Malaysia. The Hakkas of Sarawak: Sacrificial gifts in Cold War era Malaysia By Kee Howe Yong Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013. Pp. 242. Notes, Bibliography, Index.

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Frank Fanselow

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Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

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The Hakkas of Sarawak: Sacrificial gifts in Cold War era Malaysia By KEE HOWE YONG Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013. Pp. 242. Notes, Bibliography, Index. Readers who expect a conventional ethnography of 'The Hakkas of Sarawak' (a la Ju-K'ang Tien's The Chinese of Sarawak) will be disappointed by this monograph, but anthropologists, historians, and political scientists interested in the intersections of global, national and local histories, in the historical memory of ethnic minorities marginalised and victimised by the nation-state, and in how such communities cope with collective trauma should focus on its subtitle (Sacrificial gifts in Cold War era Malaysia) and will find this an intellectually engaging--and politically engaged--ethnography that combines committed scholarship with deep, reflective analysis. The Hakkas have a long history of social exclusion and resistance to state authority. Sometimes mislabelled as the 'gypsies of China', they are believed to have migrated from northern China into the south where they were regarded as outsiders (their name means 'guest families') and played a leading role in the nineteenth-century Taiping Rebellion against the Qing dynasty. The Hakkas were also prominent among the Chinese pioneers who migrated to Southeast Asia in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The earliest Chinese settlements in the archipelago date back to 1777 when the Sultan of Sambas in West Borneo invited Hakkas to work in his gold mines. It did not take long for them to make themselves independent of the Sultan and set up their own government, the Lanfang Republic, sometimes disparaged as a secret society kongsi, and sometimes idealised as Asia's first modern republic. When the Dutch began to assert control over this part of Borneo in the mid-nineteenth century, many Hakkas migrated northwards to areas beyond Dutch control where they continued mining gold as well as antimony in Sarawak. After the Sarawak Raja James Brooke imposed taxes on the lucrative opium trade and set up a mining company to take over the mining operation, they rebelled in 1857 and attacked his capital Kuching. The Raja made a narrow escape and managed to rally local Iban warriors to counterattack and massacre many Hakkas. A century later the Hakkas of Sarawak once again appear in historical accounts of the time as dangerous outsiders, this time as communist collaborators and sympathisers during the 1960s Konfrontasi, the Cold War front in Borneo. That is how the Hakkas conventionally appear in historical accounts, but Kee Howe Yong is an anthropologist endeavouring to write their unwritten history based on the living memories of the trauma of simultaneous inclusion in (through forced resettlement) and exclusion from (as suspected communists) the nation-state. Rather than dwelling on the history of the Hakkas, Yong seeks to convey an understanding of what it feels like to live in today's Malaysia with the historical baggage of past exclusion and victimisation. Yong conducted fieldwork mainly at bus stations, coffee shops and in buses among drivers, conductors and other employees of the local bus company. That may sound like the beginning of most anthropological fieldwork, but in this book it is also its end. He chose the Sarawak Omnibus Company as his fieldwork site not only because of the pioneering role that Chinese traders and transport operators played in connecting Sarawak, but also because it came into existence when small-scale Chinese bus operators who had competed against each other merged their operations and formed the first and biggest bus company in Sarawak. "¦




Cambridge University Press (CUP)



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Arts and Humanities | Social and Behavioral Sciences

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