). As King and Wilder argue: Ethnicity is obviously expressed as a product of the past, evoking common origins, social linkages and...

Nation-states and Citizenships

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pp. 113

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Chapter 5: Dilemma of Progressive Politics in Malaysia: Islamic Orthodoxy versus Human Rights

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pp. 115-144

Th is essay reflects on recent conflicts over religious freedom between “Islamic” and “secularist” factions in Malaysia to highlight the difficulty facing progressive politics in a postcolonial and multi-ethnic society in today’s world. I suggest that the dispute between Islam and religious freedom must be understood...

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Chapter 6: Ethnicity, Nation-state and Citizenship among Chinese Indonesians

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pp. 145-166

The current Indonesian state has undergone a period of bloody ethnic and religious conflict since the end of the Suharto regime in 1998 (Wilson 2001). Many commentators have raised doubts over the Indonesian nationstate’s ability to accommodate the range of ethnic diff erences within its border, thus bringing...

Cultural and Moral Orientations

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pp. 167

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Chapter 7: The Youth, Modernity and Morality in Malaysia

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pp. 169-200

This chapter explores an unfolding series of cultural contests around the place of “the youth” in modernising Malaysia. Discussing a number of key episodes of social anxiety, it looks at the ways in which “the youth” has become a central site of metaphorical warfare in cultural contests about modernity and the future...

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Chapter 8: The Relevance and Limits of the Model of Small Commodity Production: Rethinking Malay Rubber Smallholders

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pp. 201-224

Debates on the definition of “peasant” have become notoriously tiresome (Silverman 1983: 7). There seems to be no possibility of reaching a final agreement on the definition among scholars. It is hard to avoid the feeling that conceptual confusion becomes worse as the debates go on. As we try to define peasant more...

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Chapter 9: Technology, Culture and Modernity in Malaysia

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pp. 225-246

The last decade has seen a number of studies on the popular and public representation of technology in Malaysia. Most of these studies have focused on information and communication technologies and have highlighted — amongst other things — the role of government investment/ support in new...


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pp. 247-257


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pp. 248

E-ISBN-13: 9789971696269
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695637

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: no image
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: New