chapter  6
15 Pages

'You cannot just sit there and accept what they say': ethnic minority Indian teenage schoolgirls in contemporary postcolonial Malaysia

This chapter examines the identity practices of three different groups of Indian schoolgirls in an urban girls' school in multiethnic Malaysia, a country in which the ethnic minority of Indians are marginalized on many social indices. The ways in which these girls are both empowered and disempowered through their social and educational positioning - at personal, schooling and national levels - are examined. The research is located within a theoretical framework that draws upon insights from contemporary feminist theorists (Brah 1996; de Lauretis 1990; Spivak 1990; Yuval-Davis 1997) who work with concepts of identity and difference and their interconnections to ethnicity. The chapter begins with a brief overview of the politics of ethnicity in contemporary Malaysia as this provides an important context for understanding the subsequent analysis of how young Malaysian Indian girls negotiate shifting identification of gender and ethnicity, and situate themselves in relation to cultural discourses of 'traditional' and 'Western'.