Dissertation Abstracts

Peranakan as a Social Phenomenon with a Focus on the Peranakan Chinese Community in Kelantan, Malaysia

Author: Pue, Giok Hun , ghpue@hotmail.com
Department: Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA)
University: National University of Malaysia (UKM), Malaysia
Supervisor: Shamsul Amri Baharuddin
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: Malay

Keywords: Peranakan , social phenomenon , social amalgamation
Areas of Research: Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Community Research , Conceptual and Terminological Analysis


This research looks at how ethnicity organizes social differences in a society. The process of assimilation, catalysed by amalgamation, which continuously occurs in majority-minority ethnic group relations, results in the formation of marginalised minority ethnic groups. A concept that has been used to explain this process is Peranakan and this dissertation research tests the validity of this concept. Peranakan is a label that is both horizontal (transcending ethnicities and localities) and vertical (transcending social layers) within an ethnic group, as well as via Peranakan as social concept used as label to the phenomenon. Horizontally, five local Peranakan communities from Malaysia— Peranakan Jawi, Chitty of Melaka, Baba-Nyonya in Melaka, Peranakan Sikh and Portuguese-Eurasian (Christao)—have been compared with three other ‘potentially’ Peranakan communities from other parts of the world; these include Irish-American and Asian-American in the US for white in white and non-white in white settings respectively, and Zainichi Korean in Japan for non-white in a non-white setting). Vertically, the validity of Peranakan has been tested by comparing Peranakanness of the older generation with the younger one of the same ethnic group via fieldwork conducted in a Peranakan Chinese community in Wakaf Bharu in Tumpat District of Kelantan. In order to identify its potential as a social concept, Peranakan has been compared against other social concepts, including mulatto, mestizo and zainichi. Results of this research showed that Peranakan as a social phenomenon transcends ethnicity and locality, as well as generations of an ethnic group. As a social concept, Peranakan has great analytic potential even in places other than Malay Archipelago. The implications of this research are evident both on the micro and macro level. First, the research has brought awareness to the existence of different Peranakan communities in Malaysia; hence it is not a homogeneous social entity. Second, varieties of Peranakan communities are also highlighted within the same ethnic group, namely, the Peranakan Chinese community in Kelantan as opposed to a more well-known Baba Nyonya community in Melaka. Finally, this research has contributed significantly as the first step towards making Peranakan, a social concept which was locally produced in Malay Archipelago, relevant to understanding phenomena at the international level.

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