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Bibliography of internet activism and social protest in Malaysia

September 22, 2013

Work in progress. Last updated 23 Oct 2013 (Tang 2009 added).

Southeast Asia boasts a pioneering history of digital activism and mobilisation, from the use of mailing lists in 1989 to protest against the Tiannamen Square massacre, the reformasi movements that ushered in democratic regimes to the Philippines and Indonesia in 1998, or the effective use of mobile phones and the internet to launch mass protests against President Estrada in 2001, to the July 2011 Bersih 2.0 rallies in Malaysia in which social media and smartphones were widely employed to campaign for democratic reform (Teck-Peng and Yong 2011).

Malaysia has seen a rapid adoption of digital media by activist groups, albeit in an environment where, unlike in Indonesia or the Philippines, the mainstream media are still state-controlled. Gong (2011) argues that blogs played a key part in the success of opposition candidates in the 2008 elections (see also Postill 2011). This author estimates that bloggers were seven times more likely to win an election than non-bloggers. Another study found that in Malaysia’s repressive environment, Facebook provides citizens with alternative ways ‘to express dissent, connect with like-minded individuals, and organise’ (Smeltzer and Keddy 2011). During the July 2011 rallies, social media and smartphones served to document and denounce the government’s brutal clampdown on the peaceful marches, thereby damaging Malaysia’s reputation as a moderate country (Welsh 2011). A Bersih 3.0 rally took place on 28 April 2012 following allegations of electoral fraud. For his part, Pepinsky (2013) argues that ‘the rise of Malaysia’s new media is unlikely to be responsible for political liberalization’. This will only be achieved, he suggests, if the country’s entrenched racial politics are overcome through a focus on democratic procedures and processes.

Abbott, J. P. (2001). Democracy@ internet. asia? The challenges to the emancipatory potential of the net: Lessons from China and Malaysia. Third World Quarterly, 22(1), 99-114.

It is a commonly held view that, given the unique characteristics of the internet, it provides real opportunities for democratisation and political transformation, especially in societies where freedom of speech and expression is constrained by government controls. This article challenges this assumption by examining the impact of the internet in Asia with specific reference to China and Malaysia. In particular the article argues that to understand the impact of the internet on developing economies it is essential to examine the political economy of the internet-locally, regionally and globally. While the net may provide a new medium for dissent and opposition, its impact is offset by two principal factors. First, the existence of a marked digital divide between North and South (as well as the discrepancies that exist within specific countries in terms of gender, education and wealth) and second, by growing commercialisation.

Abbott, J. P. (2004). The Internet, reformasi and democratisation in Malaysia. The state of Malaysia: ethnicity, equity and reform, 79-104.

No abstract available.

Barney, K. (2004). Re‐encountering resistance: Plantation activism and smallholder production in Thailand and Sarawak, Malaysia. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 45(3), 325-339.

The emergence of social and environmental movements against plantation forestry in Southeast Asia positions rural development against local displacement and environmental degradation. Multi-scaled NGO networks have been active in promoting the notion that rural people in Southeast Asia uniformly oppose plantation development. There are potential pitfalls in this heightened attention to resistance however, as it has often lapsed into essentialist notions of timeless indigenous agricultural practices, and unproblematic local allegiances to common property and conservation. An exclusive emphasis on resistance also offers little understanding of widespread smallholder participation in plantation production across the region. A useful method of approaching the complexity of local responses to plantation development is through the history of legal and informal resource tenure, within an analysis of rural political-economic restructuring. Drawing on research in Thailand and Sarawak, I suggest that a more nuanced appreciation of both the structural constraints and deployments of agency which characterise the enrolment of rural people into plantation commodity networks, opens up new spaces for analysis and political action, which supports a geographically embedded view of relations of power, rural livelihoods and environmental politics.

Brown, G. K. (2004). Civil society and social movements in an ethnically divided society: the case of Malaysia, 1981-2001 (Doctoral dissertation, University of Nottingham).

This thesis examines the relationship between civil society, social movements and the state in ethnically-divided countries, using the case study of Malaysia. The argument begins with the observation that the respective literatures on civil society and social movements occupy a broadly congruent paradigm, but the relationship between the two is poorly theorised. Through a critical discussion of existing approaches, a synthesis of civil society and social movements theory is produced, which argues for a dualistic interpretation that emphasises both institutional linkages and cultural and discursive relationships. It is further argued that this latter aspect is of particular importance in ethnically-divided countries, as cultural differences between groups may hamper the effective mobilisation of movements. Thus may exist a form of ‘slippage’ between civil society and movement mobilisation, unidentified in much of the literature that tends to view the two as dynamically homogenous. The empirical section of the thesis utilises this model to examine the trajectories of civil society and social movements in Malaysia, focussing on the two decades from 1981 to 2001. It is argued that the first half of the 1980s saw the expansion of a broadly middle class-led, multiethnic civil society but that successful movement mobilisation nonetheless remained rooted in ethnic concerns. Nonetheless, the decade saw in increasing challenge to the regime’s hegemonic position.

Estuar, M. R. E., Canoy, N., Japa, D., Jones, J., McCarthy, S., Puri, E., … & Jafaar, J. (2013). Perspectives on Protest in South and Southeast Asia. In International Handbook of Peace and Reconciliation (pp. 247-261). Springer New York.

In democratic countries, civil society is provided with a constitutional right to peaceful assembly. However, this right, though universally defined and accepted, still needs to be understood based on experiences and beliefs of ordinary citizens. This chapter discusses perspectives on protest of ordinary citizens from seven countries in South and Southeast Asia. We begin by providing a background on protest, its description, and forms and then relate it to existing frameworks for studies of collective action. We also discuss recent historical protest movements in South and Southeast Asia. Analyses of qualitative survey responses indicated that prevailing views in the region are more pro-protest than anti-protest. Pro-protest themes included focused on protest as a way to achieve peace, as a socially sanctioned right, and as socially justified action. Women were more likely than men to view protest as socially justified while men were more likely than women to view protest as a socially sanctioned right. Also significantly more antiwar protestors than non-protestors participants displayed pro-social agency, personal initiative, and activism when responding to a scenario about police beating peaceful antiwar protestors.

