Public Lecture: "Malay Ethnic Identity: Unravelling the Historical from the Discursive"

On face value, this looks like a lecture dealing with the politics of identity and ethnicity, but the historical approach that Prof Andaya is taking particularly through the history of the Malayu that have their origins in Srivijayan Sumatra should be quite interesting from an archaeological perspective. Courtesy of the Singapore Heritage Email List

Malay Ethnic Identity: Unravelling the Historical from the Discursive by Prof Leonard Andaya
15 November 2007
1700 hrs
National University of Singapore Bukit Timah Campus, 469 Bukit Timah Road, Blk B, Level 3, Auditorium
Organised by Asia Research Institute, East Asian Institute, Faculty of Law, Institute of South Asian Studies, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Abstract:
In recent years there has been a considerable number of works devoted to analyzing “Malay” identity. Such discussion often begins with the Malaysian Constitutional determination of who can legally claim to be a Malay. The more informed will cite social science theories on ethnicity and identity to emphasize the power relationships involved in the determination of any ethnic identity. Any discussion of Malay ethnic identity, therefore, often begins in the nineteenth century with the attempt by colonial authorities to identify, classify, and hence control. While governments changed over the years, the relationship between power and classification hence control was maintained. But is this the whole story of Malay ethnic identity? In this paper I attempt to demonstrate that the ethnic group called “Malayu” can be traced to the early history of the archipelago. By adopting a historical approach extending deep into the past, it is possible to see how the discursive identity associated with power relationships operated on one level, while another level existed in the marketplace. Practical economic and social factors at the ordinary level of people’s lives helped to sustain ethnic identities that did not always coincide with the government’s prescriptions. It is this dual perception that helps to ameliorate some of the harshness that at times pervades government ethnic rhetoric.

About the Speaker:
Professor Andaya received a BA in History from Yale University, and an MA and PhD in Southeast Asian history at Cornell University. He has held positions at the University of Malaya, the Australian National University, the University of Auckland, and the University of Hawaii, where he has been professor of Southeast Asian history since 1993.

His area of research specialization is Malaysia and Indonesia in the early modern period (c. 1500-c. 1800). Among his publications are The History of Johor (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1975), A History of Malaysia (with Barbara Watson Andaya) (London: Macmillan, 1981), The Heritage of Arung Palakka: A History of South Sulawesi in the 17th Century (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), and The World of Maluku: Eastern Indonesia in the Early Modern Period (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993). A second edition of A History of Malaysia was published in December, 2000. His latest book is called, Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka, and will be published by the University of Hawai’i Press in March, 2008.

He was awarded a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship to conduct research in Indonesia and The Netherlands in 2008 for a book on the history of eastern Indonesia in the early modern period.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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