(P26AB) Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Postcolonial Southeast Asia
Part 1Session 7
Thu 13:30-15:00 K10 | 2.40
Part 2Session 8
Thu 15:30-17:00 K10 | 2.40
- Yew Foong Hui Hong Kong Shue Yan University
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Being Christian and kristang in Malacca: strategies for self-assertion
Monika Arnez Palacký University in Olomouc
This contribution ties in with the aim of the call for papers to (…) “seek to deconstruct the experience and meaning of being minorities, and articulate the multi-vocality of postcolonial nation-states.” The minority at issue in this paper is the kristang community living on the coast of the Straits of Malacca in Ujong Pasir, Malacca. As adherents of the Catholic faith, the community members are a religious minority, and as Eurasians (kristang), they are also an ethnic minority categorised as “others” in Malaysia.
This paper explores how the experience of being an ethnic and religious minority can shape strategies to gain greater recognition, inspired by scholarly work on ethnicity and religion in Malaysia (i.e. Petr? 2018, Pillai 2014, Sarkissian 2005). In considering how the kristang community fits into ethnic politics in Malaysia, it shows how claims to “sea” and “land” have featured prominently in the context of different strategies for self-assertion and visibility from the beginning of the planning of the settlement in 1926 to the present day. It also shows where the limitations of these strategies lie and why.
The contribution also points out that the community members’ claims to land and sea have to be understood against the background of land reclamation, which the community members have resisted in recent decades, i.e. the Melaka Gateway, and, more recently, the Melaka Waterfront Economic Zone. The empirical material for this paper comes from fieldwork conducted in Malacca in 2018 and 2019, which included the realisation of my documentary film Flow of Sand (2019).
Lanna Nationalism and the Role of Cultural Civic Associations in Contemporary Thailand
Joel Selway Brigham Young University
In 2014, banners were hung from bridges across the North of Thailand calling for the separation of a Lanna state. Who was responsible for the banners and how widespread are these separatist sentiments? This study explores the development of Lanna ethnic saliency from the 1980s to the present day. It highlights the role of civil society in the creation of associations aimed at maintaining and revitalizing cultural traditions from the Lanna region, including language and script, dance, festivals, food, and arts and crafts. These associations increased awareness of the Lanna identity and created a feeling of past and impending cultural loss. In addition, they formed social networks united by the Lanna culture. Against this background, the political chaos of the past two decades came to be interpreted as an extension of Lanna cultural loss. Thaksin and his sister Yingluck, both prime ministers from the Lanna region who were ousted in coups (2006 and 2014 respectively) were seen as ethnic heroes. Red shirt organizations that cropped up to restore democracy were tinted with Lanna nationalism, a quite different phenomenon than in the Northeast.
Myanmar’s Unofficial Minorities: Citizenship Delayed, Deferred and Denied
Aung Ko Ko Brandeis University
Elizabeth Rhoads Lund University
Nan Tinilarwin Independent Researcher
Myanmar’s ‘unofficial minorities’ represent a diverse cross-section of Myanmar society. Unofficial minorities include those not recognized as ethnic nationalities (taingyintha) by the Myanmar state (including Chinese, Tamils, Gurkhas, Bengalis, Telugus, Rohingya, and others), and religious minorities (particularly Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims). These groups are minoritized populations who experience considerable difficulty in accessing citizenship documentation and securing rights as citizens.
At independence Myanmar opted for a hybrid citizenship regime that allowed for paths to citizenship based on both jus sanguinis and jus soli principles, as well as a liberal naturalization policy. However, a new citizenship law passed in 1982 created a tiered system with differential eligibility, rights, and application procedures for jus sanguinis and jus soli pathways, highly restricting the jus soli path to citizenship for those not considered taingyintha by the Myanmar state.
While much has been written on the 1982 Citizenship Law, this paper, based on oral history interviews with 70 participants, highlights the experiences of unofficial minorities before and after the implementation of the 1982 Citizenship Law. The paper argues that discrimination against minoritized populations is not only employed as a rent-seeking activity by individual immigration officials, but is a matter of legislative and institutional design, as the post-1982 citizenship regime is used to keep unofficial minorities out of politics, leadership, education, government service, business, and property.
Agama or not agama, the indigenous dilemma of the Wana people of Morowali
Giorgio Scalici NOVA Universidade Lisbona
The Wana people of Morowali are an endangered cultural and religious minority living in the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Officially and wrongly considered one of the many (wrongly defined) animist indigenous groups in Indonesia, they describe themselves as a non-religious group. Element, even more “illegal” and problematic than be considered animist in Indonesia.
Actually, the Wana follow a shamanic tradition based, until the recent past, on three gods and currently described as a monotheistic belief. Clearly this change is the product of the influenced of the two agama (religion) known by the Wana: Islam and Christianity.