Fahmi, F. M., & Omar, N. (2005). Corporate reporting on minority shareholders information and its implication on shareholders activism in Malaysia. Journal of Financial Reporting and Accounting, 3(1), 17-39.

The objectives of the current study are of two folds; dealing firstly with the commitment of the listed companies in reporting minority shareholders’ information in their corporate annual report and secondly to determine the implication of such reporting practices towards shareholders activism in this country. It is implied in this study that if the reporting practices is fair and the level of shareholders activism is high, corporate governance practices could be significantly improved.

Freedman, A. L. (2004). Economic Crises and Political Change: Indonesia, South Korea, and Malaysia. World Affairs, 166(4), 185-196.

No abstract available.

George, C. (2005). The internet’s political impact and the penetration/participation paradox in Malaysia and Singapore. Media, Culture & Society, 27(6), 903-920.

How intensively a communication technology is used depends on factors other than its level of diffusion. Accordingly, a country with lower penetration levels for a medium may, paradoxically, exhibit more and better utilization of that medium than a country with higher penetration. This penetration/participation paradox is seen in the case of Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore is significantly ahead in terms of network availability, but it is Malaysia that has the more developed political activism online. The paradox cannot be explained by the two countries’ regulatory regimes, which are more similar than different. Instead, the differences can be accounted for by traditional social networks that help to organize online dissent, and the motivation to use available technology in creatively political ways – both of which are stronger in Malaysia than in Singapore. This case study highlights the importance of social and political context in the shaping the impact of new communication technologies.

George, C. (2007). Media in Malaysia: Zone of contention. Democratization, 14(5), 893-910.

Through a case study of Malaysia, this article examines the news media as a set of sites for political participation. Mainstream media, comprising national newspapers and broadcasters, are closely regulated. While the contentiousness of Malaysia’s competitive elite politics is sometimes mirrored in the mainstream media, such conflict tends to be contained within existing political arrangements, reproducing the regime. Potentially transgressive forms of contention tend to be excluded by the mainstream media, surfacing instead through alternative media, especially independent websites and blogs. While there are marked differences between mainstream and alternative media, however, this article emphasizes that they both remain highly contested sites. The mainstream media may be characterized by their conservative orientation, but they are not immune to challenge from within by more contentious forces. Conversely, while alternative media are hospitable to insurgent activity, they are being partly colonized by more established political forces. Keywords: Singapore, Malaysia, alternative media, protest, blogs, Internet, social movements

Gomez, J., & Leong, C. H. (2010, June). New Media and General Elections: Online Citizen Journalism in Malaysia and Singapore. Malaysia and Singapore Workshop: Media, Law, Social Commentary, Politics, The University of Melbourne, Australia.

No abstract available.

Gong, R. (2011). Internet politics and state media control: Candidate weblogs in Malaysia. Sociological Perspectives, 54(3), 307-328.

This article underscores the importance of online research in illuminating the social processes underlying Internet effects on politics. It is an empirical study of the effect of blogs on the 2008 general election in Malaysia. Using the population of electoral candidates in the 2008 general election (N = 471), the author estimates a logistic model predicting the effects of having a blog on winning a Parliamentary seat. The results show that opposition candidates benefit significantly more from having a blog than do non-opposition candidates, as blogging provides opportunities denied to them by Malaysia’s state-controlled media. Bloggers are more than seven times as likely to win an election compared to non-bloggers, controlling for incumbency, party membership, and race. In addition to being an alternative avenue of information distribution, blogs’ potential for building interpersonal relationships and their role as mobilization tools in media-controlling states are discussed using qualitative examples.

Grieco, M., & Bhopal, M. (2005). Globalisation, collective action and counter-coordination: the use of the new information communication technology by the Malaysian labour movement. critical perspectives on international business, 1(2/3), 109-122.

Purpose – This article aims to explore the use of new information communication technology by the Malaysian labour movement. New information communication technologies are undoubtedly globalising, but these same technologies can also be used by labour to retrieve and re-achieve a more equitable balance between labour and capital. The low transaction costs of the new information communication technology, and the universal reach of these same technologies, provide the labour movement with a critical new tool for organising and bargaining. Malaysia provides us with a useful example of this new context. Design/methodology/approach – The authors e-interviewed Malaysian labour activists and reviewed Malaysian labour and human rights web sites to develop a framework in which the discussion of global counter-coordination by labour could be situated. This article provides case material from Malaysian web sites to demonstrate the importance of this technology in labour advocacy within Malaysia and in its connection with the outside world. These demonstrations of connectivity support the proposition of the paper that the new information technology affords the opportunity for the development of global union practices. Findings – The article finds that the Malaysian labour movement is aware of the power of global relay that the technology provides it with and harnesses this power in its interaction with the state.

Gurowitz, A. (2000). Migrant rights and activism in Malaysia: Opportunities and constraints. The Journal of Asian Studies, 59(04), 863-888.

We are currently witnessing two trends in Southeast Asia: first, an increase in what is often referred to as “civil society” activity including action by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and second, an increase in various forms of migration, one of the key human rights concerns of the post-World War II era. This article reviews the convergence of these two trends by examining activism on behalf of migrant workers in the largest receiving state of migrants in Asia, Malaysia. With approximately 700,000 documented and over one million undocumented migrant workers, Malaysia has one of the highest percentages of foreign workers in the world (Migrant News [MN], November 1999). Like many other countries with labor shortages, Malaysia needs these workers, but does not want them. Both of these facts are clearly reflected in government policies. There are frequent attempts to get rid of migrant workers, either in response to public concern or because of economic downturn, but with almost every halt to migration there is a corresponding exception allowing workers to stay or continue coming. Throughout this process there is little if any attention paid to the rights of migrant workers by the Malaysian government, or often the migrant’s home government. Since this increased migration is occurring at a time of a general increase in activism in Malaysia and regionally, it is reasonable to ask what of this civil society energy is being addressed to the increasingly important issue of migrant rights.

