Thoughts and Practices of “Malayanisation” in Nanyang University in the 1950s and 1960s

Dr Ying Xin Show1

1Malaysia Institute, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Nanyang University (1956-1980, a.k.a. Nantah) was the first Chinese-language university established outside China, and it was built by donations from people of all walks of life in Malaya. In the wake of independence, Nanyang University became an important site for students to express their enthusiasm and ideas on the pursuit of independence in Malaya. Students also debated on the forms of practices that reflect the new Malayan culture in the field of language, literature and performance. This paper will explore patterns of localisation and ideas of Malayanisation among the Chinese students in Malaya. By looking at the student publications of Nanyang University, including the magazine University Tribune (da xue lun tan, trilingual) published by the student union, and the magazine University Youth (da xue qing nian, Chinese) published by the Chinese Literature Society, this paper will explore how Nantah students negotiate Chinese culture, national identity and Malayanisation in their critiques and writings in the 1950s and 1960s.


SHOW Ying Xin is a postdoctoral fellow at the Malaysia Institute, ANU and lecturer at the School of Culture, History & Language. She has a broad interest ranging from the 20th-century Asian history, movements and literature to contemporary politics and society. Her PhD thesis researches contemporary Malaysian literature in different linguistic spheres on how they respond to the politics of national identity, culture and language. Her current work focuses on the history and writings of Sinophone/Chinese community in the making of Malaya.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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