V-1.”Indigenizing Colonial Knowledge: The Formation of Pan-Malay Identity in British Malaya”(H22 FY2010)

  • Project Leader : Soda Naoki (Graduate School of Global Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)

Outline of Research

This study (in English) examines the origins and development of pan-Malay identity in British Malaya in terms of the indigenization of colonial knowledge. More specifically, it looks into the following questions: (1) how did history textbook writers construct and transmit the images of the Malay world? and (2) how did Ibrahim Haji Yaacob, a Malay-educated school teacher and prominent pan-Malay nationalist, reorganize and appropriate them for his own political purpose?


The purpose of the publication of this study is to provide a fresh perspective of the transmission and appropriation of colonial knowledge in order to examine why modern school education, which had been introduced as a tool of colonial rule, promoted the awakening of ethno-national consciousness as an unintended consequence. For this purpose, it focuses on the interrelations between Malay-medium education and the formation of pan-Malay identity in British Malaya.

The publication of this study has the following significance. First, as mentioned above, this study will be important as a study of intellectual history that sheds light on aspects of the indigenization of colonial knowledge in the formation of ethno-national identity in the colonial world. Second, it might also be significant in the field of Southeast Asian area studies. It attempts to reveal the process of the formation of the conception of an area, that is, the “Malay world,” which could cover the whole area of maritime Southeast Asia, focusing on intellectual interaction between the colonizers and the colonized. Third, this study might also possess some significance in the field of Malaysian studies. The principle of national integration in modern Malaysia can be summarized as a multi-ethnic collaboration on the premise that Malays and other Bumiputeras are given a special position. This study might help us understand the formation of these official ethnic categories in Malaysia.

The publication of this study in English would thus contribute the development of studies of intellectual history, Southeast Asian area studies and Malaysian studies not only in Japan but also in the other parts of the world, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Sejarah Alam Melayu (vol.1), a history textbook used at Malay schools and training colleges in British Malaya.

Ibrahim Haji Yaacob, an advocate of pan-Malayism. Semangat Asia, No. 8 (August, 1943), p. 3.