Malaysia Studies

Banner Image: Serina Rahman (, ISEAS Visiting Fellow

The Programme adopts a broad-based approach to the study of political, economic and socio-cultural developments and trends in contemporary Malaysia. Research findings and outputs serve to promote awareness and understanding of the country amongst scholars, civil society, the mass media, and decision-makers from the private and public sectors.

The programme also collaborates and works closely with external researchers, scholars and centres involved in the study of Malaysia.

As part of the above, the Malaysia Studies Programme team is currently working on seven projects, namely:

  • 14th General Elections. Our coverage of the upcoming elections will focus on how political issues and electoral dynamics are similar and different across states in Malaysia. Research will involve fieldwork in selected parliamentary constituencies in the following states: Sabah, Sarawak, Johor, Selangor, Kelantan, Kedah, and Perlis. Project Leaders: Francis E. Hutchinson and Lee Hwok Aun
  • Political and Economic Trends in Johor. This project seeks to understand how this large and economically-vital state is evolving due to large-scale projects such as Iskandar Malaysia, as well as its own internal political dynamics. Project Leader: Francis E. Hutchinson
  • Islamization Policy, Islamic Authority, and the Role of the State. This project looks at the resurgence of Islam in post-independence Malaysia, particularly the implications of the ascendance of conservative Islam. Project Leader: Norshahril Saat
  • Economic and Planning Policy Frameworks. This initiative looks at how economic and planning policy frameworks and organizational arrangements in Malaysia are evolving in response to domestic and international developments. Project Leader: Cassey Lee
  • Human Resource Development in Malaysia. This project aims to explore how human resource development in the country is affected by decisions regarding educational expenditure and quality control, as well as policies regarding migrant labour. Project Leader: Lee Hwok Aun

Programme Coordinator

Francis E. Hutchinson (coordinator) (
Cassey Lee (co-coordinator) (

Current Researchers and Affiliates


The Malaysia Studies Programme and the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, more widely, have published on the country in a range of formats. Each edition of the annual Southeast Asian Affairs covers the situation in the country. Articles on Malaysia regularly appear in the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute journals: Contemporary Southeast Asia, The Journal of Southeast Asian Economies and SOJOURN: Social Issues in Southeast Asia, as well as other in-house e-publications such as Trends in Southeast Asia and Perspectives.

Selected recent outputs include the following:

ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute Perspective

Wan Saiful Wan Jan Malaysia’s Priority is to Manage, Not Stop, China’s Investments (3 July 2017)
Lee Hwok Aun Labour Discrimination in Malaysia: Passage Out of the Gridlock? (30 May 2017)
Lee Hwok Aun Malaysia’s ‘Transformasi Nasional 2050’ Brings Bold New Style, but to What End (11 May 2017)
Liew Chin Tong Expect More Black Swans to Appear in Malaysian Politics (17 April 2017)
Hew Wai Weng Malay Politics Meets Islamist Activism in Malaysia’s Act 355 (3 April 2017)
Lee Hock Guan All Signs Point to Sarawak being ‘Fixed Deposit’ for BN in GE14 (31 March 2017)
Norshahril Saat Malaysia Capitalizes on Saudi King Salman’s Visit (8 March 2017)
Maszlee Malik Kafir Harbi’ in Malaysia: Another Path to Polarization (12 January 2017)
Hew Wai Weng and Maszlee Malik Bersih 5 and the Growing Discontent among the Malays (15 December 2016)
Maszlee Malik Turning Malaysia off Inter-Faith Strife (3 November 2016)
Lee Hock Guan Malaysia’s Gallant School System in Need of an Overhaul (27 October 2016)
Hew Wai Weng Will Malaysia’s New Islamist Party Reshape the Political Landscape? (26 September 2016)
Norshahril Saat Exclusivist Attitudes in Malaysian Islam Have Multifarious Roots (5 July 2016)
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid ISIS in Southeast Asia: Internalized Wahhabism is a Major Factor (16 May 2016)
Faisal S. Hazis Adenan Will Win Big in Sarawak State Election, but Long-Term Effects on Malaysian Politics are Unclear (4 May 2016)
Lee Hock Guan  Impressive Results Await BN in Sarawak State Elections (3 May 2016)
Hew Wai Weng Hui Migrants Pose a Cultural Challenge to Malaysia (5 April 2016)
Andrew M Carruthers
,Sabah ICs for Sabahans: Will it Help?
(15 March 2016)
Norshahril Saat UMNO General Assembly 2015: Najib’s Call for Unity and Loyalty is Hardly Enough (29 December 2015)
Evelyn S Devadason, Malaysia’s 2016 Budget: Pursuing Fiscal Consolidation while Skirting Critical Growth Concerns (15 December 2015)
Mustafa Izzuddin Mustafa Izzuddin, “The Pakatan Rakyat Collapse: Implications for Party Politics in Malaysia (5 August 2015)
Cassey Lee  Why is Malaysia So Interested in Joining the TPP?  (9 March 2015)
Norshahril Saat  The State and the Ulama: Comparing Indonesia and Malaysia (26 February 2015)
Cassey Lee  Malaysia Strives for Fiscal Consolidation and Off-Balance Sheet Transformation (20 November 2014)
Khor Yu Leng & Vasiliki Mavroeidi    Iskandar Malaysia Labours to Develop  (4 November 2014)
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani Changes Remain Unclear after Malaysia’s Kajang By-Election (7 April 2014)
John Lee Sino-Malaysia Trade Ties Remain Strong But Complex (6 March 2014)
Lee Hock Guan Malaysia’s Funding System for Higher Education not Sustainable (16 Jan 2014)
G. Sivalingam Malaysia Responds to Rating Agencies in Budget 2014 (7 November 2013)
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid Political Islam and the Recent Rise of Islamist Conservatism in Malaysia (31 October 2013)
G.Sivalingam Avoiding the Twin Deficits in Malaysia (24 October 2013)
Khor Yu Leng The Tough Task of Narrowing Malaysia’s Fiscal Deficit (10 October 2013)
G. Sivalingam The Second Phase of Malaysia’s “Look East Policy” (19 August 2013)
Ooi Kee Beng Malaysia’s BN Stays in Power, But Deep Changes Have Nevertheless Occurred 20 June 2013)
Khor Yu Leng The Significance of China-Malaysia Industrial Parks (17 June 2013)
Lee Hock Guan Steadily Amplified Rural Votes Decide Malaysian Elections (6 June 2013)
Francis E. Hutchinson The Malaysian Elections: The Battle for Johor (29 April 2013)
Cassey Lee Malaysia’s GE13: A Tale of Two Manifestos (22 April 2013)
G. Sivalingam Can Malaysia’s Economy Beat the Odds in 2013? (25 March 2013)
Khor Yu Leng The Sabah-Sulu Crisis Threatens the Palm Oil Supply-Chain (6 March 2013)
Francis Hutchinson Hidden Counter-Revolution: A History of the Centralisation of Power in Malaysia 24 January 2013)
G.Sivalingam The Deficit Dilemma in Malaysia (7 November 2012)

Trends in Southeast Asia

Serina Abdul Rahman Johor’s Forest City Faces Critical Challenges, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 3 (2017)
Norshahril Saat Johor Remains The Bastion of Kaum Tua, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 1 (2017)
Francis E. Hutchinson and Vandana Prakash Nair The Johor Sultanate: Rise or Re-emergence?, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 16 (2016)
Fauzi Abdul Hamid The Extensive Salafization of Malaysian Islam, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 9 (2016)
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid and Che Hamdan Che Mohd Razali Middle Eastern Influences on Islamist Organizations in Malaysia: The Cases of ISMA, IRF and HTM, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 2 (2016)
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani Islamization Policy and Islamic Bureaucracy in Malaysia ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 5 (2015)
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani  The Politics of Expression in Malaysia  ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 11 (2014)
Terence Chong Johor Survey: Attitudes Towards Governance and Economy, Iskandar Malaysia, and Singapore, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 8 (2014)
John Lee China’s Engagement with Southeast Asia: Malaysia, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 1 (2014)
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid Political Islam and Islamist Politics in Malaysia, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No.2 (2013)

ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute Working Papers/Economics Working Papers

Francis E. Hutchinson Evolving Paradigms in Regional Policy in Malaysia, ISEAS Economics Working Paper (2016)
Helen Tu Ming The Politics of Hudud Law Implementation in Malaysia, ISEAS Working Paper, No. 4 (2016)
Abdillah Noh Political Change and Institutional Rigidity in Malaysia: Is There a Way Out?, ISEAS Working Paper, No. 2 (2016)
Fujio Hara The Malaysian Communist Party as Recorded in the Comintern Files, ISEAS Working Paper, No. 1 (2016)
Jeff Tan Water Privatization, Ethnicity and Rent-Seeking: Preliminary Evidence from Malaysia, ISEAS Working Paper, No. 3 (2015)
Santhiram R Raman The Development of Chinese Education in Malaysia: Problems and Challenges, ISEAS Working Paper, No. 2 (2015)
Wong Mun Loong Social Media, Power and Democratization in Malaysia: Weapons of the Weak?  ISEAS Working Paper, No. 4 (2014)
Tham Siew Yean Malaysia in the Midst of Global Economic Uncertainties, ISEAS Working Paper, No.4 (2013)
Francis E. Hutchinson Johor and its Electronics Sector: One Priority among Many?, ISEAS Working Paper, No.1 (2012)
Lee Hock Guan Education and Ethnic Relations in Malaysia, ISEAS Working Paper: Social and Cultural Issues, No.1 (2008)
Lee Hock Guan Bangsa Malaysia: Ethnic and/or Civic Citizenship, ISEAS Working Paper: Social and Cultural Issues No. 2 (2007)
Rajenthran Arumugam Malaysia: An Overview of the Legal Framework for Foreign Direct Investment, ISEAS Working Paper: Economic Issues, No.5 (2002)
Lee Hock Guan Political Parties and the Politics of Citizenship and Ethnicity in Peninsular Malay(si)a, 1957-1968, ISEAS Working Paper: Social and Cultural Issues, No. 2 (2001)
Patricia Lim Pui Huen Continuity and Connectedness: The Ngee Heng Kongsi of Johor, 1844–1916, ISEAS Working Paper: Social and Cultural Issues, No. 1, (2001)


ISEAS Publications has also published a wide range of monographs and edited volumes on Malaysia. Selected titles published since 2000 include the following:

  • Tham Siew Yean and Sanchita Basu Das. Services Liberalization in ASEAN: Foreign Direct Investment in Logistics (2017)
  • Lee Hock Guan (ed.). Education and Globalization in Southeast Asia: Issues and Challenges (2017)
  • Carl Vadivella Belle. Thaipusam in Malaysia. (2017)
  • Meredith Weiss and Arnold Puyok. Electoral Dynamics in Sarawak: Contesting Developmentalism and Rights (2017)
  • Johan Saravanamuttu. Power Sharing in a Divided Nation: Mediated Communalism and New Politics in Six Decades of Malaysia’s Elections (2016)
  • Hah Foong Lian (ed). Power Games: Political Blogging in Malaysian Elections (2016)
  • Wong Yee Tuan. Penang Chinese Commerce in the 19th Century: The Rise and Fall of the Big Five (2015)
  • Tawfik Ismail and Ooi Kee Beng. Drifting into Politics: The Unfinished Memoirs of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman (2015)
  • Fatimah Mohamed Arshad, Kusairi Mohd Noh, Syahaneem Mohamad Zainalabidin. Agricultural Policy and Institutional Reforms in Malaysia: Experiences, Impacts, and Lessons (2015)
  • Patrik Pillai. Yearning to Belong: Malaysia’s Indian Muslims, Chitties, Portuguese Eurasians, Peranakan Chinese and Baweanese (2015)
  • Carl Vadivella Belle. Tragic Orphans: Indians in Malaysia (2015)
  • Saw Swee-Hock. The Population of Malaysia (2nd. Ed.) (2015)
  • Francis E Hutchinson. Mirror Images in Different Frames? Johor, the Riau Islands and Competition for Investment from Singapore (2015)
  • Leon Comber. Templer and the Road to Malayan Independence: The Man and His Time (2015)
  • Carl Vadivella Belle. Tragic Orphans: Indians in Malaysia (2015) Saw Swee-Hock. The Population of Malaysia (2nd. Ed.) (2015)
  • Johan Saravanamuttu, Lee Hock Guan & Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman. Coalitions in Collision: Malaysia’s 13th General Elections (2015)
  • Ang Ming Chee. Institutions and Social Mobilization: The Chinese Education Movement in Malaysia, 1951-2011 (2014)
  • Bernhard Platzdasch & Johan Saravanamuttu (eds.).  Religious Diversity in Muslim-Majority States in Southeast Asia (2014)
  • Anthony Milner, Abdul Rahman Embong and Tham Siew Yean (eds.)  Transforming Malaysia: Dominant and Competing Paradigms (2014)
  • Meredith Weiss (ed.). Electoral Dynamics in Malaysia: Findings from the Grassrooots (2013)
  • Francis E Hutchinson and Johan Saravanamuttu (eds.). Catching the Wind: Penang in a Rising Asia (2013)
  • Liaw Yock Fang. A History of Classical Malay Literature (co-publish with OBOR, 2013)
  • Tham Siew Yean (ed.). Internationlising Higher Education in Malaysia: Understanding, Practices and Challenges (2013)
  • Terence Gomez and Johan Saravanamuttu (eds.). The New Economic Policy in Malaysia: Affirmative Action, Ethnic Inequalities and Social Justice (co-publish with NUS Press, 2013)
  • Veena Sikri. India and Malaysia: Intertwined Strands (2013)
  • Ooi Kee Beng. Done Making Do: 1Party Rule Ends in Malaysia (2013)
  • Lee Hock Guan and Leo Suyardinata (eds.). Malaysian Chinese: Recent Developments and Prospects (2012)
  • Faisal S Hazis. Domination and Contestation: Muslim Bumiputera Politics in Sarawak (2011)
  • Lee Ting Hui and Mok Soon Pang. Chinese Schools in Peninsular Malaysia (2011)
  • Ooi Kee Beng and Goh Ban Lee (eds.). Pilot Studies for a New Penang (2010)
  • Ooi Kee Beng. Between UMNO and a Hard Place (2010)
  • Johan Saravanamuttu. Malaysia’s Foreign Policy, the First Fifty Years (2010)
  • Julian Lee. Islamization and Activism in Malaysia (2010)

External Publications

In addition to ISEAS Publications, Malaysia Studies team members have published in the following outlets:

Academic Journals:

Journal of Contemporary Asia, Journal of Asian Political Science, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Asian Journal of Social Science, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, Journal of Asian Economics, the Singapore Economic Review, Malaysian Journal of Economic Studies, Contemporary Islam, Studia Islamika, Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, The Round Table, Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, Journal of Islamic Studies, Journal of Asian and African Studies

Publishing Houses:

ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Routledge, World Scientific, United Nations Development Programme

Straits Times, Today, Berita Harian, Berita Minggu, Berita Mediacorp, and The Edge Malaysia.

Collaboration and Past Visiting Researchers

The programme also collaborates and works closely with external researchers, scholars and centres involved in the study of Malaysia. In addition, ISEAS has a long history of hosting researchers and scholars studying Malaysia. Among those previously affiliated with the Institute are the following:

Ramlah Adam, Geoffrey Benjamin, Cheah Boon Kheng, Hans-Dieter Evers, John Funston, T.N. Harper, James Jesudason, Gordon Means, Ungku Mainmunah Mohd. Tahir, Chandra Muzaffar, Farish Ahmad Noor, Johan Saravanamuttu; A.B. Shamsul, Dan Slater, Wang Gungwu, and Meredith Weiss.

Furthermore, in carrying out research in Malaysia, team-members have collaborated with the following organizations, among others: Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs; the Penang Institute; Konrad Adenauer Foundation.


