Race and Nation, Family and Economy: Malayness and Its Debates (20 - 21 January 2009, Singapore)
There has been, in the last two decades, a proliferation of academic works that seek to examine ‘Malayness’: its origins, evolution, propagators, opponents, inheritors and victims in the Southeast Asian context. From the highly-influential writings of Shamsul Amri Baharuddin and Ariffin Omar to the more recent and insightful collection of articles published by the Singapore University Press (Barnard, 2004; Kahn, 2006), Malayness will, for certain, persist as a topic of scholarly interest and debate in the many years to come. In Malaysia more notably, Malayness has been attributed to an inchoate yet at the same time hegemonic political project. But its deconstruction has barely started. Political and religious underpinnings are either driving, or obstructing the debates on Malayness. In many instances, these factors can also come in the way of the achievement of a ‘normal’, ‘stable’ or even secular nationhood.
The meaning of race and nation carries its own enigma in a country like Malaysia which is still coming to terms with ideas of a shared and tolerant plurality. Narratives of ketuanan Melayu (Malay dominance) are unabashedly promoted to justify race-based politics and the unequal legitimacy between communities. Hence what is it that lies beneath and beyond this motive? Is the idea of ‘Malayness’ potent or ambiguous? Is it a racist assertion or theatrical rhetoric? What is behind the political stridency of race and why is the notion of nation still arousing compelling debates despite its seeming conclusiveness? One may even go so far as asking if Malayness is a fiction or a fact, a metaphorical device or a concrete consciousness.
More analysis needs to be done to uncover the multi-faceted underpinnings and factors that are shaping the discourses on Malayness. The tensions between the abstract ideas of ‘race’ and ‘nation, in contrast to the more intimate and palpable experience of family and its economy need to be more researched. There have also been sparse attempts to examine social collectives, textual materials, memoirs, biographies and personal conversations that lay beyond the orbit of political activisms in the understanding of this problem. Is the invocation of Malayness irrelevant in family experience but contentious, only because it feeds into the state-making process?
This workshop seeks to redress the above lacuna by examining how Malayness is inextricably tied with the grand and modern notions of race and nation as well as through its ancient and familiar ideology of family and everyday economy. What are the ways in which Malayness has been articulated by influential and politically-engaged personalities, collectives and texts as well as ordinary persons in history as well as the present? Are there disjunctures between Malayness as couched in race and nation contexts as opposed to Malayness at the individual and personal level? Of what value or benefit does Malayness as an identity code, symbol or reality hold out to its bearer? Is ‘race’ a technical device for state-making or is it an ideological basis for family and community sustenance? Or, is it none of the above, but rather, something else.
AIMS OF WORKSHOP
1. To re-examine current dominant approaches in scholarship on Malayness, towards a better understanding of the dialectics between race and nation, and between family and its everyday economy.
2. To explore and understand how Malayness has been articulated by selected studies on personalities, collectives, texts and family histories.
3. To uncover the motives of personalities and social collectives (from political parties to cultural groups) as they articulate the tensions and accommodation of race and nation as a singular category in contrast to family and economy as an opposing singular notion.
4. To produce an edited volume out of the papers presented at the workshop. The overall theme of the book is the deconstruction of the issue of Malayness, with its conflicts and contentions investigated through a methodological focus on personalities, texts, collectives and family life.
REQUIREMENTS FOR PAPER PROPOSALS
This workshop invites outstanding and dedicated scholars, within the disciplines of history, literature, sociology, anthropology and politics and in the field of Malay and Southeast Asian Studies to submit proposals for suitable papers that fit within the aims of the workshop. Papers are expected to fall into one of the four themes identified below. However, the organizers are open to proposals that explore other appropriate themes as the basis for study, as well as multiple themes that interconnect. The four themes that should be considered in the preparation of papers are discussed below:
Within this theme, papers are expected to look at the question of Malayness through a study of personalities. We would expect questionings as to how different political personalities such Burhanuddin Al-Helmy, Mahathir Mohamad, Khatijah Sidek, Abdul Samad Ismail and others have conceptualized ideas of Malayness and how might the newer political discourses by Anwar Ibrahim or Raja Petra Kamaruddin be either reinforcing, or unraveling some of these.
Under this rubric papers are expected to refer to sources such as fictional works, vernacular and English newspapers, political newsletters, and other non-conventional sources such as the websites and political and cultural blogs to explore the Malayness discourse. Do texts reveal particular ways that Malayness is articulated, and then lived?
Aside from looking at prominent movements such as UMNO, PAS and other influential civil societies, we invite papers that can uncover how the lesser explored groups such as cultural and literary collectives contribute to the debates and activism on Malayness and the implications on race, nation, family and economy.
4. Family Life
To complement or contrast the treatment of Malayness from the concerns of race and nation it would be necessary to look at how Malayness is lived and articulated through the experiences of family entities. In exploring this dimension we welcome papers that can extensively include family studies in the deconstruction of debates on Malayness. Sources for this group of papers can include personal memoirs, biographies, oral histories and ethnographies.
All papers presented at the workshop will be considered for publication in an edited volume, tentatively titled, Race and Nation, Family and Economy: Malayness and its Debates . Papers must be based on original research and paper writers must commit themselves to contributing their piece exclusively to this volume.
Paper proposals should include a 250-word abstract. A complete biodata (CV) and short biography should also be submitted on the attached form by 15 October 2008.
Please submit and address all applications to Miss Alyson Rozells (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the Asia Research Institute. Successful applicants will be notifed by 30 October 2008 and will be required to send in a completed paper by 15 December 2008.
Based on the quality of proposals and availability of funds, partial or full funding will be granted to successful applicants. Full funding will cover air travel to Singapore by the most economical means, and board and lodging for the duration of the workshop.
Dr Maznah Mohamad (email@example.com)
Asia Research Institute and Malay Studies Department, NUS
Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Malay Studies Department, NUS
Miss Alyson Rozells
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
#10-01 Tower Block,469A Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770
Tel: (65) 6516 8787
Fax: (65) 6779 1428
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