Tuesday, November 12

Contested Nationalisms and Propaganda: Birth Pangs of a Malaysian Nation, 1957-1969

one of my recurrent little moans is the lack of good history books on Malaysia. Whenever I have been to Malaysian bookstores, you never get a good solid feel of the history of the country. So many other countries have absolutely tomes of books on the formation of the country, the background, etc. etc. I mean, its not like Malaysia is unique in terms of the colonial history, the emergence from WW2, the multi ethnic nature of the population, etc. etc. , there are tons of books on Pakistan, India, Bangladesh etc. etc.

So it was interesting to read this dissertation review. I quote

In the first twelve years of Malaya/Malaysia’s independence, there was a fundamental disagreement among the country’s populace about national identity. On the one hand, the Malay majority, basically supported by the structures of government, conceived of a special role for the ethnically Malay population, the Malay language, and Malay culture (including Islam and other cultural trappings). On the other hand, non-indigenous groups, particularly the large Chinese population, imagined a nation wherein all ethnic groups, as well as their languages and cultural practices, would be celebrated and on equal footing. Cheong Soon Gan has chosen the vantage point of propaganda to probe not just the ideological incompatibility of these two visions but even more the practical, daily, lived contradictions in the government.

the reviewer notes that Malaysian history is more about Great man of History like talking about Tunku Abdul Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew, etc. But here its more about Indian barbers, letters to newspapers and reports by Malaysian civil servants, a perspective which will be closer to the ground..fascinating.

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