As many know, the Indonesian government recognises only six official religions: Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Even if according to a 2017 decision of the Constitutional Court of Indonesia, ethnic religions must be recognised and included in an Indonesian identity card, Wana are still having issues and their religion is still considered unofficial. In fact, discriminating their belief, culture, and identity.
Their status of minority is shaping the way Wana organise the world and place themselves in it and their relationship with the other religious groups in the area. In this paper I will discuss how the political, cultural, and economic environment, and especially the presence of Christian missionaries and the religious politics of the Indonesian government, are influencing the life and religion of this indigenous community.
Being a minority in their own land: The indigenous religion of Toraja, Indonesia
Anna M. Mackowiak Jagiellonian University in Krakow
The Sa’dan Toraja region used to be extremely remote. But throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, its ethnic culture became the second (after the Balinese) most recognizable in Indonesia, a showcase of national “unity in diversity”. Toraja culture is promoted mainly by ethnically self-conscious Christians. Contemporary Torajas are predominantly Protestant; Catholics and Muslims make up the largest religious minorities.
What about the indigenous religion? My aim to answer this question on the basis of textual studies and the fieldwork project conducted in 2017–2018. Toraja indigenous religion is usually referred to Aluk Todolo or Alukta, but its priests use also the term Parandangan (Ada’). Owing to the Alukta association with Hinduism, it is difficult to estimate the size of its shrinking community. The protection under the umbrella of Hinduism was truly needed in 1969. Today, the community cannot benefit from the 2017 Constitutional Court decision that marked a symbolical milestone in the journey of Indonesian indigenous religions (aliran kepercayaan) towards equality.
I would like to discuss the contemporary situation of the indigenous religious community that was dominated by colonial and postcolonial political rulers. Its story is entangled with the process of religion-making from above (Mandair and Dressler 2011). The Western-centric theoretical framework of “religion” is obviously problematic. Its most common Indonesian equivalent, agama is not necessarily an emic category for Torajas. My presentation is inspired by the theoretical turn towards a more inclusive understanding of agama (Bagir 2018; 2020; Maarif 2017; 2019).
Christian-Muslim Relations in Postcolonial Southeast Asia
Peter Riddell SOAS University of London
By the end of the European colonial presence in Southeast Asia, Christians and Muslims had been interacting in the region in substantial ways for at least 500 years, from early contacts during the heyday of the Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th century to the departure of Britain from its Southeast Asian colonies in the late 20th century. Though that interaction is often typecast as largely negative, in fact the record varied between conflict, co-existence and at times active cooperation. This finding is borne out by the research results of the Christian-Muslim Relations Bibliographical History Project published by Brill Publishers.
This paper will begin with an overview of Christian-Muslim relations from 1400-1950, drawing on the findings of the above project. That initial discussion will set up a key question: to what extent Christian-Muslim interaction during the European colonial period in the region laid foundations for postcolonial inter-religious relations. The paper will then proceed by placing a focus on the diverse methods and results of Christian-Muslim interaction in Southeast Asia since the end of European colonial control. Focus will fall on various cultural contexts and countries, but especially Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Particular attention will be given to how Christians and Muslims speak and write about, against, and for each other in various streams of discourse. The paper will conclude by addressing the question of future directions: where to next in Christian-Muslim relations in the fast-moving digital age of globalisation?
This paper represents work in progress on a forthcoming book addressing the history of Christian-Muslim Relations in Southeast Asia.
While Furnivall rightly pointed out that postcolonial societies needed to cultivate a common social will to maintain order among diverse communities in a plural society, his vision of nationalism elided the possibility of conflict and violence in the imposition of the dominant vision of the nation. In contrast, Partha Chatterjee, from a postcolonial perspective, understood very well the partiality of the project of nation-building, and how the interests of certain ethnic and religious communities, even if they are imbibed as part of the nation, may be marginalized in the national imaginary.
In this vein, these ethnic and religious communities are understood as minorities – not because of their lesser numbers, but because of their lesser positions within the nation. We propose a double-session panel to examine and compare the condition of ethnic and religious minorities across different parts of postcolonial Southeast Asia. Ethnic minorities can include Chinese, Indians, Rohingyas and other historically migrant communities brought to Southeast Asia by colonial fiat, or indigenous communities dominated by new postcolonial political masters. Religious minorities can include groups in nondominant positions, such as Christians in Malaysia and Muslims in the Philippines, or minor sects within dominant religious communities, such as the Ahmadiyah and Shi’a communities in Indonesia. In comparing these minority groups across postcolonial Southeast Asia, the panel will seek to deconstruct the experience and meaning of being minorities, and articulate the multi-vocality of postcolonial nationstates.