Hamid, A. F. A. (2000). Political dimensions of religious conflict in Malaysia: state response to an Islamic movement. Indonesia and the Malay World, 28(80), 32-65.

Until the late 1980s, the official reaction of the Malaysian state to Islamic movements was ambivalent. Being governed in large measure by electoral considerations, the government employed a two-pronged strategy against its Islamic rivals. On the one hand, the UMNO-dominated government could not afford to lose the support of the Malays who had become more aware, in an Islamically-inclined direction, of their identity and future in a multi-ethnic polity since the drastic events of 1969. Islamic groups such as the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM), the Islamic Representative Council (IRC), Jamaat Tabligh, the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) which reinvigorated itself under the ulama leadership in 1982, and Darul Arqam had been rapidly gaining adherents among educated urban Malay youth at the expense of UMNO, whose prevalent image remained that of a secular nationalist party which had failed the Malays. In such a mood, attacking Islam was to commit political suicide; hence the launching of a conscious policy of Islamization identified most readily with the Premiership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad since 1981. Within this framework of intense rivalry with Islamic movements for the hearts and minds of the Malay-Muslim masses, the government scored a preemptive strike by co-opting top Islamists such as Anwar Ibrahim, President of ABIM, in 1982 and Nakhaie Ahmad, Vice-President of PAS, in 1989.

Hashim, M. A., Mahpuz, M., Khan, N. A., & Daud, N. M. (2012) Investigating the use of Social Media Among the Young Urban Middle Class in Malaysian Politics, and its Potential Role in Changing the Nation’s Political Landscape.

The objective of this study is to examine a relationship between the usage of social media and its potential role in changing Malaysian political landscape. Online survey was conducted amongst 130 respondents that comprise Malaysia’s young urban middle class population aged between 21 and 40 living in the Klang Valley. The findings suggested that social media has played and will continue to play a significant role in transforming Malaysia’s political landscape. To the young urban middle class segment, it has opened up their democratic space and this fits in with their expectations to express their views and feelings freely over the handling of the country’s political issues by the present administration. In short, the “government supported” mainstream media is perceived as not providing a balanced coverage in comparison to social media which the young urban educated Malaysians seek out to satisfy their curiosity for information and freedom in discussing issues deemed too sensitive in the mainstream media. Key words: Social media, young urban, middle-class, Malaysian politics, political landscape.

Holmes, L., & Grieco, M. (2001). The internet, email, and the Malaysian political crisis: the power of transparency. Asia Pacific Business Review, 8(2), 59-72.

No abstract available.

Khoo, B. T. (2010). Cyber-networks, physical coalitions and missing links: imagining and realizing dissent in Malaysia 1998-2008.

From September 1998 to March 2008, dissident cyber-networks in Malaysia developed connections with physical coalitions that contributed to the Opposition’s historic gains in the 12th General Election of March 2008. To succeed in entrenching a ‘two-coalition system’, however, the component parties of the Opposition coalition (Pakatan Rakyat) must establish its ‘missing links’, namely, extensive and deep organizational networks in society that would permit the coalition to move from imagining and and realizing dissent to institutionalizing it meaningfully. Keywords:  Malaysia, Internal politics, Elections, Network, Internet, Malaysian politics, 2008 General Election, Opposition coalitions, Malaysiakini, Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Anwar Ibrahim, Cyber-networks.

Khoo, G. C. (2013). Bersih dan Ubah: citizenship rights, intergenerational togetherness and multicultural unity in Malaysia.

A counter-narrative of an organic multiculturalism is evident in the lead up to the 13th General Elections against the Barisan Nasional (BN) state narrative of Malay racial primordialism and political primacy. To that end Bersih, a coalition for free and fair elections, has played a key role in promoting transethnic solidarities among protestors confronted by water cannons, tear gas and police brutality during peaceful street demonstrations in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Bersih’s demands for electoral reform, transparent governance and an end to corruption and dirty politics are popular because of Malaysia’s inflated national debt, wastage and rising levels of economic disparity under 56 years of BN rule. Analysing the creative output and narratives from Bersih and the 2013 elections campaign, I demonstrate the emergence of new discourses of belonging and identity that narrate the multicultural nation into being, which focus on citizenship rights and intergenerational togetherness instead of ethnic or religious affiliation.

Leong, S. (2009). The Hindraf saga: media and citizenship in Malaysia. Communication, Creativity, and Global Leadership.

In the early part of 2008, a major political upset was pulled off in the Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia when the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (National Front), lost its long-held parliamentary majority after the general elections. Given the astonishingly high profile of political bloggers and relatively well established alternative online new sites within the nation, it was not surprising that many new media proponents saw the result as a major triumph of the medium. Through a brief account of the Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force) saga and the socio-political dissent nursed, in part, through new media in contemporary Malaysia, this paper seeks to lend context to the events that precede and surround the election as an example of the relationship between media and citizenship in praxis. In so doing it argues that the political turnaround, if indeed it proves to be, cannot be considered the consequence of new media alone. Rather, that to comprehensively assess the implications of new media for citizenship is to take into account the specific histories, conditions and actions (or lack of) of the various social actors involved. Keywords: citizenship, Hindraf, Hindu Rights Action Force, Tamil, Malaysia, new media, Youtube, VCD, Indian.

Lim, J. B. (2013). Video blogging and youth activism in Malaysia. International Communication Gazette, 75(3), 300-321.

