Melayu: The Politics, Poetics and Paradoxes of Malayness

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Edited by Maznah Mohamad and Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied

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People within the Malay world hold strong but diverse opinions about the meaning of the word Melayu, which can be loosely translated as Malayness. Questions of whether the Filipinos are properly called "Malay", or the Mon-Khmer speaking Orang Asli in Malaysia, can generate heated debates. So too can the question of whether it is appropriate to speak of a kebangsaan Melayu (Malay as nationality) as the basis of membership within an aspiring postcolonial nation-state, a political rather than a cultural community embracing all residents of the Malay states, including the immigrant Chinese and Indian population.

In Melayu: The Politics, Poetics and Paradoxes of Malayness, the contributors examine the checkered, wavering and changeable understanding of the word Melayu by considering hitherto unexplored case studies dealing with use of the term in connection with origins, nations, minority-majority politics, Filipino Malays, Riau Malays, Orang Asli, Straits Chinese literature, women's veiling, vernacular television, social dissent, literary women, and modern Sufism. Taken as a whole, this volume offers a creative approach to the study of Malayness while providing new perspectives to the studies of identity formation and politics of ethnicity that have wider implications beyond the Southeast Asian region.


"What the volume does successfully is examine, though not obsessively so, those populations at the margins. This in turn enables something useful to be said about the ways in which ethnic categories are debated, questioned, rejected, constructed, and transformed. This is a thought-provoking collection and deserves our fullest attention." - V T King

"This volume adds valuable new perspectives to Melayu studies by focusing on Malayness in the margins...It convincingly demonstrates that Melayu persists and thrives in contemporary culture. Further, it shows that Malayness has important stakes for ordinary people." - Andrew Weintraub

Maznah Mohamad is Associate Professor in the Departments of Malay Studies and Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. She was formerly Associate Professor of Development Studies at the School of Social Sciences, University of Science Malaysia.

Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied is Associate Professor in the Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore.

Publication Year: 2012
410 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-555-2, Paperback

NUS Press