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The field of Kadazan politics

September 14, 2009

The EASA Media Anthropology Network e-seminar on Fausto Barlocco’s working paper about media and identity among the Kadazan of Sabah (East Malaysia) is now on. These seminars are free and open to anyone with a genuine interest in the anthropology of media. This was my second post:

PS. On second thoughts, I think what I’m getting at, if I may adapt recent work I’ve done on suburban politics in Peninsular Malaysia, is that presumably there is a ‘field’ (Bourdieu) of Kadazan politics in which various[ly] positioned Kadazan and non-Kadazan agents (politicians, government servants, journalists, intellectuals, etc) compete and cooperate over the Kadazan ‘mindset’ (to use a Cold war phrase still current in Malaysia) through a range of practices and media. Would this be a more precise description than the ‘Kadazan vs. the State’ rubric? What part do the various media organisations and technologies play in such a field?

An example closer to home would be politics in the Spanish side of the Basque Country. Saying that ‘the Basque people’ are fighting ‘the Spanish state’ is a romantic caricature. In reality, there is a field of regional politics in which two broad subfields are clearly distinguished: pro-Spain (PP, PSOE) vs. pro-Basque (PNV, etc) parties, with a pro-Spain coalition having recently won the regional elections for the first time since democracy was reestablished in the mid-1970s.

What was one of the first things the new regional government did? They changed the weather maps shown on the regional, government-controlled TV station from the Greater Basque Country of the nationalists’ weather maps (which included the French provinces and Spanish Navarre) to a ‘constitutional’ map clearly showing the Spanish Basque Country proper. A wonderful example of banal nationalism (Billig) at work, only here the change didn’t go unnoticed.


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