Progressives Decimated, Populists Enamoured: Contested Vision in Contemporary Malaysian Discourse on Religion and Culture

Urbanization, Consumption and Culture Seminar Series

About the Seminar

In the period before the fall of the Barisan Nasional-led government, political agitation against the establishment occurred alongside social and cultural engagements denouncing the regime’s policies and leadership. When Barisan Nasional responded by imposing more draconian laws, it generated more dissatisfaction among Malaysians who then created more spaces for critical views to be articulated and disseminated. Operating outside political parties, young Malaysian activists engaged in social, cultural and political forums, writings and advocacy. However, when Pakatan Harapan came to power after the 14th General Election, those same critical and progressive voices sharply declined in numbers and intensity. Populist discourse now takes centre stage in the public sphere. In this seminar, we will detail the reasons and extent to which progressive voices are now marginalized and populist voices are gaining ground. To better understand this changing discursive terrain, we need to comprehend the nature and context of socio-cultural, religious and intellectual discursive realms in Malaysia, namely the country’s discursive actors, sites, institutions, opponents, audience and responses. This presentation will also examine why and how progressive discourse could be nurtured to enhance public reasoning and promote a shared vision that embraces plurality, tolerance, ethical responsibility, democracy, and justice.

About the Speaker

Azhar Ibrahim, PhD is a Lecturer at the Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore (NUS). He obtained his PhD and MA from the same department in 2008 and 2002 respectively. His research interests include the sociology of religion, sociology of literature and critical literacy, and Malay-Indonesian intellectual development. He completed his post-doctoral research on the development of social theology at the Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and later at Stanford University, USA. His books include Emancipated Education (2019), Historical Imagination and Cultural Responses to Colonialism and Nationalism: A Critical Malay(sian) Perspective (2017), Menyanggah Belenggu Kerancuan Fikiran Masakini (2016), Contemporary Islamic Discourse in the Malay-Indonesia World: Critical Perspectives (2014), and Narrating Presence: Awakening from Cultural Amnesia (2014). 

For registration, please click on this link. Registration closes on 10 February 2020.


Feb 12 2020


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2