Other Malays: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Modern Malay World

$30.00 SGD $38.00 SGD

By Joel S. Kahn

This stimulating new reading of constructions of ethnicity in Malaysia and Singapore is an important contribution to understanding the powerful linkages between ethnicity, identity and nationalism in multi-ethnic Southeast Asia.

The narrative of Malay identity devised by Malay nationalists, writers and filmmakers in the late colonial period associated Malayness with the village or kampung, envisaged as static, ethnically homogenous, classless, indigenous, subsistence-oriented, rural, embedded in family and community, and loyal to a royal court. Joel Kahn challenges the kampung version of Malayness, arguing that it ignores the immigration of Malays from outside the peninsula to participate in trade or commercial agriculture, the substantial Malay population in towns and cities, and the reformist Muslims who argued for a common bond in Islam and played down Malayness.

Owing to a rising dissatisfaction with the established order and new modernist sensitivities, especially among younger Malaysians, the author argues that it is time to revisit the alternative, more cosmopolitan narrative of Malayness.


Joel S. KAHN is a Professor of Anthropology at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, Australia. He has authored several books on culture, politics and modernity in Indonesia and Malaysia.


Asian Studies Association of Australia: Southeast Asian Publications Series
Publication Year: 2006
248 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-334-3, Paperback

NUS Press