Interethnic perception of ethnic boundaries in Penang, Malaysia

Matondang, Saiful Anwar
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2012]
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This case study was conducted to address questions of ethnic boundaries and the dynamics of urban communities in Penang, Malaysia. An ethnic boundary study is based on a systematic set of rules that governs a person's behavior and actions in interethnic relations: it generates and maintains ethnic groups (Barth, 1969:10). It also emphasizes the processes and situational conditions in order to identify boundaries in social interaction. The members of a given society are divided on grounds of race, religion, language, culture, ethnicity, history, ecology and social organization, separately or together (Furnivall, 1956). Culture includes and subsumes language, religion, conceptions of race, ethnicity, kinship, ecology, community and normative models of social organization and conduct (Smith, 1991). The research questions are formulated: How do people with ideological preconceptions interact within and among different ethnic groups? How do the people in Penang perceive and exhibit their ethnic identity based on beliefs, house-forms, and social associations? How do contemporary ethnic groups in Penang perceive the social life in terms of interethnic relations? How do the people of Penang retain their ethnic identity in response to the new formation of such communities? How do the people of outside official ethnic categories perceive their identities? An anthropological ethno-history (Sturtevant, 1966:14) was conducted to highlight and understand the earlier situations experienced by the first and second generations of Penangites. The use of collective and self-identity of Penagites in contemporary context is also examined. This research finds that the urban enclaves, the names of streets, religious buildings and cultural events reflect a poly-ethnic of Penangites. Then, the hybrid culture and cross cut the conceived ethnic boundaries occur when the awareness of social class and attachment to global culture are mingled. The upper class of different ethnic groups could live in a modern neighborhood. Moreover, identities of the Penang Baba, Penang Jawi Pekan, Jawi Arab and Penang Eurasians are not static, but more dynamic because of education, professions, and globalism. The next generation of Peranakan groups does not strictly follow the identities of previous one. However, those Peranakan fall outside the official categories of the 2010 census, and are categorized as Chinese, ndia or simply " ther". Since the official categories of the 2010 census do not acknowledge the realities of ethnic identities, the civil rights in terms of politics, economic, and education opportunities as Malaysians might be ignored.
M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012.
Includes bibliographical references.
Ethnic Boundaries, Urban Enclaves, Global Culture Space, Official Ethnic Categories
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Theses for the degree of Master of Arts (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Asian Studies.
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