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Redefining National and Ethnic Identities in Indonesia and Malaysia: State-Society Interactions in Identity Politics

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Abstract:

Southeast Asia presents an unique opportunity to examine the often times, tumultuous post-colonial experiences of nation building, and explore the intersections of economic development, political culture and ideology. This historical-comparative study provides an account of the transformation of national identity and the redefinition of ethnicity in contemporary Indonesia and Malaysia. Using historical narratives and archival materials, I explain how and why discourses and practices that were particularly hostile and exclusionary towards the ethnic Chinese were replaced by more somewhat accommodating and inclusionary ones, and examine specific structural conditions that led to a reconfiguration of religious attitudes and practices, specifically Islam. Unlike studies that are inclined to characterize nation-building projects as part of state formation and expansion processes, I propose that these redefinitions are prompted by a reflexive and interactive relationship between state elites, ethnic entrepreneurs, class-based social groups, and civic organizations involving a negotiation of legitimacy. Despite the claims of autonomy and independence of the state from society by statist perspectives, this study shows that that which initially may appear to be deliberate and decisive action by state leadership and political elites can actually be unintentional, and can limit the state’s ability to maintain its claims of legitimacy among the citizens. Consequently, analyses of the role of the state and the corresponding political outcomes must take into more serious consideration the idea that political action is very much embedded in spatial and historical contexts.

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state (101), polit (81), chines (67), nation (58), malay (56), ethnic (51), malaysia (38), indonesian (33), econom (32), indonesia (30), societi (29), islam (28), cultur (26), class (25), develop (25), asa04.doc (24), jchi (24), govern (24), indigen (23), group (23), also (22),

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nation-building and state formation, identity politics, Southeast Asia
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Name: American Sociological Association
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MLA Citation:

Chi, Janine. "Redefining National and Ethnic Identities in Indonesia and Malaysia: State-Society Interactions in Identity Politics" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Hilton San Francisco & Renaissance Parc 55 Hotel, San Francisco, CA,, Aug 14, 2004 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p110307_index.html>

APA Citation:

Chi, J. , 2004-08-14 "Redefining National and Ethnic Identities in Indonesia and Malaysia: State-Society Interactions in Identity Politics" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Hilton San Francisco & Renaissance Parc 55 Hotel, San Francisco, CA, Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p110307_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Southeast Asia presents an unique opportunity to examine the often times, tumultuous post-colonial experiences of nation building, and explore the intersections of economic development, political culture and ideology. This historical-comparative study provides an account of the transformation of national identity and the redefinition of ethnicity in contemporary Indonesia and Malaysia. Using historical narratives and archival materials, I explain how and why discourses and practices that were particularly hostile and exclusionary towards the ethnic Chinese were replaced by more somewhat accommodating and inclusionary ones, and examine specific structural conditions that led to a reconfiguration of religious attitudes and practices, specifically Islam. Unlike studies that are inclined to characterize nation-building projects as part of state formation and expansion processes, I propose that these redefinitions are prompted by a reflexive and interactive relationship between state elites, ethnic entrepreneurs, class-based social groups, and civic organizations involving a negotiation of legitimacy. Despite the claims of autonomy and independence of the state from society by statist perspectives, this study shows that that which initially may appear to be deliberate and decisive action by state leadership and political elites can actually be unintentional, and can limit the state’s ability to maintain its claims of legitimacy among the citizens. Consequently, analyses of the role of the state and the corresponding political outcomes must take into more serious consideration the idea that political action is very much embedded in spatial and historical contexts.

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Document Type: .PDF
Page count: 24
Word count: 7204
Text sample:
jchi_asa04.doc 1 A cynical view of the relationship between ethnic pluralism and nationalism was one commonly held by early Western liberal thinkers such as J.S. Mill who wrote “Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling especially if they read and speak different languages the united public opinion necessary to the working of representative government cannot exist” (1958:230). Such pessimism continues as many scholars argue that when a
the State Back In: Strategies of Analysis in Current Research.” In Bringing the State Back In edited by Peter Evans Dietrich Rueschemeyer and Theda Skocpol. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Snodgrass Donald. 1980. Inequality and Economic Development in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. Steinmetz George ed. 1999. State/Culture: State-Formation after the Cultural Turn. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Suryadinata Leo. 1986. Pribumi Indonesians the Chinese Minority and China. Second edition. Singapore: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. Thomas George M. John Meyer


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