Monday, September 7, 2009

Of different Malays: The problem of boundaries

By Merlyna Lim (The Jakarta Post)

The recent furor caused by the Discovery Channel's mistaken insertion of the Balinese Pendet dance into a TV spot for Malaysia has reopened an old wound of Indonesians, who believe Malaysian has repeatedly stolen Indonesian cultural heritage, including the song "Rasa Sayange", the angklung, and the Reog Ponorogo dance, among others.

For most Indonesians, that the Malaysian government can claim these things is bewildering. Regular Indonesians would undoubtedly associate these three intangible cultural items with three different origins: "Rasa Sayange" is Ambonese/Maluku, the angklung is Sundanese, and the Reog Ponorogo is Javanese.

Most Malaysians, including the government of Malaysia, however, fail to see these as being of different cultural lineage. They lump them as belonging to Malay (Melayu) culture.

Malay culture is considered by Indonesians in reference to the dances of Lilin, Randai and Serampang Dua Belas, and has no direct connection to the Javanese gamelan, the Reog or the angklung. It is directly associated with the traditions and customs of the ethnic group within the boundary of the Malay peninsula. Malaysians seem to see a different boundary for Malay culture. Why is this?

Knowledge and narratives of local culture in Indonesia are developed in association with ethnic-based regional boundaries. They are endorsed by the state and they are part of nation building.

From elementary school, Indonesian kids learn about national heritage by memorizing the names of dances, folk songs and visual representations of traditional costumes.

The practice of documenting and selecting material artifacts of local cultures is part of the larger political process of inclusion that stresses nationalism and the national unity of Indonesia. Selective preservation of regional and/or local art forms, in constructing the national culture, is therefore part of the politics of exclusion.

Recognizing this pitfall, however, the ways in which local culture is framed in Indonesia are much less crude than in Malaysia. It is still assigned and identified with a certain cultural context/geographical (of origin). While being partial and reductionist, multifarious contexts and diverse locales still have some space in the narrative of Indonesian national culture.

Malaysia adopts a different route in approaching its national and local cultures. The modern nation-state of Malaysia frames national culture by clustering cultural artifacts into the Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous tribe (orang asli) cultures. The term Malay here differs from that of Indonesia, and refers to and is influenced by several concepts.

First, as enacted in the term "Malay is Muslim, Muslim is Malay", it is a form of ethno-religion. It is entwined with the concept of ethnic nationalism that has become today's Malaysia's dominant state-religion relations in which the state is fused to a particular ethnic group and religion functions as a signifier of ethnic identity.

Any Javanese, Acehnese or other Indonesian who migrated to Malaysia will be classified as Malay and are expected to be Muslim. Chinese-Indonesians, though, can box themselves as Chinese, thus do not have to be Muslim.

Second, it is used in association with the Malay race (bangsa Melayu) instead of the Malay ethnicity (suku Melayu).

This concept originated in Blumenbach's racial classification system, which divides the world's races into the Caucasian/white race, the Mongolian/yellow race, the Malayan/brown race, the American/red race and the Negroid/black race. His skull-based concept has been rejected by many anthropologists who recognize the enormous complexity of classifying races.

He considered the inhabitants of Southeast Asia, including the Marianas, the Philippines, the Malukus, Sundas and Pacific Islands as Malayan. Blumenbach wrote, "Malay variety. Tawny-colored; hair black, soft, curly, thick and plentiful; head moderately narrowed; forehead slightly swelling; nose full..."

The concept of the Malay race is also a historical heritage of colonialism. European planters and British officials in Malaysia were keen to obtain laborers from the Dutch East Indies because they were regarded as being better suited to the climate and would assimilate more easily with the local Malays.

Indonesian migrants were viewed as originating from the same racial stock as the Malays, regardless of ethnicity. In early colonial Malaysia, the Straits Settlements censuses of 1871 and 1881 both listed "Malay, Achinese, Andamanese, Boyanese, Bugis and Javanese" separately.

In the 1891 census, however, there were major structural changes in the classification of ethnicities. The 48 different ethnicities were sorted under the major (hierarchical) classifications of "European and American, Eurasian, Chinese, Malays and other Natives of the Archipelago, Tamils and other Natives of India, and Other Races".

The creation of the category "Malay and other Natives of the Archipelago" and the inclusions of the various ethnicities in it contributed toward formalizing the boundaries of Malay-ness. The modern nation-state Malaysia cultivates this heavily politicized classification by clustering Malaysians into Malays, Chinese, Indians and indigenous tribes.

Tracing the origin of the term Malay as used in Malaysian context, we thus can understand that the Malaysian version of Malay is more a product of political reconstruction (of colonialism and a modern ethnic nationalism) and is rooted in the politics of race and identity rather than the geographical boundary of origin.

As people move around globally, cultures flow in all directions. Tracing the histories and origins of culture is thus always a complicated task. Lumping together various artifacts into one Malay culture whose boundary is heavily politicized is certainly not the most plausible method to complete the task. It fails to recognize the complexity of the cultures of the archipelago, thus removing them from their multifarious contexts and locales and uprooting these cultures from the people who shape and are reshaped by them.

