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Taming the Wild: Aborigines and Racial Knowledge in Colonial Malaya

SANDRA KHOR MANICKAM is assistant professor of Southeast Asian History, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University.

NUS Press (First Published, 2015)
384 pages including Bibliography and Index


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Taming the Wild: Aborigines and Racial Knowledge in Colonial Malaya examines the complex history of indigeneity and racial thought in the Malay Peninsula, and the role played by the politics of knowledge in determining racial affinities, by charting the progression of thought concerning indigenous or aboriginal people. The author shows that the classifications of indigenous and Malay depend on a mixture of cultural, social and religious knowledge that is compressed under the heading race but differs according to the circumstances under which it is produced and the uses to which it is put. By historicizing the categorization of aborigines and British engagement with aboriginal groups in Malaya, Taming the Wildsituates racial knowledge within larger frames of anthropological and racial thought, and highlights the persistence of nineteenth-century understandings of indigeneity and Malayness in racial contestations in modern Malaysia.

In Malaysia race is viewed not as an external attribute attached to a person but rather as an innate characteristic. Starting from this foundation, race and indigeneity have featured prominently in Malaysian politics throughout the post-war era, influencing both the civil status and property rights of broad sectors of the population. Scientific opinion shapes Malaysian thinking about the subject as do stereotypes, but much of the discussion rests on concepts developed within the discipline of anthropology and by the colonial administration in a process that dates back to the early nineteenth century.

List of Tables
List of Figures
List of Maps
List of Photographs
List of Abbreviations

• Historicizing Indigeneity
• Taming the Wild

1. The Making of Aboriginal Races
• “Originality” and Early Anthropology of the Malay Archipelago: William Marsden and John Leyden
• Slavery and Scholarship: Stamford Raffles and John Crawfurd
• Of Aborigines and Malays: John Anderson and T.J. Newbold

2. Aborigines between Malay and English
• Translating Race and Aborigine into Malay
Hikayat Abdullah: Looking at the Jakun at Panchur Mountain
Hikayat Dunia: Jakun and Orang Asal in the Malay Archipelago

3. Aborigines in the Colonial Sphere
• Production of Knowledge on Aborigines
• Aborigines in the Government Record
• Aborigines and Colonial Common Knowledge

4. Of Sakai and the Census
• Taming Race
• Sakai, “Tame” and “Wild”
• Systems of Differentiation

5. Of Aborigines and Anthropology
• Anthropology within Government in Malaya
• The Cambridge Expedition (1899-1900)
• Physical Anthropology in Malaya
• Systems of Differentiation

6. Anthropology and Colonialism: The Case of Ivor H.N. Evans
• Anthropology after the Cambridge Expedition
• Evans and the Colonial Government
• Schebesta and the Pan-Negrito Theory Revisited

Conclusion: Biology and Orang Asli Race Politics

Appendix of Transliteration
Key Personalities

Weight0.483 kg
Dimensions22.9 × 15.2 × 0.7 cm





Year Published

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