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Multiple Ethnicities in Malaysia: The Shifting Relevance of Alternative Chinese Categories

  • Judith Strauch (a1)

Ethnicity takes many forms, meets a variety of needs, and has a wide range of uses. No single case can provide material for an exhaustive analysis of the full complexity of the phenomenon, but all contribute pieces to the mosaic, illuminating that complexity. Analyses have been couched in terms of cultural definitions, of perceptual and cognitive categories, of social distance and solidarity of groups, of boundary definition and maintenance, of conflict and competition, of emergent versus conservative qualities of the phenomenon, and so forth—and all hold some validity, for ethnicity is multi-faceted. As A. L. Epstein points out, to define ethnicity exclusively in terms of only one of these many facets—whether its potential as a focus for political mobilization, its contribution to an individual's psychic comfort as a member of a group, or its cultural or linguistic attributes—‘is to confuse an aspect of the phenomenon with the phenomenon itself’ (1978:96).

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Lawrence Crissman . (1967) ‘The segmentary structure of urban overseas Chinese communities.’ Man 2:185204.

J. C. Mitchell (1970) ‘Tribe and social change in South Central Africa: a situational approach.’ Journal of Asian and African studies 5: 83101.

Alvin Rabushka . (1971) ‘Integration in urban Malaya: ethnic attitudes among Malays and Chinese.’ Journal of Asian and African studies 6: 91107.

Marvin L. Rogers (1975) ‘The politicization of Malay villagers.’ Comparative politics 7, 2:205225.

Judith Strauch . (1981) Chinese village politics in the Malaysian state, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Judith Strauch . (1978) ‘Tactical success and failure in grassroots politics: MCA and DAP in rural Malaysia, 1972.’ Asian survey 18, 12: 1280–94.

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Modern Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0026-749X
  • EISSN: 1469-8099
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-asian-studies
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