The Internet has engendered a ‘democratizing’ effect, especially in highly censored societies. Young activists are increasingly using online sites, such as YouTube, EngageMedia and MySpace as alternative platforms to raise issues that are of importance to the community, but which are taboo in society (e.g., homosexuality, Orang Asli land rights, and ethnic discrimination, among others). The findings from interviews and focus groups conducted with 80 young adults, and a compilation of video blogging platforms/activities popular amongst Malaysians, clearly demonstrate the significant use of videos in advocating human rights, and social and political justice, as well as in challenging existing regulatory and legislative regimes. This article examines how video-sharing websites are fast becoming popular, albeit contested, spaces for critical documentary and experimental works to inform, educate, and encourage discourse among young adults. It then considers the extent to which such ‘viral videos’ embody and/or confront local/national struggles towards social and political change.

Liow, J. C. (2012). Malaysia’s March 2008 general election: understanding the new media factor. The Pacific Review, 25(3), 293-315.

The Malaysian general elections held on 8 March 2008 proved to be a historic event. For the first time, the political opposition managed to deny the incumbent National Front coalition a two-thirds parliamentary majority. Attempts to explain the opposition coalition’s 2008 success have identified new media as a critical factor that turned the tide in the opposition’s favour. The purpose of this paper is to better understand the new media factor at the 2008 elections and its immediate aftermath by analysing its role, advantages proffered, and limitations in terms of advancing democratization and greater political openness in Malaysia. Keywords: new media, Malaysia, democratization, Malaysian general elections, internet, alternative media.

Nair, S. (2007). The limits of protest and prospects for political reform in Malaysia. Critical Asian Studies, 39(3), 339-368.

The 1997 Asian currency “crisis” affected Malaysians in profound ways and complicated dominant nation and modernity narratives centered on economic growth and development and the stability of ethnic relations. In the ensuing months, Malaysia’s political landscape—dominated by one party and its leadership — was also reconfigured. The ouster of Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, heir apparent to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad set the stage for the Reformasi movement, which was arguably the country’s first organized large-scale protest movement to embrace a range of social actors, including nongovernmental organizations, grassroots groups, and political parties. By 2001 Reformasi was in decline and meaningful political and social reform had failed to materialize. What happened to this once vibrant movement? How can we account for its decline? This article analyzes the challenges encountered by Reformasi in confronting these dominant narratives and in reframing political discourse. The article situates Reformasi’s decline in the context of its struggles with the dominant Barisan Nasional-led state as well as the complex relationship between different elements of the movement. It also explores how democratic deepening, the movement’s inability to provide an alternative discourse that takes into account ethnicized divisions in Malaysia, and the tensions between the party political and movement aspects of protest politics have contributed to Reformasi’s demise.

Nam, Z. (2002). The media and Malaysia’s Reformasi movement. Media fortunes, changing times: ASEAN states in transition, 119.

No abstract available.

Noor, A. (2007). Pathans to the East! The Development of the Tablighi Jama’at Movement in Northern Malaysia and Southern Thailand. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 27(1), 7-25.

This article looks at one particular form of South-to-South transfer and exchange, focusing on the transcultural transfer of religious knowledge, norms, and values between South and Southeast Asia via the medium of a global Muslim missionary network. Among the many transnational Islamist movements and trends that exist in the world today, the Tablighi Jama’at—described by Muhammad Khalid Masud as “a transnational Islamic movement for faith renewal”—stands out as the most well known, best organized, and most widely connected of all.

Pandian, S. (2012). Post 2008 Malaysia’s General Elections: A ‘Protest Vote’ Against Whom?. Journal of Applied Sciences Research, 8(1), 267-270.

The ‘protest vote’ theory by Hirschman (1970) and Barry (1974) indicates the emergence of a probability would occur when the entity of an organization or elections failed to place their trust, they would instead choose to ‘be silent-and-exit’. Voters may opt to not cast their votes and with that, relinquish their power and right in choosing their leader. Both these writers consider the behaviour or the voters as being irrational. Edlin, Gelman and Kaplan (2007) ironically in their research proved that such behaviour among the voters was in fact a calculated action of rationality. Voters decided whether or not to cast their votes and their decisions were made in a rational manner despite having individual and respective ‘social references’. This article intends to identify the situations in which protest voting exists and factors influencing the emergence of protest voting; with a focus on Permatang Pauh Parliament constituency, one of the 222 Parliament seats in Malaysia. The first part focuses on identifying the existence of protest voting in the Permatang Pauh Parliament through the percentage of voters who came out to cast their votes and the empirical data accumulated based on work during leisure time. The second part presents a discussion of factors identified and confirmed as the source of encouragement for the emergence of protest voting amongst the voters of Permatang Pauh. Key words: Protest Vote, General Elections, Malaysia, National Front (Barisan Nasional), People Coalition (Pakatan Rakyat), Voting Behaviour.

Pepinsky, T. B. (2013). The New Media and Malaysian Politics in Historical Perspective. Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs, 35(1), 83-103.

This essay is a critical examination of the ability of Malaysia’s new media to promote political liberalization. Drawing on a historical approach to Malaysia’s political development since independence, it argues that the political effects of the rise of Malaysia’s new media are best understood as being parallel to those of modernization and socio-economic change from previous decades, which augured important changes in the political strategies of incumbent and opposition politicians, but did not upset the fundamental logic through which the Barisan Nasional (BN) regime has ruled since the 1970s. That logic of rule is closely attuned to Malaysia’s cleavage structure, which centres on ethnicity and the economy and which has pervaded the country’s politics since independence. Malaysia’s new media — despite being far more open to critical voices than its establishment print and broadcast media — serve as venue in which more basic political conflicts are waged. Although Malaysia’s 13th General Elections may spell further losses for the ruling BN, this essay argues that the rise of Malaysia’s new media is unlikely to be responsible for political liberalization. Instead, liberalizing pressures are most likely to be effective when groups targeting democratic processes and procedures, thereby superseding Malaysia’s cleavage politics. Keywords: Malaysia, democracy, modernization, media, technology.

