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The Politics of Multiculturalism

The Politics of Multiculturalism: Pluralism and Citizenship in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia

Copyright Date: 2001
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    The Politics of Multiculturalism
    Book Description:

    Few challenges to the modern dream of democratic citizenship appear greater than the presence of severe ethnic, religious, and linguistic divisions in society. With their diverse religions and ethnic communities, the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia have grappled with this problem since achieving independence after World War II. Each country has on occasion been torn by violence over the proper terms for accommodating pluralism. Until the Asian economic crisis of 1997, however, these nations also enjoyed one of the most sustained economic expansions the non-Western world has ever seen. This timely volume brings together fifteen leading specialists of the region to consider the impact of two generations of nation-building and market-making on pluralism and citizenship in these deeply divided Asian societies. Examining the new face of pluralism from the perspective of markets, politics, gender, and religion, the studies show that each country has developed a strikingly different response to the challenges of citizenship and diversity. The contributors, most of whom come Southeast Asia, pay particular attention to the tension between state and societal approaches to citizenship. They suggest that the achievement of an effectively participatory public sphere in these countries will depend not only on the presence of an independent "civil society," but on a synergy of state and society that nurtures a public culture capable of mediating ethnic, religious, and gender divides. The Politics of Multiculturalism will be of special interest to students of Southeast Asian history and society, anthropologists grappling with questions of citizenship and culture, political scientists studying democracy across cultures, and all readers concerned with the prospects for civility and tolerance in a multicultural world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6496-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Robert Hefner
  4. 1 Introduction: Multiculturalism and Citizenship in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia
    (pp. 1-58)
    Robert W. Hefner

    Few challenges to the modern dream of democratic citizen ship appear more daunting than the presence of severe ethnic, religious, and linguistic divisions in society. From early on in the modern era, Western liberal theorists were pessimistic about the prospects for democratic governance in deeply plural countries. In the nineteenth century, no less colossal a figure than J. S. Mill wrote that “Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government,...

  5. 2 The Culture and Practice of Pluralism in Postcolonial Malaysia
    (pp. 59-85)
    Abdul Rahman Embong

    Thanks in part to the work of J. S. Furnivall (1948), the problem of pluralism in Malaysia has attracted keen interest among scholars and commentators from this country as well as from outside the region. The continuing importance of the problem can be gleaned from the current ethnic mix in the Malaysian population, which in 1998, numbered 22.2 million. Of the total population, the majority is made up of people regarded as being the original or indigenous peoples of the country, known in Malay asbumiputera(lit., “sons/daughters of the soil”). They comprise 57.8 percent of the total; of this...

  6. 3 Social Pluralism in Singapore
    (pp. 86-118)
    Chua Beng Huat and Kwok Kian-Woon

    Looking at Singapore from the vantage point of its political structure, little appears to have changed in the past forty years since the People’s Action Party (PAP) first came to power. The same political party remains in absolute control of the parliament. The party, the government, and the state have for all intents and purposes melded into an undifferentiated unity. Cabinet ministers and members of parliament (MPs) are drawn from the uppermost ranks of the civil service, military service, and occasionally the private sector. The concentration of political and managerial power persists alongside the liberalization of the economy to foreign...

  7. 4 Social Resources for Civility and Participation: The Case of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
    (pp. 119-140)
    Mohtar Mas‘oed, S. Rizal Panggabean and Muhammad Najib Azca

    This is a story of Yogyakarta, its people, and its culture. This small area on the southern edge of central Java, surrounded by the ruins of ancient Javanese civilizations and fortified by the looming presence of the mythical Mount Merapi (an active volcano directly north of the city), houses a community rich with traditions. It preserves a cultural legacy that has been bequeathed from generation to generation.

    In the days gone by, Yogya children grew up in a world filled with folklore and mythology. Many residents still remember two especially well-known tales. One legend has it that prosperity would come...

  8. 5 Boundaries and Beyond: Whither the Cultural Bases of Political Community in Malaysia?
    (pp. 141-164)
    Sumit K. Mandal

    The cultural boundaries of political community have been clearly established for some time in the study of Malaysia. For the most part, the country has been viewed along the lines of the plural society model advanced by Furnivall in the 1940s. With some variations, independent Malaysia would appear to reflect quite nicely the colonial-era model of an ethnically divided polity. Formed shortly before independence, the ruling coalition of ethnic political parties has survived for more than forty years, thanks in part to a measure of pliancy and compromise among its elites. In international politics, Malaysia’s ruling elites take pride in...

