In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reclaiming Adat The Malaysian cultural and literary scene during the heady economic boom of the early to mid-1990s held much promise for a graduate student of postcolonial literature and film returning from Vancouver, Canada. The overall economic well-being of the country supported confidence in the publishing sector. Small local English-language presses like Skoob Books (particularly its Pacifica series) and Rhino Press (the Black and White series) had started up, and together with Times Books International, Heinemann Asia Press, and other smaller presses, they began to publish the works of established Malaysian writers such as K.S. Maniam and Shirley Lim as well as works by emerging writers like Dina Zarnan and Karim Raslan. Moreover, self-financed publications like Rehman Rashid's A Malaysian Journey or Che Husna Azhari's The Rambutan Orchard became available on the shelves of local commercial and university bookstores. As a sometime writer of local fiction myself, I was keen to find out what other Malaysians were writing about. What was it about being Malaysian in the 1980s and 1990s that preoccupied middle-class writers and filmmakers? What were the issues they chose and what was at stake? How do these writers and filmmakers speak through their work and how does their work speak about them as part of a larger epistemological framework? Having been away for studies abroad since 1990,I was hoping to catch up and learn something about Malaysian politics and culture. I was not disappointed. More middle-class Malaysians were writing in English by the 1990s, and these included the bumigeois or new Malaymiddle class. The genres included fiction, 3 1 poetry, plays, and compilations of cultural essays culled from newspaper columns and journalistic writing. In this book I have chosen to focus predominantly on these non-canonical writers. Things were also exciting in the Malaysian film industry. Newspapers heralded a new wave of filmmakers who were suddenly able to attract audiences back to the cinemas, despite the video boom of the previous decade. Not only were some of the films box-office hits, they also had something to say about Malay identity and culture, speaking with artistic integrity within a largely commercial medium. In my focus on some of the works from this wave of filmmakers, which include Shuhaimi Baba, U-Wei Haji Saari, Adman Salleh, and Erma Fatima, I began to notice similar themes in the works of writers like Karim Raslan, Dina Zaman, and Salleh Ben loned. Socio-economic forces, state-initiated, and the cultural development of the NEP years (National Economic Policy 1971-90) had produced a burgeoning discourse about subjectivity among the children of the NEP themselves: what is it like for urban Malay women and men to be both modern and Muslim (e.g., Anwar Ibrahim 1996; Sloane 1999)? More crucially,what did it mean to be "Malay" as it is defined in the constitution, via language, adat/custom, and the practice of Islam? How is Malayness performed? Some cultural producers and intellectuals went further in their inquiry into identity by actually engaging with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Vision 2020 speech, which raised the question of what it meant to be a "bangsa Malaysia" rather than a "bangsa Melayu."1 Because the word bangsa conflates meanings like "race" and "nationality," the most optimistic reading of "bangsa Malaysia" suggests a Malaysian race, a nation able to imagine itself as a hybrid whole rather than one permeated by ethnic divisions. Many people chose to read this as moving beyond Malay ethnic nationalism, a concept alienated from UMNO (United Malays National Organization, the main political party) mentality and its raison d'etre since its formation in 1946. Re-evaluating the goals and weaknesses of the NEP, these writers/filmmakers struggled with questions about how modernity in its myriad forms had an impact on readings of Islam and its concatenations with adat which, in turn, play out in gender and gender relationships. Based on the 19908 films and literature analyzed here, I make the case that modernity facilitates the conscious and unconscious recuperation of adat, usually through a focus on sexuality or a return to forms of the archaic such as magic or traditional healing. This reclamation of adat is simultaneously a postcolonial or anti-imperialist strategy and a subversion of more restrictive notions of Islamic discourse that emerged since the 19808. Middle-class Malay cultural producers struggle to reconcile their adat with resurgent forms of 4 Reclaiming Adat Islam and to enunciate their place and...


Additional Information

MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.