Postill, J. (2008). Localizing the internet beyond communities and networks. New Media & Society, 10(3), 413-431.

As the numbers of internet users worldwide continue to grow, the internet is becoming `more local’. This article addresses the epistemological challenge posed by this global process of internet localization by examining some of the conceptual tools at the disposal of internet researchers. It argues that progress has been hampered by an overdependence on the problematic notions of community and network whose paradigmatic status has yet to be questioned by internet scholars. The article seeks to broaden the conceptual space of internet localization studies through a ground-up conceptualization exercise that draws inspiration from the field theories of both Pierre Bourdieu and the Manchester School of Anthropology, and is based on recent fieldwork in suburban Malaysia. This exploration demonstrates that a more nuanced understanding of the plural forms that residential sociality can take is needed in order to move beyond existing binaries such as `network sociality’ versus `community sociality’.

Postill, J. (2011). Localizing the Internet: An Anthropological Account. Oxford and New York: Berghahn. See draft Introduction.

Internet activism is playing a crucial role in the democratic reform happening across many parts of Southeast Asia. Focusing on Subang Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, this study offers an in-depth examination of the workings of the Internet at the local level. In fact, Subang Jaya is regarded as Malaysia’s electronic governance laboratory. The author explores its field of residential affairs, a digitally mediated social field in which residents, civil servants, politicians, online journalists and other social agents struggle over how the locality is to be governed at the dawn of the ‘Information Era’. Drawing on the field theories of both Pierre Bourdieu and the Manchester School of political anthropology, this study challenges the unquestioned predominance of ‘network’ and ‘community’ as the two key sociation concepts in contemporary Internet studies. The analysis extends field theory in four new directions, namely the complex articulations between personal networking and social fields, the uneven diffusion and circulation of new field technologies and contents, intra- and inter-field political crises, and the emergence of new forms of residential sociality.

Postill, J. (2013). Digital politics and political engagement. Digital Anthropology. Oxford: Berg, 165-184.

The growing use of digital media by political actors of all kinds (including politicians, journalists, activists, and religious leaders) has given rise to a thriving literature, albeit one that is divided along disciplinary and technological lines. It is only very recently that the term ‘digital politics’ has begun to acquire currency. This appears to signal the birth of an interdisciplinary field that studies both the digitisation of traditional politics as well as the rise of new forms of political life originating in the digital world, such as Wikileaks or the Anonymous movement. Whilst there is as yet no digital politics textbook, three useful entry points into the subfield of Internet politics are Chadwick and Howard’s (2008) Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics,Oates, Owen and Gibson’s (2006) The Internet and Politics, and Chadwick’s (2006) Internet Politics. In this chapter I start with four review sections that cover similar ground to the material discussed in these works, although I broaden the inquiry to include mobile media. For example, I title the next section ‘digital government’ rather than ‘e-government’ – the latter a term usually associated with the internet but not with mobile technologies. The subsequent sections exemplify the application of an anthropological approach to the study of digital politics. Drawing from my own fieldwork in Malaysia and Spain, I argue that anthropology brings to this nascent field a rich political lexicon, processual analyses, ground-up comparisons and participatory research. I conclude with a brief discussion of the potential for future anthropological studies in this area.

Powers, S., & el-Nawawy, M. (2008). New Media and the Politics of Protest: A Case Study of Al Jazeera English in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur Calling, 65-82.

No abstract available.

Qureshi, M. A., Younus, A., Soon, L. K., Saeed, M., Touheed, N., O’Riordan, C., & Gabriella, P. Traces of Social Media Activism from Malaysia and Pakistan.

Recent uprisings in North Africa and Middle East saw the role of social media as an online activism medium used frequently by activists. Social media activism is an evolving phenomenon, and it is viewed by many as the main gathering point in recent protests (e.g., Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street). Recently, the research community has begun to investigate the intricate interplay between activism and social media. This paper presents a preliminary study in this direction by making use of publicly available Twitter data. We analyse the regional characteristics of online activists of two regions, Malaysia and Pakistan. Unlike previous approaches, we perform a content analysis of activists’ tweeting habits. For this, we identify the popular topics in both regions along with the frequency with which these topics are discussed by the activists according to their tweeting habits. Furthermore, we analyse the diversity of the content being shared by an activist with respect to their tweeting habits from both regions. Our results show differences in tweeting habits across the two regions for a period of 45 days (Dec. 1st , 2011 to Jan. 15th, 2012). Keywords: activism, Twitter, popular topics, user behaviour.

Radue, M. (2012). The Internets role in the Bersih movement in Malaysia–A Case Study. International Review of Information Ethics, 18, 12.

Everywhere in the media, people talk about the so-called “Twitter and Facebook revolution” in regard to the Green Revolution in Iran or other new social movements which demand democratization in their countries and use the Internet for communication and mobilization. Libertarian advocates of the Internet state that the In-ternet has democratizing effects because of its reputed egalitarian, open and free technological structure for communication processes. Especially in countries in which the media is under strict control by the government, these characteristics are emphasized as stimulation for political liberalization and democratization processes. This essay critically examines the alleged democratizing effect of the use of the Internet on the Malaysian society exemplified on the social movement Bersih. The Bersih movement demands free and fair elections in Malaysia, often described as an ethnocratic and “electoral authoritarian regime”. The objective of this study is to demonstrate the dependency of such possible effects on context.

Ramli, R. (2012). Youth Political Participation in Asia: Outlooks in Malaysia and Indonesia. Panorama: Insights into Asian and European Affairs is a series of occasional papers published by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s “Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia/Singapore”.