  9. 6 Corporate Pluralism: Singapore Inc. and the Association of Muslim Professionals
    (pp. 165-182)
    Sharon Siddique

    Sixty years ago, John S. Furnivall, the British scholar bureaucrat who first coined the termplural society, wrote a brilliant book that has been largely ignored ever since (Furnivall 1939). One chapter, entitled “Plural Economy,” has a universality that deserves to be seriously revisited for two reasons. First, it lays out a fascinating thesis on the unique character of economic and political life in a plural society. Second, it was written at a time when colonial powers and colonial scholars were realizing that their world was about to change irrevocably. But in the late 1930s there was still no clear...

  10. 7 Where Has (Ethnic) Politics Gone? The Case of the BN Non-Malay Politicians and Political Parties
    (pp. 183-203)
    Francis Loh Kok Wah

    It is significant that the dual economic and political crises confronting Malaysia since 1997 have not resulted in ethnic conflagration as has occurred in neighboring Indonesia. It is also significant that the supporters of former deputy prime minister cum UMNO (United Malays National Organization) deputy president, Anwar Ibrahim, subsequently launched a new multiethnic party, the Justice Party (or Parti keADILan), to further their struggle for social and political reform and to contest the November 1999 general elections. They did not launch, as they could have, an equivalent of Semangat 46, a Malay-based party formed by an earlier group of UMNO...

  11. 8 The Redefinition of Politics and the Transformation of Malaysian Pluralism
    (pp. 204-226)
    Shamsul A. B.

    The economic and political crisis that hit Malaysia in July–August 1997 has laid bare old social fault lines and revealed new ones in a Malaysian pluralism rooted in the colonial era’s “plural society” framework. The temptation to view this crisis and the events since then in a convenient but too narrowly contemporary sense is great. In fact, in both the voluminous popular and pseudo-academic literature available to date, this has been the trend. Although these contributions are useful for shedding light on the possible causes that led to the crisis as well as the anatomy of its consequences, they...

  12. 9 What Islam, Whose Islam? Sisters in Islam and the Struggle for Women’s Rights
    (pp. 227-252)
    Zainah Anwar

    The Islamic resurgence that has recently engulfed most Muslim countries has brought forth tensions and competing ideologies concerning what Islam and whose Islam is the right Islam. Very often, it is the status and rights of women that have become the first casualty in this battleground. It is not surprising, therefore, that women’s groups in these countries have been at the forefront of those challenging traditional authorities and their use of religion to justify women’s subordination and to incite hatred against those who offer alternative views or protect the rights of women.

    For most Muslim women, however, rejecting religion is...

  13. 10 Gender and Pluralism in Indonesia
    (pp. 253-267)
    Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin

    This essay focuses on the relation between gender and pluralism in Indonesia. I begin by discussing how gender can be situated in the discourse of pluralism. Then I use this theoretical framework to examine how and why gender identity has been used as a political construction rather than merely something natural or cultural under Suharto’s New Order regime (1966–1998). Finally, I examine the possibility of movement toward more diverse or pluralistic representations of gender assignment under the changing political atmosphere made possible by the post-Suharto, reformation movement.

    Pluralism is the concept commonly used to identify social diversity or social...

  14. 11 Mirroring the Past or Reflecting the Future? Class and Religious Pluralism in Indonesian Labor
    (pp. 268-290)
    Vedi R. Hadiz

    The unraveling of Suharto’s New Order was accompanied by the flare-up of ethnic and religious violence across Indonesia, giving rise to fresh questions about its future as a viable nation.¹ Fears of impending chaos, anarchy, and national disintegration are of course also being fueled by the independence of east Timor and separatist sentiment not only in west Papua and Aceh, but in such heretofore untroubled places as Riau. On another level, the establishment of political and social organizations overtly premised on ethnic and religious allegiances is giving rise to fears about the reemergence of old political divides, especially those of...

  15. 12 Greens in the Rainbow: Ethnoreligious Issues and the Indonesian Armed Forces
    (pp. 291-310)
    Hermawan Sulistiyo

    The Indonesian Armed Forces, or TNI,¹ was and still is a significant player on the Indonesian social and political scene. The TNI’s role in political life reaches back to the first formative years of the republic, when the struggle for independence from the Dutch was not limited to diplomatic efforts but also involved armed struggle. The new republic was proclaimed on August 17, 1945. Five days later, on August 22, the newborn government established its first armed forces, named the Body for the People’s Security (Badan Keamanan Rakyat, or BKR). At the national level the BKR was placed under the...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 311-312)
  17. Index
    (pp. 313-324)