For upcoming ISEAS seminars, the events section of the main ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute website here.
The Malaysia Studies Programme regularly organizes seminars and updates on topical issues. A selection of recent seminar titles includes the following:

  • Jeyakumar Devaraj, “Recent Political Developments in Malaysia and Implications for PRU 14”, 16 June 2017.
  • Serina Rahman, “Johor’s Forest City: Challenges, Mitigation and Sustainability”, 15 June 2017.
  • Mukhriz Mahathir, “Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia: A Game Changer or a Non-Starter?”, 30 May 2017.
  • Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, “Alternatives to Autocracy: A New Paradigm for Malaysia”, 23 May 2017.
  • Salahuddin Ayub, “AMANAH: A Game-Changer in Malay-Muslim Politics”, 9 May 2017.
  • Gan Ping Sieu, “Wither the Reformists’ Agenda: Is the Federation Breaking Up?, 25 April 2017.
  • Liew Chin Tong, “Black Swans in Malaysian Politics”, 18 April 2017.
  • Asmady Idris, “Malaysia’s Religious Interaction with Saudi Arabia”, 30 March 2017.
  • Carl Vadivella Belle, “Thaipusam in Malaysia: A Hindu Festival in the Tamil Diaspora”, [Seminar and Book Launch],1 March 2017.
  • Saifuddin Abdullah, “UMNO: Neither Yesterday, Nor Tomorrow”, 28 February 2017.
  • Shad Saleem Faruqi, “Malaysia: Islamisation, the Constitution and the Road Ahead”, 24 February 2017.
  • Ibrahim Suffian, “Sabah and Sarawak: Perspectives on Federal-State Relationship, Identity and Current Issues”, 8 February 2017.
  • Mujahid Yusof Rawa, “Malay Politics in Malaysia: Changing World and Way Forward”, 14 November 2016.
  • Anthony Milner, “Malay Identity in Crisis?”, 8 November 2016.
  • Muhammed Abdul Khalid and Hawati Abdul Hamid, “Climbing the Ladder: Socio-economic Mobility in Malaysia”, 1 November 2016.
  • Maszlee Malik, “The ‘Democrat Muslim’ Rashid Ghannouchi and His Influence on Malaysia’s Parti Amanah Negara”, 14 October 2016.
  • Wong Chin Huat, “Beyond Electoral Coordination: Malaysia’s Opposition Evolutional Challenge”, 9 September 2016.
  • Ahmad El-Muhammady, “The Nature of the IS Threat to Malaysia”, 26 July 2016.
  • Elsa Lafaye de Micheaux, “Malaysian Capitalism Amongst Diverse Asian Capitalisms: A New Theoretical Framework”, 19 July 2016.
  • Helen Ting Mu Hung, “The Politics of National Identity in Malaysia: The Making of Negara Islam”, 5 July 2016.
  • Barbara Watson Andaya, “Christianity, Conversion and Overseas Chinese: Historical Moments in Religious Interaction, 17 June 2016.
  • Andrew Willford, “Betrayal, Sacred Landscapes, and Stories of Justice Among Tamils in Malaysia”, 2 June 2016.
  • Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, “Has Malaysian Islam been Salafized?”, 25 May 2016.
  • Jahabar Sadiq, “Political and Economic Risk in Malaysia beyond 1MDB”, 28 April 2016.
  • Faisal S Hazis, “Adenan, Autonomy and the Alternatives: Sarawak Decides 2016”, 22 April 2016.
  • Chua Hang Kuen, “Intimate Citizenship of Non-heteronormative Malay Men in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia: A Comparative Study”, 31 March 2016.
  • A Mani, “Consequences of Development-induced Displacement in the Greater Klang Valley Region: ‘Despair to Hope’ among Tamils”, 11 March 2016.
  • Marco Ferrarese, “Melting Mosh Pit: Music Performance in Multi-ethnic Malaysia, 2010-2015”, 10 March 2016.
  • Barbara Watson Andaya, Leonard Y Andaya, Tawfik Tun Ismail and Ooi Kee Beng, “Meeting Malaysia’s Unfinished Past”, 15 February 2016.
  • Shamsul A B, “The National Unity Blueprint: Redefining ‘Unity’ in Malaysia”, 25 January 2016.

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