IM Review Open Meeting #1: Invented Tradition

Hey! So you’ve probably already heard that the first issue of Imagined Malaysia Review a.k.a IM Review is going to be released very soon.  👏🏻 👏🏻 👏🏻 

In case you need a refresher. Here is the baseline.

Imagined Malaysia Review (IM Review) is one of our latest initiatives in pushing the rigid boundaries of historical discourses in Malaysia. We at Imagined Malaysia are dedicated to work on a series of magazines that will bring together fascinating and insightful essays covering multifaceted themes in the existing historical scholarship, particularly pertaining to Southeast Asian historical landscape. These essays are meant to provoke critical evaluation on the given narratives of the past as well as to raise interesting hitherto undervalued suspicions on some of the theories and concepts that regulate much of the discursive framework in mainstream discussions on history.   

The editorial team has finalized the first issue of IM Review and set to launch it on March 16 (Stay tuned for the details!). The first issue dealt with question of Historiography and we have successfully compiled critical essays from young researchers. 

Now that we got that done and dusted, it is time to work on the second issue! *cracks knuckles* To do things a little differently, we hosted an open meeting to discuss ideas that will help shape the second issue of our magazine on 9th February 2019 at our office. Unfortunately… our open meeting ended up being a closed meeting because we thought everyone else would be back from a great Chinese New Year break.  😅 🙊

Oopsies. 🤦🏼‍♀️ 

Well, that’s totally fine. Not everything has gone to waste. We have compiled the content that we hope prospective contributors might find useful when making their pitch for the magazine. Read on to find out what we originally intended to do, along with informative presentation slides attached below! 👇🏻 

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The second issue of IM Review will be dedicated to explore an important analytical concept, firstly introduced by the late British Marxist historian Eric Hosbawm, called ‘The Invented Traditions’ and its useful and multidimensional usage in understanding our complex past. In the editorial section of their book ‘The Invented Traditions’(1983), both Hosbawm and T.O. Rangers proposed, in explicit opposition to modernisation theory, that traditions are not necessarily restricted to ‘traditional’ societies alone. One of the main features of traditionality within the logical sequences of modernity is the deliberate creation of various forms traditions, myths, and rituals in the service of new social and political powers. They argue that,

‘[…] the strength and adaptability of genuine traditions is not to be confused with the ‘invention of tradition’. Where the old ways are alive, tradition need be neither revived nor invented.’

Such framework highlights the ‘constructed-ness’ of some traditions, consciously invented and projected unto the past to justify their  claims to long historical precedents. Despite their reference to the ancient(and sometimes mystical) past the functionality of the tradition actually serves the modern developments. All the set of practices that falls under the rubric category of ‘traditions’, according to Hosbawm, ‘rules of a symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate values and norms of behaviour by repetition’ and this includes values aimed to regulate and bolster certain class positions in the modern society. 

In Malaysian historical scholarship, Donna Amoroso’s work titled ‘Traditionalism and the Ascendancy of the Malay Ruling Class in Colonial Malaya’ (posthumously published in 2011) is probably the first to make a full use of the framework in order to unmask the power dynamics of the British and the Malay ruling elites in sustaining their relevancy in colonial period. The work argues that the British colonial government utilised and reinvented the tradition of the Malay ruling class to ‘disguise the highly interventionist nature of indirect rule, offering proof that British Malaya still consisted of sovereign Malay Muslim Sultanates’ (p. 66).

In this open meeting, we were keen to explore this themes further and to identify possible ideas and trajectories that one can proceed in the study of Southeast Asian history via this analytical framework. 

Hence, we invite potential writers who are interested to contribute contents to the magazine to come and join the discussion as we tease out some unique ideas and topics that is worth exploring in the next issue of IM Review. 

To make your pitch, fill up our Google form!  ✨