Over the course of British colonial rule in Malaya, the Peranakan Chinese community of the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca, and Singapore attempted to bring to life a complex imagination of nationhood predicated on an inclusive and multi-ethnic approach to integrating Malaya’s plural society. In word and deed, Peranakan political actors campaigned for the extension of citizenship and its associated rights to all those domiciled in Malaya regardless of race, class, or religion. Yet, this political history has largely been overlooked as previous scholarship has focussed instead on the social and cultural lives of the community, with an emphasis on the Peranakan communities of Malacca and Singapore. This thesis addresses this lacuna by tracing Peranakan politics in Penang from the arrival of the British in Malaya in 1786 to the end of British rule in Malaya upon the latter’s independence on 31st August 1957, focussing primarily on the community’s political activities during Malaya’s complex path to merdeka [independence].
Bernard Keo is a PhD candidate in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University.
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