Colonial" Others" and Nationalist Politics in Malaysia

Type Journal Article - Akademika
Title Colonial" Others" and Nationalist Politics in Malaysia
Volume 54
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 1999
Recent debates on nationalism suggest that we should revisit the connection between ethnic identity and the nation, and the difficulties confronting post-colonial societies like Malaysia's in their efforts to construct a unifying nationalist project. How and why has official Malaysian nationalism reinforced ethnic identity even as it seeks a programmatic alternarive to colonial strategies in inscribing the body of the nation? Arguing that the social construction of ethnicity under colonial rule has significant implications for the nation, the article explores how colonial rule shapes nor only the consciousness of a European 'self' distinct from a colonized 'other', but also difference in the other which plays our in nationalist politics. Recent shifts in nationalist discourse reflect changes in the Malaysian social structure and suggest the possibility of a more unifying political discourse centered around the nation although it is too early to tell if it will decenter ethnic identity.

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