The Transformation of Race Relations in Malaysia: From Ethnic Discourse to National Imagery, 1993-2003

In: African and Asian Studies
Raymond L.M. Lee
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Malaysians are under no illusion that they have shed their racial identities to embrace a single national identity. Yet the multiculturalism practiced in contemporary Malaysia seems to be compatible with a patriotic nationalism espoused by the government. This compatibility has the appearance of multiculturalism surviving the ordeal of postcolonial racial politics. The turbulence of racial politics seems to have been surpassed by a revitalized nationalism that does not blatantly erase racial heritage. The question of race relations in Malaysia is therefore a question of how multiculturalism and nationalism are successfully presented as icons of integration, overshadowing the more gritty issues of racial politics. These issues are not denied, but have become less transparent as national identity is developed in an arena of new images.

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