9 March: "We Were Intimidated on All Sides": A Case Study of Class Formation and Ethnic Hegemony in Postcolonial Malaysia

Lecture by Donald M. Nonini, Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

13.00 - 15.00 hrs

Leiden University
Lipsius Building Room 208
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


At least two generations of scholarship on “overseas Chinese” in Southeast Asia have ignored class and class conflict among ethnic Chinese in the region. Instead, scholarship has obsessively focused upon Chinese entrepreneurs and narratives about business “success” as a result of the presence since the Cold War of pro-capitalist states in the region. In the shadow of such celebratory approaches, working-class Chinese and their sodalities have largely been ignored. This presentation challenges the received wisdom by pointing to the complex ways in which class, ethnic identity, and gender have been intertwined in the public life of one city, and on the roads of northern West Malaysia. Arguing that class conflict under the conditions of long-standing repression in Malaysia rarely announces itself,  but must be seen instead as signifying material practice, I describe the formation, rise and decline of a working men’s “society” from 1978-1980 within an historical ethnography of class struggle in Malaysia.

Donald M. Nonini

Donald M. Nonini is Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author and editor of numerous books and peer-reviewed articles on class, Chinese trans-nationalism, globalization and cities, and on local politics in Southeast Asia and North America. His most recent works have been, as editor, A Companion to Urban Anthropology (Wiley Blackwell, 2014) and, as author, “Getting by”: Class and State Formation among Chinese in Malaysia (Cornell University Press, 2015).

Last Modified: 09-03-2015