Saturday, December 30, 2006


Other Malays by Joel S. Kahn (RM 85.50)

This new reading of constructions of ethnicity in Malaysia and Singapore is an important contribution to understanding the powerful linkages between ethnicity, religious reforms, identity and nationalism in multi-ethnic Southeast Asia.

The narrative of Malay identity devised by Malay nationals, writers and filmmakers in the late colonial period associated Malayness with the village or kampung, envisaged as static, ethnically homogenous, classless, indigenous, subsistence-oriented, rural, embedded in family and community, and loyal to a royal court. Joel Kahn challenges the kampung version of Malayness, arguing that it ignores the immigration of Malays from outside the peninsula to participate in trade and commercial agriculture, the substantial Malay population in towns and cities, and the reformist Muslims who argued for a common bond in Islam. Owing to a rising dissatisfaction with the established order and new modernist sensitivities, especially among
younger generation, the author argues that it is time to revisit the alternative, more cosmopolitan narrative of Malayness.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


The Encyclopedia of Malaysia,Volume 12: Peoples and Traditions edited by Prof Dato Dr Hood Salleh (RM 95.00) Malaysia is home to scores of ethnic groups. Each community, itself a complex of ethnic sub-groups, is distinguished by its cultural, religious and artistic traditions and customs, which are often centuries old. The resulting ethnic diversity has produced a complex, heterogeneous nation of communities united by shared values, expressed through the acceptance of each other's tradition.

Traditional forms of cultural expression, especially in visual and performing arts, provide evidence of importation and borrowing from South Asia, the Middle and Near East, and the West, while others reflect cross-cultural exchanges and inter-ethnic mergers.

This volume covers all the peoples of Malaysia and their most significant traditions. It commences with a look at the migratory and demographic patterns of the population from ancient times and the genesis of a multiethnic society, and provides insights into the various ethnic groups in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, and their distinct cultural and social identities. It discusses their traditional habitat, culture, customs, costumes, languages, cuisines and economic pursuits, and highlights efforts made by the communities to preserve their heritage in the face of modernization and globalization.

This volume also discusses the cultural fusion that underscores the multiculturalism of Malaysia - the result of assimilation, integration and accommodation - and how this has fostered a unique national heritage: a melting pot of ethnicities, cultures and traditions.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Book of the week - Poems

Tankas from a Tsunami by Cecil Rajendra (Hardback, RM 50.00)

Tankas from a Tsunami is a cycle of poems in the aftermath of the horrendous tsunami that struck the Asia-pacific region on 26th December 2004; taking nearly 300,000 lives and leaving a trail of death and devastation that affected millions around the globe.

The tsunami, Rajendra says, brought out the 'best and beast' in men: thecourage / the corruption, the greed / the generosity. The self-sacrifice / the self-promotion, the brave and the braggard, etc. etc.

It spiralled, he adds, into almost a metaphor of the human condition in the new millennium.

For this most taxing themes, Mr Rajendra employs the tanka stanza: the daunting Japanese verse form of 5 lines comprising 31 syllables in a 5-7-5-7-7 arrangement.

Tankas from a Tsunami is Mr Rajendra's 19th collection of poetry.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Book of the week - politics

"The Finest Hour": The Malaysian-MCP Peace Accord in Prespective by
Collin Abraham (RM 40.00)

According to this scholarly polemic by Collin Abraham, with the promulgation of the Haadyai Peace Accord in 1989, Malaysia finally took its place among independent nations of the world after centuries under the yoke of colonialism.

Any attampt to explore an event in the history of the guerrilla warfare in Malaya from a social science perspective is bound to be fraught with theoratical and conceptual problems. Nevertheless, social scientist Abraham has managed to wade through the deep end of this malaise by dissectng the defining milestones that led to the peace accord: the roots of the anti-colonial resistance in Malaya in the late 18th century, racial polarisation, the Malayan Union, the colonial transformation of Chinese society, the Japanese Occupation, the Malayan Communist Party, the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), the Baling Talks (1955) to the Haadyai Peace Accord in 1989.

The author's concerns and observations, though gripping they may be, are bound to be controversial and contentious and will likely lead to dissenting arguments among many parties; they are, however, not meant to be the be all and end all to this period of Malaysian history, but serve as an invitation to further debate on this dark period of Malaysian history.

An intriguing chronicle of events leading to the way we are today. This is required reading for anyone who cares about the historical evolution of Malaysia and where we are heading.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Writings on the War on Terror by Farish A Noor (RM 69.90)

For scholars whose field of interest included Islamic studies and the contemporary development of Muslim society, the impact of 11 September was unprecedented. President Bush's declaration of a 'Crusade' against terror had the immediate deleterious effect of souring relations between the West and the Muslim world, heightened tension between states and regional blocs, shifted the focus of the global media to the Muslim world and lead to the reconfiguration of established political loyalties and alliances, hastily realigned.

The immediate impact of 11 September was far-reaching, testifying to the global hegemonic status of the United States of America and the extent of its foreign policy outreach. America's newfound fear of religiously-inspired terror soon focused on Islam and Muslims in particular; and America's phobia of all things Islamic soon became a global phobia as well. As images of bearded men with guns sitting in badly-lit madrasahs filled the TV screens and American media commentators talked about the inevitable clash of civilisations between Islam and the Western world, the fear of Islam was soon hegemonised and translated to ground-level political changes and realignments.

The effect of this new climate of fear and paranoia on the societies of ASEAN were differentiated, a reflection of the internal differences between the cultures and societies of the ASEAN region themselves. In predominantly Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, America's unilateral efforts at combating what its government regarded as a global Islamic militant menace was met by equally general accusations of Western complicity and blanket condemnations of all things Western.

