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By Anthony Milner

Simply who're ‘the Malays’? This provocative learn poses the query and considers how and why the solutions have replaced through the years, and from one sector to a different. Anthony Milner develops a sustained argument approximately ethnicity and identification in an ancient, ‘Malay’ context. The Malays is a complete exam of the origins and improvement of Malay id, ethnicity, and cognizance over the last 5 centuries.

  • Covers the political, financial, and cultural improvement of the Malays
  • Explores the Malay presence in Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, in addition to the fashionable Malay show-state of Malaysia
  • Offers diplomatic hypothesis approximately methods Malay ethnicity will improve and be challenged within the future

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It may be the case, however, that ‘religion’ ought to be understood in terms of techniques rather than affiliation. We must be careful of using ‘isms’ – ‘Buddhism’, ‘Hinduism’ – in the way they began to be used in later centuries, suggesting an integrated, exclusive system (and community) of knowledge. Because one ruler drew upon Sivaite (Hindu) rather than Buddhist doctrines, for instance, it cannot be assumed that he possessed one form of religious identity rather than another; and when he accessed the first body of spiritual knowledge rather than the other, he was not necessarily undertaking a conversion from ‘Hinduism’ to ‘Buddhism’.

Leaders who already had an interest in oaths (sumpah), in intensifying their personal ‘soul stuff’ or spiritual energy (semangat) (Wolters 1999: 18–19, 93), and in other aspects of the supernatural, may well have 38 Early Histories: Engaging India and Islam wished to experiment with new doctrines or techniques. Writings from the region (admittedly from later centuries) often refer to the way leaders would leave home to travel in search of knowledge (ilmu) (Drakard 1999: 210). In the first instance at least, such investigation may have been done in something of a piecemeal manner, looking into one set of ideas, then another.

Also, analysis of genetic data demonstrates the mixture of populations (Bellwood 2004: 22, 26), suggesting that people from pre-Austronesian times became Austronesian (including Malay) speakers. The expansion of the Austronesian speakers – not surprisingly, perhaps – is captured in heroic terms in the Singapore culture pack which I discussed in the previous chapter. It expresses the view that Borneo was the ‘Malay’ homeland, and from there the ‘Malays’ “spread in all directions by sea as far as Madagascar, Taiwan and the Pacific isles”.

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