Political technologies and multiculturalism in Malaysia




Yehambaram, John

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This thesis examines the 1Malaysia campaign, an initiative by the Malaysian state that seeks to address ethnic and religious divisions and economic inequality in the country to for continued political stability and economic growth. This campaign seeks to promote unity among the nation’s diverse population. The thesis uses the concept of political technologies to analyze the 1Malaysia campaign and show how it draws on, but also differs from other similar strategies in the nation’s history. I will analyze the ways that the state in colonial and post-colonial Malaysia created political tools to manage diverse ethnic and religious groups. This thesis addresses a shift in state policy that may offer insights into the strategies pursued by other postcolonial governments that have diverse ethnic and religious groups. I argue that the political technologies prior to the 1Malaysia campaign had created and maintained ethnic and religious divisions in Malaysia, particularly leading to the implementation of affirmative action policies that benefitted only specific ethnic and religious groups. I contend that the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) party views ethnic and religious divisions as a problem and hindrance to economic growth and modernization. It is also trying to define what it is to be Malaysian by creating and fostering its definition of unity and tolerance to be practiced by its citizens. Lastly this work will also examine opposing views of unity and multiculturalism from emerging film movements and public demonstration in Malaysia. This will highlight that the ruling government is facing opposing views to creating solidarity and further highlighting that this nation is going through a period of transition in defining multiculturalism.



multiculturalism, religion, ethnicity, political technologies, nationalism, colonialism, communal, capitalism