Against Multiple Hegemonies: Radical Malay Women in Colonial Malaya

TitleAgainst Multiple Hegemonies: Radical Malay Women in Colonial Malaya
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsAljunied, Syed Muhd Khair
JournalJournal of Social History

This article seeks to redress the established scholarly boundaries that have thus far characterized Malaysian historiography through a detailed analysis of a Malay radical women's movement, the Angkatan Wanita Sedar (AWAS). Although much has been written in the last few decades about Malay political activism during post–World War II Malaya, radical female groups that emerged during those eventful years, and their efforts to carve autonomous spaces within emerging projects of national liberation has suffered from considerable neglect. By blending the use of colonial and vernacular sources to contextualize the activities of AWAS within the changing social and political landscapes of its time, this article shows that female radical activists in post World War II colonial Malaya were confronted with multiple hegemonies that worked to stifle their development. These hegemonies originated, first, from within their own society in the form of customary conventions and practices associated with class differences. AWAS also had to contend with censure and disciplinary actions from their male compatriots, who regarded them as threats to male dominance in radical politics. Finally, AWAS came under the watchful eye and proscriptive measures of the colonial state that sought to regain its control over its Asian subjects in an age of decolonization. The members of this radical collective struggled to overcome these hegemonies by drawing upon a whole array of relationships and connections to advance their cause, albeit with limited success.

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