Education About Asia: Online Archives

Ethnicity in the Lives of Modern Malaysian Youth

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By Nancy Janus, Courtney Graham, Melissa Christie, Zoe Friedman, Jonathan Bonner

During the summer of 2007, I traveled to Malaysia with four undergraduate students to study the lives of Malaysian youth. The youth-on-youth approach gave us an intimate look into the religion, social lives, and values of young Malaysians. We were interested in examining the ways in which ethnicity shaped the lives of young people in this multi-ethnic society. Malaysia is a geographically and ethnically diverse Southeast Asian country. It consists of eleven states on a long, narrow peninsula and two states on the neighboring island of Borneo. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, and the cities of Labuan and Putrajaya, lie within a separate federal territory. The three major ethnic groups are Malay, Chinese, and Indian. There are numerous smaller indigenous groups in rural peninsular Malaysia and in the Borneo states. Together the native Malay and non-Malay indigenous groups are known as Bumiputera— sons of the soil.