As for Indonesia, it is time to recognize and appreciate local cultures not by treating them as symbols to justify unity and diversity, but by supporting and caring for the people who work tirelessly in preserving and maintaining these cultures.

The writer is an Indonesian professor at Arizona State University, Tempe, US.

PS : Nak bagi pembaca faham, tak faham cari kamus bahasa, bukan Ismail Kamus ye !

19 comments:

MiJa said...

and Malaysia blames discovery channel. Rais Yatim said they (discovery channel) produced the 30-second clip to promote the series of Enigmatic Malaysia.its their mistakes!
hmmm...

anaianai said...

haha..thats right. Actually the concepts was mooted much much earlier than today, by the colonial masters of the past. We are now a confused lot, aint we? Unless we understand history. Thanks Mija !

T H E . M A L A Y . P R E S S said...

from my undertstanding.
Malay itself a suku kaum it is not a RACE. It was Dato Onn who took Raffle's concept of universal Malay (race base on language) added it up with Blumenbach's racial classification system and merged ISLAM as the main ingredient in order to unified them against the Malayan Union in 1946. ( he didnt talk about suku kaum anymore during that period as people will further divided)

Then he came out with a definition : A Malay must be Islam - speak Malay - use Malay customary in every day living and so on...

Honestly, it was Dato Onn who improvised the concept of Malay race today - without him Islam will be left behind (a concept approved in the People Constitutional - AMCJA-Putera). If AMCJA-Purea won that day, most probably we will be like indonesian today - and the king is no longer a king.

However, Dato Onn's didnt managed to put his MASTER plan in place because he was back stabbed by the Malay itself ( i think the ingris was behind it)

Malay Nusantara actually refers to Alam Bahasa Malayu - where everybody speaks Malay (this concept originally from Stamford Raffle)

If you want to see the Real Malay pls visit my blog. They dont look like me and you - honestly.

To me, the main reason why Tan Cheng Lock opposed the Malayanisation assimilation concept was because of the Islam - but he then backup AMCJA-Putera Malayness concept (because there was no Islam mentioned in that) and he backup Dato Onn's IMP and then he jumped over to Perikatan because he saw that the chinese will be politically independent as an entity, joined with UMNO again in a different entity to claim the Merdeka from the Brits.

With Dato Onn at helm - the chinese will have to be in UMNO and not in different entity...

All in all, if you scrutinise the colonial race concept closely, it was about de-Islamisation from the beginning...

bumilangit said...

1) anifah aman lembab, enuff said.

2) kita perlu terus rasional, jika tidak, ramailah orang melayu(?) yang pegang buluh runcing di tengah2 jalan.

anaianai said...

mesti rasional..ini bukan soal politik..hari ini kia tetap melayu..tapi ramai yg tak faham proses menjadi melayu yang dicaturkan zaman dahulu.

Bagi yg nak bantah (bukan u) no hal, p la buke blog sendiri mcm puak thai tu, bantah la sepuas hati kat blog kau tuh. Ni blog aku hahaha..suke hati aku la

T H E . M A L A Y . P R E S S said...

sorry boss, mencelah sket.

Kita menjadi masalah 'menjadi adik' kepada indonesia sebab kita amik Parameswara Hindu sumatera tu jadi kepala kepada sejarah kesultanan kita hari ini...sebenarnya sejarah kesultanan Islam bermula di Tanah Semenanjung ni..

agaknya Indon ni pun kita kena sekolahkan balik kot...

Salmi said...

Dah professor emeritius KKK pun kata orang-orang Melayu asal dari Indonesia (bermula dgn Parameswara Hindu agaknya), orang-orang politik ni pun percaya sangatlah.

Angkara Ingris durjana, kita pun tak ada monumen besar nak ditonjol jadi world heritage macam Borobudur, yang kat Lembah Bujang masih dok korek balik yang dah musnah.

amirulhusnitekpi said...

assalamua'laikum

Rakan2 kita kat Indonesia tu bukannya apa....depa (especially kat Jawa) dok menegakkan kegemilangan Hayam Wuruk dan Patih Gajah Mada depa tu....tu yang marah sangat pasal tarian Pendet depa tu....

Aku sokong TMP...kena ajar sejarah balik kat rakan2 Indonesia kita...aku kat sini pun...kalau jumpa depa...dok cerita sejarah realiti kita kat depa...tapi kena guna cara hikmah la...tak boleh pi dok terjah kata depa salah.....

Salaam Ramadhan...(dah masuk 10 malam terakhir dah...)

T H E . M A L A Y . P R E S S said...

Mana pergi sultan-sultan Islam di Indonesia sekarang? Sultan Aceh - Sultan Demak - Sultan Riau - Sultan Sulu-Sultan Albani - Sultan Ternate - Sultan Maksassar - Sultan Bugis dan lain2 lagi?

Azhar said...

Salam. Aku ada singgah kat tapak arkeologi tepi highway Merbok. Ada student master dok explain kat aku pasal tapak tu.Dia kata situ penempatan Buddha. Aku tanya balik apa buktinya? Ada patung Buddha ka? Dia kata takdak.... cuma ada inkripsi Brahmin ntahapahapantah. Kalau macam Borobudur tu sahlah Buddha & depa (Indon) memang lagi lambat terima Islam berbanding kita. Aku tanya lagi abad ke berapa artifak ni? Dia kata abad ke-3 tahun 1700 lebih.... hampeh.

