Inter-ethnic relations in Malaysia : an intersectional analysis of youth's engagement with ethnicised themes in local films
Date of Issue2018-08-15
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This dissertation is a sociological study of young people’s attitudes towards inter-ethnic relations in Malaysia based on their interpretations of ethnicised themes featured in local films. While sociological approaches to studying films have largely examined the ideological meanings of social life encoded in films, there remains a substantial gap in empirical analyses of the ways in which active audiences decode these meanings. Such a deficit is an epistemological lacuna that stands in the way of interrogating how films are understood from the audiences’ perspectives. Adopting an intersectional framework, this research examines how Malaysian undergraduates engage with selected local films in relation to the broader socio-cultural and socio-political contexts of their everyday lives. Despite the burgeoning corpus of literature on intersectionality as a concept, theory and methodology, little has been written on how different social identities intersect in the context of everyday lives in multi-ethnic Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia. Proceeding from theory to practice, my research fills this gap by conducting an empirical investigation of media consumption that utilises films as sites where notions of ethnicity are negotiated in relation to the day-to-day lived experience of a culturally diverse audience. Drawing on findings from a wide-scale ethnographic research in Malaysia, including compulsory film screening sessions, in-depth individual interviews and focus group discussions with a total of 96 Malaysian undergraduates from two universities in the greater Kuala Lumpur region, the research interrogates the ways in which socially constructed categories of differences like ethnicity, religion, class and gender are interweaved in the respondents’ narratives. Situated within the current context of state-sponsored Islamisation in Malaysia, it seeks to address how the undergraduates negotiate the structural impacts of Islamisation on their lived multi-ethnic experience. Overall, the findings reveal that foregrounding the narratives of a multi-ethnic audience not only serves as important sources for uncovering their complex lived experience, but highlights how intersectional subjectivities are reconstructed through interactions among social subjects. By treating meaning-making as a social process, the analysis illustrates how young people actively contest and negotiate the meanings of ethnicity and inter-ethnic relations in Malaysia. The dissertation argues that while the state rhetoric of Islamisation informs the undergraduates’ articulations of ethnicised narratives to a certain extent, it is important not to adopt a homogenising view of the impacts of Islamisation on multi-ethnicity in Malaysia. This is because a comprehensive understanding of Islamisation in the country requires not just an examination of top-down, state-led initiatives, nor of bottom-up societal pressures, but of the dialectical relations of both macro and micro processes.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Mass media::Broadcasting::Motion pictures and films::Asian cinema