Modern Muslim Identities: Negotiating Religion and Ethnicity in Malaysia

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by Gerhard Hoffstaedter

This book explores a central tension in identity politics: how the state, civil society and people in general may want to create and maintain cultural, religious and social cohesion while paradoxically their practices in everyday life often run counter to this. Malaysia is no exception. Here, a political elite maintains control and cultural dominance but must juggle political pressure from Islamic and Malay supremacists with that from moderate civil society groups. This gives rise to a complex interplay of domination, accommodation and negotiation between the state and its citizens. At the heart of this study is the conjuncture between Malay ethnicity and Islamic faith, hence its examination of the state discourse on 'civilizational Islam’. However, other areas are also explored, including the arts as a contested space. The result is a thought-provoking study combining philosophical and social theory with anthropological insights.

"This important study sheds new light on changing Muslim identities in contemporary Malaysia, questioning existing distinctions between state and civil society, religion and secularism and ethnicity and religion and calling for new ways of understanding processes of Islamisation in the modern world." – Joel S. Kahn, La Trobe University

"It is simply a first-class piece of work, one of real intellectual distinction and substantive originality. It offers an important commentary on the current Malaysian situation, and how it has been sedulously fashioned over recent history, and so makes a significant contribution to Malaysian studies." – Clive Kessler, University of New South Wales

"This marks an original and very timely contribution to Malaysian studies. Hoffstaedter has demonstrated the profound effects of state religious policies and ideologies upon the everyday identities of practicing Muslims. He does this with great ethnographic nuance and original theoretical insights." – Andrew Willford, Cornell University

"Gerhard Hoffstaedter presents a thought provoking case study on the many social and political forces that have interacted to push Malay identity along an exclusive trajectory. … This is a dangerous pattern, unfortunately discernable also in other parts of the Muslim world." – Shahram Akbarzadeh, University of Melbourne

Gerhard Hoffstaedter is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Queensland working on religion and the state, international development and refugees. Previously he was a researcher at La Trobe University.

Publication year: 2011
288 pp / 229mm x 152mm
24 figures
ISBN: 978-87-7694-081-2, Paperback
ISBN: 978-87-7694-080-5, Hardback

NIAS Press