Malaysia’s Trans-Asian Futures

A/Prof. Emma Baulch1, Dr Ting-fai Yu1, Dr Susan Leong1, Dr Ana Grgic1

1Monash University Malaysia, