“I’m not that kind of Malay" : negotiating Malay identity in Singapore
Sanwari, Farah Nurdiyanah
Date of Issue2016
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This paper seeks to explore the construction of Malay ethnic identity against the backdrop of the disparaging public discourse and stereotypes surrounding Malays. Drawing on interactionist paradigm, I engage with the theory of ‘Othering’ in uncovering the process of identity formation. I conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with 14 Malay youths from a range of socio- economic and educational background. The data revealed that 1) everyday racism and the public discourse on Malays largely shape Malays’ negative perception of themselves and their ethnicity; 2) the extent of internalized racism is felt differently across social class, where the educated middle class are most likely to experience class anxiety; 3) respondents adopt strategies (defensive othering, social distancing, and language use) as an adaptive response, reinforcing ingroup discrimination; 4) Malays’ policing of piety and gender reinforce pressures faced within the Malays. This study contributes to the larger study on identity work among Singaporean Malays, proving a ground-level analysis of Malay identity. The results reveal the need for Malays to have a more critical outlook on public discourse on Singaporean Malays and for a more reflexive attitude towards understanding other Malays.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University