[Lecture] The Orang Laut and the Realm of the Straits (Negara Selat)

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Readers in Singapore may be interested in this talk by Leonard Andaya on Wednesday.

The Orang Laut and the Realm of the Straits (Negara Selat)
Date: Wednesday, 25 July 2018
Time: 10.00 am – 11.30 am
Venue: ISEAS Seminar Room 2

About the Lecture
When Raffles visited the island of Singapore in 1819, he found only a few scattered houses of the Orang Laut and some Malay followers of the Temenggung of Johor. Still heavily forested, there was no evidence the island could ever rival the port city of Penang, established by the British in 1786. However, it was not the island but the seas around it that were its key geographical feature.

The straits off Singapore were the major thoroughfares for trading ships from Europe, Middle East, and India in the west, and China, Japan, Korea, and Ryukyu in the east. The Malays, who occupied both sides of the Straits, were the primary beneficiaries of this trade, but they relied heavily on the services of their allies, the Orang Laut or Sea People.

Yet the role of the Orang Laut has been largely forgotten or ignored. A contributing factor is the historian’s gaze which has been largely landlocked and unable to comprehend that the “few scattered houses of the Orang Laut” masked the reality of a thriving community pursuing a maritime lifestyle.

This presentation will examine the historical evidence in an effort to restore the Orang Laut to their rightful place as major players in the history of the world of the Straits from early times to the nineteenth century.

About the Speaker
Leonard Y. Andaya received his BA from Yale University and his MA and PhD from Cornell University. He is at present professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Hawai’i, and has written extensively on the early modern period, particularly of Indonesia and Malaysia. His most recent publications are Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008); (with Barbara Watson Andaya) A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); and (with Barbara Watson Andaya) A History of Malaysia, Third Edition (London: Palgrave, 2017). He was the Tan Chin Tuan Professor in Malay Studies at NUS in 2011-2012 and is currently the inaugural holder of the Yusof Ishak Chair in the Social Sciences at NUS. He is currently writing a history of eastern Indonesia in the early modern period.

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

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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

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.