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IAS Working Paper on Anthropological Reflections on a Malay Fishing Village

The Institute of Asian Studies at Universiti Brunei Darussalam is pleased to announce the publication of IAS Working Paper No 58: The Anthropology of Remembering and Memory as Ethnography: Reflections on a Fishing Village and Firth’s Malay Fishermen by Zawawi Ibrahim. Please see below for details.

Abstract: The Malay peasantry in peninsular Malaysia has been the subject of fieldwork and ethnographic research by both colonial and local anthropologists. Raymond Firth’s Malay Fishermen, based on fieldwork in Perupok, a fishing community in Kelantan, stands as an early and now-classic example of the genre. I was born some seven years after Firth’s first fieldwork in another east coast Malay fishing village, Kampung Che Wan, Kijal, in Terengganu. This article is about my own process of remembering the ethnographic details of my home village, thinking like an anthropologist over the period of a lifetime. While this is essentially an exercise in comparative ethnography, I suggest that such remembering represents variants of both collective memory and individual memory. The method of recall comprises various snippets of collected memory in the form of a discontinuous flow of selective ethnographic soundscapes and visualscapes, empowered by both a reflexive and critical anthropological gaze. It also entails a constant juxtaposition between the insider – outsider roles: the ‘emic’ and the ‘etic’ positioning on the part of the anthropologist But remembering itself is ultimately part of a historical and political project, an indigenising research project It is not part of a misplaced nostalgia that accommodates an old, worn-out colonial anthropological design aimed at preserving an ‘unchanging society’. Nor should remembering be understood as an act ‘to reinforce the system in place, never to transform it’ (Comaroff and Comaroff 1992: 21). Rather remembering is considered a form of agency, which empowers local imaginings and is a mediator of social change, transformation, and identity.

Author: Zawawi Ibrahim served as Professor of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Institute of Asian Studies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam from 2011-2020. He is currently a Visiting Professor at Taylor’s University, Malaysia. He has researched and published on pluralism; Islam and globalization; identity, ethnicity and multiculturalism in Sarawak; new media and civil society in Malaysia; Malay peasantry and plantation labour; indigenous communities of West and East Malaysia; voices of AIDS; Penan storytelling; Malaysian popular music and new Malaysian cinema. His current research is on contemporary Islamic cinema in Indonesia and Malaysia, and governance of religious diversity in Malaysia.

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