CLASS AND POLITICS IN MALAYSIAN AND SINGAPOREAN NATION BUILDING

Author: Muhamad Nadzri Mohamed Noor

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Mohamed Noor, Muhamad Nadzri, 2017 CLASS AND POLITICS IN MALAYSIAN AND SINGAPOREAN NATION BUILDING, Flinders University, School of History and International Relations

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Abstract

This study endeavours to deliver an alternative account of the study of nation-building by examining the subject matter eclectically from diverse standpoints, predominantly that of class in Southeast Asia which is profoundly dominated by ‘cultural’ perspectives. Two states in the region, Malaysia and Singapore, have been selected to comprehend and appreciate the nature of nation-building in these territories. The nation-building processes in both of the countries have not only revolved around the national question pertaining to the dynamic relations between the states and the cultural contents of the racial or ethnic communities in Malaysia and Singapore; it is also surrounded, as this thesis contends, by the question of class - particularly the relations between the new capitalist states’ elites (the rulers) and their masses (the ruled). More distinctively this thesis perceives nation-building as a project by political elites for a variety of purposes, including elite entrenchment, class (re)production and regime perpetuation. The project has more to do with ‘class-(re)building’ and ‘subject-building’ rather than ‘nation-building’. Although this thesis does not eliminate the significance of culture in the nation-building process in both countries; it is explicated that cultures were and are heavily employed to suit the ruling class’s purpose. Hence, the cultural dimension shall be used eclectically with other perspectives. This study, thus, attempts to unravel ‘the politics’ behind the nation-building policy in Malaysia and Singapore. The three main themes explored in this thesis are, how the nation-building projects in both countries are connected and personalised with class interests of their ruling elites; how state elections impact nation-building politics; and how nation-building policies are endorsed to build political loyalty or support among the ruled to the ruling elites. For these reasons, a host of data-gathering and references would be included, ranging from historical reports, scholarly works and newspaper clippings (online and printed materials). The researcher also conducted several field trips in Malaysia (in 2010 and 2015) and Singapore (in 2010). Throughout the trips, the researcher observed a number of local and national events, spoke to some members of the communities and non-governmental organisations, as well as interviewed a numbers of politicians, academicians and government servants.

Keywords: nation, nationalism, nation building, class, ethnicity, Malaysian politics, politics in Singapore
Subject: History thesis, International Relations thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of History and International Relations
Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Michael Barr