"Getting By": Class and State Formation among Chinese in Malaysia (Paperback)
  • "Getting By": Class and State Formation among Chinese in Malaysia (Paperback)
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"Getting By": Class and State Formation among Chinese in Malaysia (Paperback)

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Paperback 360 Pages / Published: 11/08/2015
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How do class, ethnicity, gender, and politics interact? In what ways do they constitute everyday life among ethnic minorities? In "Getting By," Donald M. Nonini draws on three decades of research in the region of Penang state in northern West Malaysia, mainly in the city of Bukit Mertajam, to provide an ethnographic and historical account of the cultural politics of class conflict and state formation among Malaysians of Chinese descent. Countering triumphalist accounts of the capitalist Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia, Nonini shows that the Chinese of Penang (as elsewhere) are riven by deep class divisions and that class issues and identities are omnipresent in everyday life. Nor are the common features of "Chinese culture" in Malaysia manifestations of some unchanging cultural essence. Rather, his long immersion in the city shows, they are the results of an interaction between Chinese-Malaysian practices in daily life and the processes of state formation-in particular, the ways in which Kuala Lumpur has defined different categories of citizens. Nonini's ethnography is based on semistructured interviews; participant observation of events, informal gatherings, and meetings; a commercial census; intensive reading of Chinese-language and English-language newspapers; the study of local Chinese-language sources; contemporary government archives; and numerous exchanges with residents.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801479083
Number of pages: 360
Weight: 539 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 21 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

"In 'Getting By,' Donald M. Nonini draws on three decades of research in the region of Penang state in northern West Malaysia, mainly in the city of Bukit Mertajam, to provide an ethnographic and historical account of the cultural politics of class conflict and state formation among Malaysians of Chinese descent."

-- D.W. Haines * Choice *

"'Getting By' offers a countervailingperspective by foregrounding a critical historicalnarrative of the processes of class and state formation ofthe Chinese in Malaysia.... The outcome is a masterful historical ethnography of how disparate formative processes and everyday practices intersect and overlap with one another over time to produce diasporic Chinese citizenship in Malaysia. Nonini's ethnography is especially compelling, rich, and nuanced given his deep lodes of data extracted from fieldwork begun in the late 1970s and supplemented with periodic returnvisits to his fieldwork site up to the late 2000s... 'Getting By' is an exemplary piece of engaged scholarship. It balances judiciously between theoretical sophistication and lucid prose and deserves to be read widely."

-- Seng-Guan Yeoh * American Anthropologist *

"In this wide-ranging book, which covers some 30 years of research, anthropologist Nonini (Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) simultaneously presents some finely detailed ethnographic and historical reflections on the Chinese in Malaysia... The overall result is a book that is a very worthy addition to the comparative study of the lives of working-class men, to the analysis of the full social implications of Malaysian governmental structure and development strategies, and to the many meanings, realities, and contingencies of being in some way 'Chinese' but outside China. Essential for reference collections on globalization, East and Southeast Asia, and the meaning of 'Chinese' as an ethnic and national label."

-- D.W. Haines * Choice *

"The book is full of deep insights and fascinating detail of the decades from 1978 to 2007 in this Chinese urban population.... The span of fieldwork on which he bases his study provides a rich reflection on his own evolving ethnographic approach and his growing understanding of the ethnic and class politics and cultural styles performed over these years. It is a significant contribution to our understanding of post-Independence Malaysia society."

-- Patrick Guinness, Australian National University * Asia Pacific Journal of Anthopology *

"The book as a whole is an excellent and innovative ethnographic study of the male Chinese population of Bukit Mertajam. Its strength lies in the integration of detailed ethnographic field data into the wider framework of Chinese society. This is a book worth reading for students of Malaysian society, modern history and economic development."

-- Hans-Dieter Evers * SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia *

"Nonini's excellent and ethnographically grounded analysis speaks in important ways to anthropological and other social science literature on class struggle, formation and dialectics, the state and governmentality, and the essentialization of Chinese and other ethnoracial diaspora communities.... Finally, 'Getting By' is highly recommended to a general anthropological audience as a very readable ethnography, highlighting the best of ethnographic theory-building, tacking between (and critical of ) poles of overly linguistically oriented discursive post-structural analysis at one end and overly positivist structural analysis at the other."

-- Eric C. Thompson, National University of Singapore * American Ethnologist *

"'Getting By' illuminates in arresting detail what it means to be working class ethnic Chinese in Malaysia where racial discrimination molds everyday existence. Donald M. Nonini's deep ethnography of ethnic Chinese under siege tracks their daily practices of surviving as a subjugated ethnic and class minority. The political, economic, social, and cultural costs of living under majority rule inspire an art of deception and disputation, as well as backup plans to leave a beloved multiethnic homeland. This rare ethnographic history of the Malaysian present is a path-breaking intervention in Chinese diaspora studies. It casts a necessary light on how ordinary ethnic Chinese, often vulnerable to racial discrimination, are the urban backbone of Southeast Asia."

-- Aihwa Ong, University of California, Berkeley, coeditor of Privatizing China, Asian Biotech, and Worlding Cities

"Exceptional scholarship! In 'Getting By', Donald M. Nonini offers an insightful critique of three long-standing theoretical perspectives on the links between class and ethnicity involving the Chinese and then proposes the necessity of adopting a historical ethnographic view focusing on the issues of position and structure."

-- Edmund Terence Gomez, University of Malaya, author of Malaysia's Political Economy: Politics, Patronage, and Profits

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