The essays that appear in this volume were written with the expressed wish to remind the readers of the historical antecedents of what we are witnessing today: America's return to the geopolitical realm of Southeast Asia is not without precedent. Its previous venture into the ASEAN region was during the height of the Cold War, and America's support of pro-Western regimes such as that of Ferdinand Marcos's in the Philippines and Soeharto's in Indonesia was not merely intended to assist these countries in the war against Communism, but also to expand America's - and the West's - sphere of influence in all areas, ranging from economics to development.

(A limitted number of imported copies of this book is available only at Silverfish Books.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Book of the week

Reclaiming Adat by Khoo Gaik Cheng (RM 95.00)

In the early 1990s, the animist and Hindu traces in adat, or Malay custom, became contentious for resurgent Islam in Malaysia. Reclaiming Adat focuses on the filmmakers, intellectuals, and writers who reclaimed adat to counter the homogenizing aspects of both Islamic discourse and globalization in this period. They practised their project of recuperation with an emphasis on sexuality and a return to archaic forms such as magic and traditional healing. Using close textual readings of literature and film, Khoo Gaik Cheng reveals the tensions between gender, modernity, and
nation in Malaysia.

Khoo weaves a wealth of cultural theory into a rare analysis of Malay cinema and the work of new Malaysian anglophone writers. Reclaiming Adat makes an essential contribution to our knowledge of the complexities embedded in modern Malaysian culture, politics, and identity.

(KHOO GAIK CHENG is Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts, Australian National University, Canberra.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Anthroplogy - English

Orang Asli Women of Malaysia by Adela Baer, Karen Endicott, Rosemary Gianno, Signe Howell, Barbara S Nowak and Cornelia van der Sluys (RM 20.00)

Orang Asli women once had important responsibilities and functions that are now labeled "male-only." This discrimination spread throughout Orang Asli society during the last few centuries as Orang Asli came into contact with male-dominated cultures and internalized these alien norms for gender roles. It is the stealthy, relentless erosion of Orang Asli life in general, and the life of Orang Asli women in particular, that provides a true account of the problems of Orang Asli life today. The views of a variety of writers on Orang Asli women are presented in this book. From these writings, and also from what Orang Asli women themselves have to said, we can explore key features of Orang Asli women's lives in the past, the present, and what this means for the future.

Politics - Bahasa

Islam & Pluralisme arranged by Al-Mustaqeem Mahmod Radhi and Khairul Anam Che Mentri (RM 20.00)

Isu pluralisme mula mendapat perhatian sejak Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), pada Julai 2005, menerusi Musyawarah Nasional VII (Munas) organisasi berkenaan, mengeluarkan fatwa menghukum haram pluralisme, liberalisme and sekularisme.

... Sebahagian besar tulisan di dalam buku ini dikutip dan diterjemah dari pelbagai sumber. Seluruh kandungannya merupakan percubaan untuk menjelaskan realiti kejamakan, atau pluraliti, dan keberadaan pluralisme keagamaan di dalam teks-teks utama Islam (Quran dan hadith), sejarah, amalan, dan di dalam karya-karya sarjana agung Muslim, terutama dari aliran sufisme… (Prakata, Islam dan Pluralisme)

Bercanda dengan Mahathir
by Rustam A. Sani (RM 20.00)

Buku ini merupakan himpunan rencana-rencana akhbar yang ditulis oleh Rustam A Sani, seorang penganalisis politik yang prolific lagi gigih. Karya-karya yang dihimpunkan dalam buku ini meliputi ruang waktu antara tahun 1998 hingga 2006 - yakni sejak Rustam memperuaskan bidang kegiatannya daripada sekadar menjadi penganalisis sosiologi politik akademik untuk turut menjadi penggiat politik pembangkang dan gerakan reformasi... Dalam buku ini dikumpulkan 33 artikel Rustam yang secara langsung mengkritik pemerintahan Mahathir - dan didahului dengan sebuah Kata Penghantar baru.

Ketika Internasionale Bergema Lagi
by Lee Ban Chen (RM 20.00) (Koleksi rencana kritis, petikan dari

Malaysia adalah sebuah negara yang kompleks di mana tidak seorang pun, apalah lagi pihak kerajaan, yang boleh memberi penyelesaian yang berkekalan terhadap masalah perpaduan negara. Untuk itu, kita memerlukan semua 25 juta rakyat Malaysia supaya berinteraksi antara satu sama lain ... Dengan berbuat demikian, maka rakyat Malaysia akan dapat memahami dengan lebih baik lagi keprihatinan dan aspirasi pelbagai anggota masyarakat supaya kita boleh cari jalan kompromi untuk membolehkan kita hidup bersama secara aman dan makmur ... jika kita berhenti bercakap antara satu sama lain, maka akan cetuslah masalah. Ban Chen, melalui Malaysiakini, adalah seorang penulis yang telah membantu rakyat Malaysia untuk berbuat demikian. - (Steven Gan, Ketua Pengarang,

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


by Wong Phui Nam
Maya Press
(RM 19.90)

The conflict between subject and king is told in Malay history in Jebat's usurpation of the Melaka Sultan's palace. This is purportedly to be an act to right the injustice done to Tuah by the Sultan in ordering his execution on mere suspicion that he was dallying with the ladies-in-waiting in the palace. As is told in Hikayat Hang Tuah, the Sultan, on being told that Tuah has not been put to death as ordered, summons Tuah to the palace and orders him to kill Jebat on his behalf. This Tuah does out of unquestioning loyalty to his ruler. A parallel between this story and Antigone (by Sophocles in 5th century BCE Athens - a classic expression of conflict between established authority) may be drawn by having an invented sister of Jebat's defy the Sultan by retrieving for burial her dead brother's body left to rot hanging from a tree at the city's main gate on the Sultan's order. This is what Wong Phui Nam has done in Anike.