Cage of Freedom: Tamil Identity and the Ethnic Fetish in Malaysia

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By Andrew C. Willford

In Cage of Freedom, Andrew Willford uses detailed ethnographic accounts of public and private rituals to examine a resurgence of Hindu religious practice among the Tamil community in Malaysia. Faced with a state-driven ethnic and religious nationalism, the Tamil community in Malaysia employs the idea of a greater India to blur ethnic boundaries and an ecumenical and transcendental Hinduism to counter the modernist Islam promoted by the state. The author argues that the logic of nationalism in Malaysia and a legacy of social divisions have caused the Indian community to remain weak and disunited. This intimate portrait of the anxieties and desires of a diasporic community offers powerful insight into ethnic relations and nationalism.


Andrew C. Willford is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University. He is also the author of Tamils and the Haunting of Justice: History and Recognition in Malaysia's Plantations.


Publication Year: 2007
360 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-391-6, Paperback

NUS Press