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Queer Melayu: queer sexualities and the politics of Malay identity and nationalism in contemporary Malaysian literature and culture

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posted on 2023-06-08, 11:49 authored by Collin Jerome
This thesis examines Malay identity construction by focusing on the complex processes of self-identification among queer-identified Malays living in Malaysia and beyond. By analysing representations of queer Malays in the works of contemporary Malaysian Malay writers, scholars, and filmmakers, as well as queer Malays on the internet and in the diaspora, the thesis demonstrates how self-identifying gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Malays create and express their identities, and the ways in which hegemonic Malay culture, religion, and the state affect their creation and expression. This is especially true when queer-identified Malays are officially conflated with being “un-Malay” and “un-Islamic” because queer sexualities contravene Malay cultural and religious values. This thesis begins by discussing the politics of Malay identity, particularly the tension between “authority-defined” and “everyday-defined” notions of being Malay that opens up a space for queer-identified Malays to formulate narratives of Malayness marked by sexual difference. The thesis then discusses how queer-identified Malays specifically construct their identities via various strategies, including strategic renegotiations of ethnicity, religiosity, and queer sexuality, and selective reappropriations of local and western forms of queerness. The ways in which “gay Melayu” identity is a hybrid cultural construction, produced through transnational and transcultural interactions between local and western forms of gayness under current conditions of globalization is also examined, as well as the material articulation of queer narratives of Malayness and its diverse implications on queer-identified Malays' everyday lives and sense of belonging. The thesis concludes with a critical reflection on the possibilities and limitations of queerness in the context of queer Malay identity creation. Such reflection is crucial in thinking about the future directions for research on queerness and the politics of queer Malay identity. It is hoped that this study will show that queer-identified Malays reshape and transform received ideas about “Malayness” and “queerness” through their own invention of new and more nuanced ways of being “queer” and “Malay.” This study also fills up the lacunae in the scholarship on Malay identity and queer Malays by addressing the productions of Malay ethnicity and sexual identity among queer-identified Malays within and beyond Malaysia's borders.


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  • eng


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