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DissemiNation of Malay/sia "It's a curse, I know, but I'vealways felt the need to bite the hand that fedme." A M I R M U H A M M A D , 2003* This chapter further examines the factors of language, ethnicity, and Islam in Malaysia by focusing on the works of four Malay male writers: Salleh Ben Joned, Rehman Rashid, Karim Raslan, and Amir Muhammad, who is also a filmmaker.2 1 read their works that deal with issues of identity through postcolonial scholar Homi Bhabha's theory of the pedagogical and the performative , largely because Bhabha's reliance on Lacanian psychoanalysis provides a more complex picture of Benedict Anderson's theory of the dissemination of nationalism through novels and print capitalism. Bhabha explores the slippery crack between "the people" as historical social beings and the way they are constructed and deployed rhetorically through language and discourse. This recognition of unconscious processes functioning as metaphor and as strategies of cultural identity validates those who do not conform to a national type. In this case, just how "Malay" are these four writers, based on their writings that address the nation? Do they fit into the constitutional definition of Malay? That is, are they Muslims?And do they habitually speak Malay and practise Malay custom? Bhabha's influential essay, "DissemiNation: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern Nation," discusses the contradictions within the modern liberal nation by situating them within the symbolic structure of signifier and 56 3 signified and Lacan's mirror stage. In Lacan's visual metaphor, the child with its uncoordinated body parts misrecognizes itself as whole and perfect in the mirror, signalling a disjunction or splitting between the signified (the child) and the signifier (the mirror image). This parallels the split between the performative and the pedagogical, which Bhabha uses to describe the nation: "The borders of the nation are ... constantly faced with a double temporality : the process of identity constituted by historical sedimentation (the pedagogical); and the loss of identity in the signifying process of cultural identification (the performative)" (Bhabha 1994, 304). Simply summarized, the pedagogical stands for the theoretical and ideological meaning of nation while the performative refers to the practical "perplexity of living" (ibid., 307). Using the comparative model of the mirror image, one can also think of the pedagogical as the one perfect whole and the performative as representing the nation/subject's many uncoordinated parts. The pedagogical can never reflect the entirety of the subject as s/he is, but can only ever be a misrecognition of the self as whole or complete. "In the production of the nation as narration, there is a split between the continuist, accumulative temporality of the pedagogical, and the repetitious, recursive strategyof the performative. It is through this process of splitting that the conceptual ambivalence of modern society becomes the site of writing the nation" (ibid., 297).And it is this splitting and ambivalence that give shape to double-writing or dissemi-nation. A similar process of splitting is inherent in the concept of Malay/sia as nation. There are sufficient contradictions in and between the (pedagogical) constitution and (performative) government policies to suggest this psychic tension. Although Malaysia is officially a democracy whose constitution recognizes the multi-ethnic character of the populace enough to permit minorities to freely practise their religions and cultures, the indigenous Malays or bumiputeras have specialprivileges and their religion and language are granted official or national status above the religions and languages of other ethnic groups. There is even a National Cultural Policy, although it's fortunately not strictly enforced,which states that non-bumiputeras have to assimilate to the culture of the region. Thus, the first contradiction presents itself: the name change from Persekutuan Tanah Melayu or "Malaya," meaning "the land of the Malays," to "Malaysia" occurred in 1963 to reflect the less homogeneous population of the nation when Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore became part of Malaysia.3 However, this "50:50 split" between the indigenous peoples and immigrants that had marked Malaya's independence since 1957(Rehman1993, 14) changed with the separation of Chinese-dominated Singapore from Malaysia in 1965. It changed again in 1971, with the introduction of the National Economic Policy and the National LanguagePolicy, which made BahasaMelayu DissemiNation of Malay/sia 57 Bahasa Malaysia,the national language, and therefore,the medium of instruction and communication for all ethnicities. Rehman regards the late 19508, when the population of ethnic Malays and non-Malays was...


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