Publishing about Asia in Academic Journals and Book Series (Roundtable)

) Ngu Ik Tien, University of Malaya

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2) Ngu Ik Tien, University of Malaya
Forging Tools for Cross-Cultural Communication: Ethnic Minority Activism in the Capital City of Malaysia

Southeast Asia has been praised for its cultural diversity but not so much for its approaches and skills of managing cultural differences. It has also been described as a region where civilizations meet and merge, but also as a ground for civilizational clash and rival given the numerous communal conflicts occurred over last decades. This paper aims to examine the role of several Chinese-speaking groups in Kuala Lumpur in fostering cross-cultural communication among different ethno-linguistic groups. The actors are placed against a sociopolitical background of Malaysia where the national language has yet become a common language among citizens, the official religion Islam intertwined with ethnicity, divided citizenship of bumiputera (indigenous) and non-bumiputera, and a multi-stream national education system serving ethnicized aspirations. Instead of portraying vernacular cultural groups and institutions as hurdles to cross-cultural communication, as some scholarly literature have offered, this paper focuses on their cross-cultural efforts in bridging different communities. It examines their discourse on cultural pluralism, approaches and tools employed for attaining their goals, resources in terms of personnel, material and networking available to them, and the responses of other social segments towards their endeavor. The paper contends that ethnic cultural minorities in Malaysia share similar desires for national integration as that of the civic nationalists. However, because of their resistance towards the assimilation model exemplified by Sino-Thai and Mestizo in the Philippines, and the cultural suppression model in Indonesia, they have developed a middle way approach – cultural pluralism, hoping for a soft landing in integration process.

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