Personalized Perspectives of Chinese Ethnicity in Modern Malaysian University Students

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University of Delaware
This project asks the relevant question of ―Who are you and where are you going?—a dilemma of daily concern for most University students around the world. Specifically, this research seeks to describe how one community of university students—the Chinese Malaysian student population at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, experiences its Chinese ethnicity in this multi-ethnic nation-state. Who and what is considered "Chinese" in Malaysia? How is the Chinese ethnicity defined and presented, or contested, and transformed within Chinese young people living in a rapidly globalizing, and majority Islamic country? Based on a one-month qualitative fieldwork study of Chinese Malaysian students from the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Petaling Jaya, a bustling suburb of Malaysia‘s capital city Kuala Lumpur, this research highlights how broad sociological categories such as class, gender, religion, and urban or rural residency create a multiplicity of ethnic realities for young Malaysian Chinese. The results of this study are presented through a complex analysis of the effects of such 'objective strata' on the subjective ethnic experiences of two very different Chinese Malaysian college students whom I came to know during my fieldwork. Though these two subjects occupy one position as 'ethnically Chinese' in the official political discourse within their nation, their personal stories display the true diversity of subjective experiences of Chinese'ness' that exist within modern Malaysia.