This paper attempts to identify factors influencing youth’s political participation. Using the Malaysian and Indonesian examples, it will highlight findings of recent youth studies. On a more substantive note, this paper suggests that youth of Malaysia and Indonesia view politics differently and that social media does play an important role in their lives.

Salleh, S. M. From Reformasi to Political Tsunami: A Political Narrative of Blog Activism in Malaysia from 1998-2008.

The influence of blogs appeared to have had a strong impact on the society especially in the last decade. It was not until the wake of the humiliating defeat of the Barisan Nasional coalition party in the 12th General Election in 2008 that the Abdullah Badawi’s administration finally began to open up and engage bloggers and the new media rather than enraging them. Although traditional media still reach far more people than blogs, yet, there are clear evidences that blogs played a significant role in shaping public opinion by publicising issues originally overlooked by the mainstream media, while at the same time offered a new way of democratic participation or cyber activism among political bloggers. Blogs have greatly empowered individuals to politically express themselves to challenge the traditional media as well as the ruling political elites. This paper presents the narratives of political issues, insights and impacts in the Malaysian political blogosphere and points out that the 12th General Election served as the turning point in generating huge awareness for both the state and society on the powers and influences of a blog. Keywords: Blog, Blogosphere, Cyber Activism, Malaysian Politics, New Media, Participatory Democracy.

Sani, M. A. M., & Zengeni, K. T. (2010). Democratisation in Malaysia: The impact of social media in the 2008 general election. In Paper was presented to the 18th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia in Adelaide.

The proliferation of social media such as blogging and online news portals has ramifications for national security, spanning future operating challenges of a traditional, irregular and disruptive nature. There is no doubt that the Internet is a conduit for alternative information and democratic values because it helps people to evade the intrusive force of censorship. It increases transparency by facilitating the flow of information about government. In the case of Malaysia during the 12th general election in 2008, social media was definitely an important instrument in promoting democracy. It opens up the space for the Malaysian citizens to deliberate political issues and gave the opportunities for the opposition to utilize in influencing the election result. The government was under estimated the influence of social media to the Malaysian voters. With the policy of free cyberspace, the social media has huge potential to strengthen the democratization process and democracy in Malaysia. Keywords: Social Media, The Internet, Malaysia, The 2008 General Election, blogging.

Skinner, C. J. F. (2010). The varying treatment of selected human rights issues via internet media in Sarawak, East Malaysia (Doctoral dissertation, School for International Studies-Simon Fraser University).

This study examines efforts by indigenous rights activists to exert pressure on the Malaysian government by way of new media technologies and transnational human rights networks. Comparative content analysis of newspaper and online coverage shows that, despite the many formal restrictions on political demonstration and dissent in physical public spaces, the internet provides Malaysians with an important arena for political dissent. Additionally, the study finds that new technologies have further facilitated collaboration between local activists and overseas rights networks as first examined by Keck and Sikkink (1998). The study traces how transnational activism resulted in political pressure on the Malaysian government via boycotts, letter writing campaigns and financial support resulting, in some cases, in the desired boomerang effect. Keywords: Penan protests, Blogs, Malaysian press, Online activism, Human rights, Transnational activism.

Smeltzer, S., & Keddy, D. (2010). Won’t you be my (political) friend? The changing face (book) of socio-political contestation in Malaysia. Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d’études du développement, 30(3-4), 421-440.

Using Malaysia as a case study, this article explores the potential of Facebook (the social networking website) as a tool for political change within restricted media environments. In countries with little or no freedom of the press, citizens often turn to alternative forms of media to express dissent, connect with like-minded individuals, and organize. Facebook’s integrated privacy controls can help facilitate such connections and may lend themselves to discussion and debate that challenge the status quo, particularly in Malaysia, which has emphasized economics before political rights and civil liberties since the country’s independence.

Tan, L. O. (2004). The Emerging Virtual Civil Society in Malaysia: A First Glance. In Conference 4th International Malaysian Studies Conference; 3-5 August 2004, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi.

The article asks: how the Internet contributes and enhances the struggles and development of civil society in Malaysia? It argues that the social conditions of restriction and suppression provoke the use of Internet as a mean of social action. Virtual space is providing new forms of political participation that feel fulfilling, effective and connected. In the virtual world we have another kind of discourse which is decentralized in its nature and totally different from the real world.

Tang, H. W. (2006). Let a hundred flowers bloom: Digital speech in Malaysia. Asian Journal of Comparative Law, 1(1).

The thesis of this paper is that in some societies blogs are beginning to act as a force for democratization and perform the role of being an alternative form of media. Blogging amplifies the cultural and participatory elements of free speech by enabling more people to take part in the spread of ideas and the dissemination of information. By publishing online, bloggers not only rout around prohibitive financial hurdles to media production but also overcome some laws that restrict freedom of expression. This essay focuses on a Malaysian case study of bloggers who are now a formidable force in disseminating information and promoting a democratic culture in the country despite laws that restrict free speech in the country. This essay also reflects on the salient lessons gleaned from the Malaysian experience which might be relevant to the project of constructing a successful blogging scene in the Middle East and other authoritarian or soft-authoritarian regimes.

Tang, H. W. (2009). The networked electorate: The Internet and the quiet democratic revolution in Malaysia and Singapore. Journal of Information, Law & Technology, 13(2), 135-151.

