Primordialist Theory

Topics: Malaysia, Ethnic group, Nation Pages: 5 (1759 words) Published: May 21, 2012
Name : Wan Zulaikha Binti Wan Hanafi
Matrix Number : 204656
Question : 3
Topic : Ethnic Identity Is In The Between of Primordial and Instrumentalist.

The purpose of this writings is to determine a suitable ethnic theory that best described about my own ethnic identity in which Malay ethnic identity is articulated. If the function of identity is on how we see ourselves or how other people see ourselves, then visual and verbal representations of ethnic identities are reflections of a people who share common similarities of self-perception while also shaping perceptions of their group by the outsiders. Finally I realize that my ethnic identity needs both primordialist and instrumentalist approach to exactly describe how it really is. A community is an ethnic group whose members have developed an awareness of common identity and have sought to draw boundaries of the group. As I learn that there are two main types of ethnicity theories which are Primordial theory and Instrumentalist theory. The primordialists argued that human beings had always been grouped together on the basis of given primordial characteristics. The point is that Primordialist viewed ethnicity as innate aspect of human identity which is established through fraternity and ancestry. Therefore, these ‘primordial’ attachments of one’s group are fixed and cannot be change for a lifetime. While, proponents of instrumentalist theories view ethnicity as something that can be changed, constructed or even manipulated to gain specific political and/or economic ends. Thus ethnic identity is just an instrument to maneuver through social hierarchy in order to protect a mutual interest against nonmember. At the beginning, I silently choose primordialist approach as the best theory to describe my ethnic group because of the education that i had received since i was young. I live in Malaysia where the system taught me that when we are talking about ethnic, definitely the word of "race' will come across our mind. As far as i concern, i have learned that race is an attempt on classification of people based on physical appearance/characteristics. I bet my other classmates who are doing the same question as i did will state the same theory to best describe their own ethnic group. Unfortunately for certain circumstances, I cannot waive the importance of instrumentalist approach regardless of how it defined interest in ethnic identity largely in material terms. I was born in a Muslim family and was raised up with a full sense of Islamic values. Being a Malaysian Malay myself, I believe the definition of "Malay" in Malaysia is very much influenced by the sociopolitical conditions facing the Malays in Malaysia where there is a massive influx of immigration to Malaysia by Chinese and Indians from China and India during the British colonial era. That is what we Malays in Malaysia quite distinctly defined from Malays of other Malay states. I have to admit that the Malay people existed before Islam. They were animists, Hindus and Buddhists before embracing Islam. But I want to highlight that the prosperity of Malay Peninsular and the Malacca Sultanate brought along the greatness of Islam together. Then, to describe my ethnic identity, therefore must tie it with a religion. My point is my ethnic identity has a very close connection with Islam where most of our tradition that has been practiced in our daily life is a part of Islam. I never meant to be one of the extremist about religion but somehow I cannot change my mentality as a Malaysian that my ethnic identity which is Malay has a strong bond with Islam. That is what my primary and secondary education has taught me about who I really am among the society in my country. It can be seen from the way I live, eat, communicate, and socialize my life and many more. Therefore I can conclude that the only connection between Malay as an ethnic group and Islam as a religion is the Malaysia Federal Constitution in which it defined Malay as...
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