Globalization and Postcolonial Nation in Malaysia: Theoretical Challenges and Historical Possibilities

Beng Lan Goh


With the conclusion of the Cold War and the advent of a neoliberal stage of capitalist expansion, it has been argued that national identifications have been increasingly replaced by emergent global modes of consciousness. Disagreements, however, abound over the historical role of the global. For some, it is seen as a subject of deterritorializing capital flows while for others, it supersedes nationalism and plays a central role in fighting the hegemony of modernist states and the excesses of neoliberal capitalism. Given these theoretical dilemmas, and the fact that nation-states have yet to disappear, the paper argues for a reorientation from pitting globalization against nationalism to their mutual constitution and reconstitution instead. With Malaysia as a case study, it argues that there is something substantive about nationalism and nation-state processes that demands a reconceptualization of nationalism and globalization. While the modern nation-state may be a political institution universalized via colonization and its consequences, its normative content and the mechanisms of nation-state building and national subject-making are never shaped by a wholesale adoption of the Western model. Rather, it is premised upon improvisations in response to contextual and material particularities of different societies. The article explores how alternative definitions and histories of national integration in multiethnic postcolonial societies such as Malaysia can become a first step towards reconsidering the concepts of nation and nationalism.


nation-state; nationalism; globalization; pluralism; postcolonial states; Southeast Asia; Malaysia

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