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October 21 , 2007

Identity and the State in Malaysia


Using the case study of the Kadazan of Sabah, a region in the Malaysian section of Borneo, this book examines national, ethnic and local identities in post-colonial states. It shows the importance of the connection between lived experience and identity and belonging, and by doing so, provides a deeper and fuller explanation of the apparently contradictory conflict between different collective forms of identification and the way in which they are employed in reference to everyday situations.

Based on ethnographic fieldwork and historical analysis, the book reconstructs the development of the cultural forms and labels associated with the collective identities it studies. The author employs an approach that sees collective identification as an expression of everyday practices and that stresses the importance of participation and familiarity between forms of identification and lived experience. In this context, he considers anthropological debates about state-minorities relations and issues of ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’.

Explaining state-minority relations in Malaysia and more generally in other post-colonial realities, the insights presented are highly relevant to other cases of conflicting allegiances and identity politics in settings of post-colonial nation-building.

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