This paper is intended to be a contribution to the literature on claims of the democratising effect of the Internet. The paper begins by setting out the arguments and also critiques of claims of the democratising power of the Internet. In order to test the validity of these arguments, the author will undertake a comparative study of the impact of the Internet on recent general elections in Malaysia and Singapore. The study will demonstrate that in the case of Singapore, the Internet has merely exerted some pressure on the pre-existing laws and state-imposed norms governing free speech; in contrast, in Malaysia, the Internet was a major contributory factor to what has been described as a ‘political tsunami’ during the recent general election. In this comparative study, the author will attempt to explain why the impact of the Internet has been so different in both jurisdictions which share similar laws, culture and language. It will be suggested that, in spite of their similarities, the main reasons for this phenomenon are subtle but important differences in terms of legal, social, economic conditions and also the political climate in both jurisdictions. Despite this difference, the claim made in this paper is that the Internet, due to its evolving architecture, is beginning to generate important norms governing free expression which are capable of having an effect on the electorate. In both countries, the Internet connects individuals to become networks which in turn create powerful echo chambers which have or will ultimately strain the effectiveness of pre-existing laws and state-imposed norms governing free speech. It is also suggested that the recent events in Malaysia has inspired nascent Internet activism in Singapore which potentially may be of greater influence in future elections.

Tapsell, R. (2013). The Media Freedom Movement in Malaysia and the Electoral Authoritarian Regime. Journal of Contemporary Asia, (ahead-of-print), 1-23.

This article will provide an outline of the Malaysian media freedom movement from reformasi in 1998 until today. Research for this article includes testimony from those journalists and activists who attempted to implement reform in the media industry, including detailing reported instances of direct editorial intervention. This article explains that the advent of new media technologies has pushed journalism in new directions in Malaysia, but rather than accept these changes as part of a media liberalisation process, the government has retaliated through constraints and controls over the media and its practitioners. Seen through the prism of media liberalisation, this article adds to the body of scholarly work which examines Malaysia’s electoral authoritarian regime.

Teck-Peng, C., & Yong, H. (2011). Social Media Uprising in the Chinese-speaking World. Hong Kong In-Media.

This book is written by media researchers and activists in Chinese-speaking societies from China, Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia and Taiwan. It demonstrates how the convergence of recent Web 2.0 technologies with the existing social causes takes shape in particular context of each society. It is an elaborate study of the Asian experiences with social media and mobilization, which is very much characterized by the region’s post-colonial authoritarian context.

Weiss, M. L. (1999). What will become of Reformasi? Ethnicity and changing political norms in Malaysia. Contemporary Southeast Asia, 424-450.

Malaysia’s economic difficulties and political unrest have stimulated political parties and non-governmental organizations to re-assess efforts in shaping and responding to popular demands and attitudes. The governing Barisan Nasional coalition faces a stiff challenge from the Barisan Alternatif, composed principally of Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, the Democratic Action Party and Parti Keadilan Nasional, which have set aside their differences to unite in the call for Reformasi. Beyond the elections, however, the larger questions at stake concern the nature of multi-ethnic co-operation in Malaysia, including whether political norms have shifted to allow national-level interests to supercede ethnic-group allegiances, and whether Malaysians of various classes and races prioritize abstract ideals of good governance or more concrete economic and other aims.

Weiss, M. L. (2001). The Politics of Protest: Civil Society, Coalition-Building, and Political Change in Malaysia. Yale University.

No abstract available.

Weiss, M. L. (2003). Civil society and political reform in Malaysia. Civil Society in Asia, 59-72.

No abstract available.

Weiss, M. L. (2006). Protest and possibilities: Civil society and coalitions for political change in Malaysia. Stanford University Press.

Protest and Possibilities explores the pursuit of political reform in Malaysia, an illiberal democracy, and contrasts coalition-building and reform processes there with those of electoral authoritarian Indonesia. The study considers the roles of civil society agents (CSAs) in promoting alternative (especially noncommunal) political norms and helping to find common ground among opposition political actors, and compares recent reformist initiatives with past political trajectories. The nature of illiberal democracy encourages a combination of contained and transgressive contention, with CSAs and political parties performing distinct but complementary roles. Enough space has been allowed over time for CSAs and political parties to accumulate coalitional capital, or the mutual trust and understanding necessary for groups to find common cause and work in coalition. In addition, shifts in political opportunities and threats encourage both CSAs and political parties to alter their strategies and thinking to take advantage of windows for change, facilitating long-term normative as well as institutional change.

Weiss, M. L. (2007). What a little democracy can do: Comparing trajectories of reform in Malaysia and Indonesia. Democratisation, 14(1), 26-43.

Economic crisis sparked political mobilization in both Malaysia and Indonesia in the late 1990s, but with very different results. Reformism in competitive electoral authoritarian Malaysia took a largely electoral route, yielding marginal, top-down institutional change and the enhancement of democratic norms. The hegemonic electoral authoritarian regime in neighbouring Indonesia, on the other hand, was toppled by a sudden upsurge of grass-roots protest, encouraged by elite factionalism. Changes to Indonesian political institutions and personnel since then have disappointed many reformers, and mounting cynicism endangers the entrenchment of democratic political culture. The article argues that a relatively more democratic system grants more space for autonomous challengers to organize and mobilize over the long term than a less open system does. Specifically, civil society agents in the former may accumulate both social capital and its organizational-level counterpart, coalitional capital, facilitating mobilization. Such a regime, though, is better able to contain or otherwise defuse protest than is a more autocratic variant. The latter is thus more vulnerable to dramatic collapse, despite its fragmented political opposition, and faces serious hurdles in subsequent democratic consolidation.

Weiss, M. L. (2009). Edging Toward a New Politics in Malaysia: Civil Society at the Gate?. Asian Survey, 49(5), 741-758.

Activists from civil society contributed significantly to the strong performance of the opposition in Malaysia’s March 2008 elections, strategizing opposition collaboration, standing as candidates, informing debates, and expanding media options. These efforts boosted the excitement of the polls and the opposition’s odds, but they also pose new challenges for the future. Keywords: Malaysia, elections, civil society, Barisan Nasional, Anwar Ibrahim.

Welsh, B. (2011). People power in Malaysia: Bersih rally and its aftermath.

