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Title: Negotiating indigenous identity in postcolonial Malaysia: Beyond being 'not quite/not Malay'
Authors: Nah, A.M. 
Issue Date: Dec-2003
Citation: Nah, A.M. (2003-12). Negotiating indigenous identity in postcolonial Malaysia: Beyond being 'not quite/not Malay'. Social Identities 9 (4) : 511-534. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: In this paper, I demonstrate that the position of the postcolonial 'Self' in Malaysia is legitimized through inherited imperial mechanisms of power, both structural and ideological. The emergence of this 'new-Self' was situated in colonial discursive practices that positioned it as an 'Other' under British colonial rule. As such, this creates unexpected binds for the 'new-Self', particularly as it negotiates its relations with a number of 'new-Others'. Up to the present, indigeneity has remained the main basis for legitimizing political power and the economic redistribution of wealth. However, this remains persuasive only when it is seen as primordial and timeless, essentially located in certain individuals in an unchallengeable manner. This basis of power, I argue, produces anxiety for the 'Malay' new-Self, for its claims to being essentially 'indigenous' come under questioning when Malay identity construction is set vis-à-vis the Orang Asli (the 'aborigines' of the Malaysian Peninsula). I review the ways such anxieties have been managed in Malay responses to the Orang Asli, an ambivalent combination of acknowledgement, administration, rejection, and transformation. I argue that the 'programme of progress' that has been imposed upon the Orang Asli - which minimizes differences between them and the Malay 'new-Self' - masks the desire of the 'new-Self' for the impeccability and exclusivity of Orang Asli claims to indigeneity, a dual mimicry that continues to be repressed and transferred by constructing the Orang Asli as 'not quite/not Malay'.
Source Title: Social Identities
ISSN: 13504630
DOI: 10.1080/1350463032000174650
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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