Malay History, Inferiority, and a Theory of Jealousy?

by Azly Rahman

I came across on my facebook timelime of a news-story that a Malaysian historian claimed that Malaya was colonized because the colonizers were jealous of the power and intelligence of the Malays and that the Chinese migration was a historical conspiracy or an “invasion” of sort (and I suppose the South Indian too, and maybe the Bangladeshi as well) … that they Malays were already skilled miners and rubber tappers too perhaps …

Interesting proposition although I did giggle silently uncontrollably reading it.

Seriously i thought this is coming from a new paradigm of looking history form a school of thought that will certainly or at least challenge or replace Braudel’s The Annals Schools, Structural Functionalists, Social-Darwinists, Marxists, and even post-structuralism of Foucault proposing power/knowledge matrix …

Get serious Malaysian historian who made that claim. there is no point joking about interpretive modes in historicizing and making the next generation believe that the traditional rulers had no part at all in this “colonial-jealousy” theory.

Let us get serious about your perspective on the nature of colonialism and imperialism and the interplay between technological dominance, cultural change, control over resources, and human motivation in history. better still, read the classic texts on the philosophy of history and the relationship between colonization and class structure within the colonies.

What Malaysians need is not more and more watering down and trivialization of themes in the study of history but on understanding of the conditions within the kingdom, principality, country, etc. that made it ripe for colonization and on the entire deep-analytical inquiry of the innerworking of feudalism and the nature of the “kerajaan’ (traditional statehood) and the different concepts of power (homogenous, heterogenous, carnivalesque, etc.) that made kingdoms rise and fall, and later the nature of globalization both in ancient and modern times that necessitate the advancement of merchatilism, colonization, imperialism, and lastly modern-day globalization. That’s what we need as a way to look at history from alternative perspectives.

I don’t know what is ailing the scholarly field of study of history in Malaysia these days —  from the claims of a special Malay gene, Tanda Putera, forced and awkward construction of Bumiputraism and even Malayness, and now a paradigm of “Jealousy in History”. This sounds like a romance of the three Malay Kingdoms, of Srivijaya-Kelana Jaya-Putrajaya; of a love triangle set in Taman Johor Jaya.

But seriously folks and historians, get serious. Respect the bodies in the field of knowledge by first mastering the basics and the classics and when you get to the frontier of these, by asking  more and more questions, so that you may try to break paradigms with intellectual rigour, grace, and dignity —  as how others like Ibnu Khaldun. EH Carr, Marx, Braudel, or even Howard Zinn have done Do this rather than use Dr. Phil’s talk show to construct a theory of jealousy in the march of history. Honesty in historicizing requires one to firs juggle as many viewpoints of an idea or a field as it by “standing on the shoulders of giants”, and  not by some fear and favour coming from the paradigm of political paymasters.

I don’t know. Never a dull moment in Malaysian academia and politics these days.

But how do we approach this argument on the “South Invasion” that led to the “inferiority of the Malays”, as claimed? In other words, how do we “historicize Malaysia”? Below might be a plausibe narrative most often let abandoned in the Malaysian academia.

Malaysia’s history is written by those who are paid by the feudal lords or the sultans and the bourgeoisie class who have become an appendage to the modern neo-feudalistic Malay state.

Malaysian history, a basis of the violently disseminated idea of Ketuanan Melayu, as an apology to the idea of economic dominance of the Malay-dominated National Front, favours the powerful and the wealthy as heroes of history.