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Debunking the “origins of race” theories in Malaysia

Race has always been a sensitive and misunderstood term in Malaysia, where institutionalised racism exists. Lilianne Fan, an independent anthropologist, posts an editorial on The Malaysian Insider dismantling the current Malay-supremacist rhetoric and the anthropological claims as used in Malaysia.

The pseudo-theory on origins of the ‘Malay race’ – Lilianne Fan
The Malaysian Insider, 25 December 2013

Anthropological theory is rarely the subject of news headlines. In Malaysia, however, over the past several months, a new ‘theory’ of the racial origins of ‘bangsa Melayu’ (Malay race) has caught the attention of the media and generated reactions from the public. Some have embraced these theories uncritically as breakthroughs in anthropological and scientific research while others have condemned them as being downright racist.

These reactions, largely expressed through social media, have yet, however, to lead to a critical scholarly and public debate. Such a debate should interrogate not just the content of the theory itself, but also the very persistence of the concept of ‘race’ in Malaysian public life. Why does ‘race’, an outdated category in so many parts of the world, still matter so much in Malaysia? And what does the rise in research on racial origins and authenticity actually reveal?

Full story here.

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