Salmi said...

Kalau tak silap dalam beberapa tahun yang lalu ada percubaan mencari balik waris sultan-sultan Melayu di Sumatera untuk dilantik semula, tapi lebih kepada Sultan adat istiadat yang tak ada kuasa apa-apa walaupun hal ehwal Islam macam di Malaysia.

Semasa aku di Australia dulu, pernah berjumpa seorang cucu Sultan Deli terakhir, nama dia Tengku Khairudin Perkasa Alam Shah. Muka dia mirip Arab campur India. Tapi masa tu aku belum tau sejarah realiti. Kalau aku ditakdirkan jumpa dia balik aku nak tanya dia gelaran Alam Shah tu mai kot mana?

anaianai said...

Ye mungkin binaan tu jauh lebih awal, tapi siapa yang robohkan? Kita bukan ada bencana alam yang besar-besar pun yang pernah direkodkan. Pastu pula pecah berkecai, serpihan kecik-kecik je yang tinggal, siap dikambus pulak tu. Nampak sangat ia bertujuan untuk menutup ketamadunan yang pernah ada di lembah bujang ini oleh penjajah dizaman dahulu.

Salmi said...

Student master atau PhD pun sama saja kalau masih terikat dengan kepercayaan nenek moyang asal Hindu & Buddha. Kalau dah Brahmin tu Buddha kot mana, melainkan artifak Hindu yang depa tabur masa kambus dululah.Nampaknya mamat yang buat master tu pun nak kena tarbiah dengan kita di sini.

dragsuperstar said...

http://perakexpress.com/www/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/m3.jpg

buku yang SNK khabarkan mengenai penubuhan Malaysia telah dirancang pada tahun 1937..

2. SEAWAL TAHUN 1937 NAMA 'MALAYSIA' TELAH DISEBUT DALAM SEBUAH BUKU BERTAJUK,"MALAYSIA: A STUDY IN DIRECT AND INDIRECT RULE" YANG DIKARANG OLEH RUPERT EMERSON, NEW YORK,MC MILLAN (20 tahun sebelum merdeka dan sebelum Jepun menyerang tanah melayu). TAJUK BUKU INI ADA KAMI JUMPAI SEMASA SURFING. JADI persoalannya, NAMA NEGARA KITA MALAYSIA INI AGENDA SIAPA SEBENARNYA?

Green Wave Baru said...

salm....
patut la masa saya blajar sejarah masa kat sekolah menengah dulu,rasa macam kurang ja sejarah kita...takdak tamadun yang hebat...lepas tau sejarah realiti,baru saya paham awat jadi lagu tu....

anaianai said...

terima kasih dragsuperstar..u are great!!!!!! WELL DONE !!

Muhamamd Firdaus said...

jangan dinafikan bahawa melayu itu adalah bahasa sedangkan nusantara didiami oleh ratusan etnik berbeza dengan bahasa dan dialek yang berlainan. Contohnya di Indonesia memang pernah diajar di sekolah akan keperbagaian etnik ini. Dari segi bahasa, hanya bahasa melayu indonesia yang diiktiraf bahasa rasmi. Cumanya bahasa jawa masih diajarkan di sekolah berangkali kerana mereka adalah etnik majoriti.

Pada saya tidak ada masalah konsep kesatuan melayu yang diilhamkan oleh Dato' Onn (jika benar), cuma jangan sampai anak bangsa sendiri terkeliru akan sejarah yang sebenar.

fakta menarik - saya diberitahu oleh rakan Indonesia bahawa istilah 'korang' dan 'diorang' yang digunakan oleh kebanyakan kita juga digunakan di Maluku. see..bab nusantara ni tak boleh claim2 asal dari mana. sebab kita kongsi semua sekali. Kalau nak claim copyright, bahasa melayu asal dari mana? kalau Malaysia,maknanya Indonesia perlu tukar bahasa lain begitu juga sebaliknya.

T H E . M A L A Y . P R E S S said...

kalau kesatuan melayu yang dimaksudkan itu merefer pada KMM maka bukanlah dato onn. harap jangan terkeliru antara persatuan dan kesatuan dan persekutuan.

Melancholic Fool said...

Assalamaulaiakum...

Sori yer, saya blur ni, mmg susah nak paham apa yg saudara2 sume katakan... saya cuma minat sejarah je... tapi betulke kesimpulan2 yg saya but berdasarkan bacaan kasar yang saya buta kat blog saudara

1. Melayu bukan satu bangsa seperti apa yang dilihat sekarang? Adakah ia gabungan pelbagai bangsa?

2. Tapak lembah bujang itu mungkin satu penipuan yang di gembar gembur oleh penjajah?

3. Islam bertapak lebih lama dari apa yang diajar oleh sejarah sekolah menengah

Maaf ye, saya baru, just nak tanye soklan... untuk meningkatkan kefahaman...