Malaysia captured international headlines with the July 9 Bersih rally for clean and fair elections. However, it was not so much the rally itself—estimated to have included as many as 50,000 people—as it was the woeful mishandling of the event by authorities, involving the indiscriminate use of tear gas and the arrest of nearly 2,000 people before and during the event. Bridget Welsh, Associate Professor of Political Science at the Singapore Management University, writes that this rally has served to reveal the sharp fault lines that exist within Malaysian society and deepened the challenges that current Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak faces in winning his first mandate at the polls.

Weiss, B. (2011) Student Activism in Malaysia. Cornell: NUS Press.

This work traces the early rise and subsequent decline of politically effective student activism in Malaysia. During the 1970s, the state embarked on a project of “intellectual containment” that both suppressed ongoing mobilization of university students and delegitimized further activism. That project has been notably successful in curbing student protest, erasing a legacy of past engagement, and stemming the production of potentially subversive new ideas. Innovative student proposals for reform that were once sanctioned and even welcomed (within bounds) are now illicit and discouraged, reflecting not only changes in Malaysia’s political regime, but changes in the political culture overall. This incisive study sheds new light on the dynamics of mobilization and on the key role of students and universities in postcolonial political development. This analysis is based on extensive research, including interviews with dozens of past and present student activists and a close study of archives, government reports, firsthand accounts, and student publications extending over decades. Student Activism in Malaysia traces how higher education and student activism have developed and interacted, beginning with the start of tertiary education in early twentieth-century Singapore and extending to present-day Malaysia. In the process, Weiss calls into question the conventional wisdom that Malaysian students—and Malaysians overall—have become “apathetic.” The author demonstrates that this apparent state of apathy is not inevitable, cultural, or natural, but is the outcome of a sustained project of pacification and depoliticization carried out by an ambitiously developmental state.

Weiss, M. L. (2012). Politics in cyberspace: New media in Malaysia. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

Internet-based media function increasingly not just for communication, but also as an extension of the public sphere, with the potential to redistribute power among a wider range of entrants and to decentralize debate. Such capacities beg the question of how the current generation of new media will change the landscape of social mobilization and politics. Notwithstanding the presumed-progressive bent of “new media” of all sorts, these media are neither all alike in their ideological leanings or intentions, nor independently capable of identity transformation and mobilization. I explore these new media in the context of Malaysia since the late 1990s. In doing so, I differentiate among news sites, which transmit (often previously proscribed) information, with potentially significant effects on civicness and mobilization; blogs, which tend to be primarily personalized, monological, and unconcerned with objectivity or professional standards; and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which have eroded the anonymity of online interaction, but may have the potential to bridge social cleavages. “Old media” still populate this landscape, as well, from newspapers and other media sources, to public lectures, to leaflets and other ad hoc publications. There seems little evidence thus far that the rise and increasing availability and range of new media have given real reason to expect different political outcomes on grounds of new patterns of mobilization, particularly given a persistent “digital divide.” What has been happening, though, is an increase in politicization broadly, and especially among urban youth, who form a formidable and aggressively-courted portion of the voting public. Those young voters with a partisan preference are more likely now than previously to exercise that preference, not just by voting, but also by finding and engaging with information and likeminded communities online or off. At any time, media are critical to movements for sociopolitical change, beyond elections. The spread of online news sites, blogs, social networking sites, and other new media increases the odds of media coverage of all sorts of engagement going forward, and may shift the locus of framing away from the state. All the while, the quantum of information in circulation—unfiltered and constant—grows accordingly, begging strategies for selecting what to read and what to ignore. The result is unlikely to be revolutionary, and could simply entrench existing patterns of identity politics all the more deeply, but is more likely to make Malaysia more participatory, and hence, more democratic in its politics.

Weiss, M.L. (2013) Parsing the Power of “New Media” in Malaysia. Journal of Contemporary Asia, (ahead-of-print), 1-22.

While “new media” have substantially altered the landscape for information dissemination and social mobilisation, these media are neither all alike in their ideological leanings or intentions, nor independently capable of identity transformation and mobilisation. The paper explores these new media in the context of Malaysia since the late 1990s. It differentiates among news sites and organisational websites, which transmit (often previously proscribed) information to domestic and foreign audiences, with potentially significant effects on “civicness” and mobilisation; blogs, which tend to be primarily personalised, monological and often unfiltered; and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which have eroded the anonymity of online interaction but represent the apex of self-selected communities. “Old media” still populate this landscape as well, from newspapers and other media sources, to public lectures, to leaflets and other ad hoc publications. Even apart from common caveats as to who has access, criteria for evaluation of these new and old media as tools for political change must vary, including differing degrees of information-provision and edification, interest articulation and aggregation, and transformation of collective identities so as to enable new patterns of mobilisation for collective action.

Willnat, L., Wong, W. J., Tamam, E., & Aw, A. (2013). Online Media and Political Participation: The Case of Malaysia. Mass Communication and Society, (just-accepted).

This study is based on a survey of 526 adult Malaysians who were interviewed shortly before the 2008 national election about online media use, levels of political participation, and voting intentions. The goal was to document the role of online media in a society that controls political information in traditional media and, in turn, compels citizens to seek alternative news sources online. As predicted, the findings indicated that online media use was positively associated with higher levels of political participation among Malaysian voters. The use of and exposure to social networking sites, political blogs, political online videos, party websites, and political ads on cell phones showed strong associations with political activism. However, the use of political online media did not predict voters’ likelihood of voting.

Yaacob, R., Iskandar, R. A., Embong, A. M., Azelin, M. N., & MA, A. R. (2012). Generation Y: A Generation that Shapes the Political Landscape and Dimension in Malaysia.

No abstract available.

Zinnbauer, D. (2004). Power and activism in the context of a maturing Internet: the case of Malaysia (Doctoral dissertation, London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)).

No abstract available.

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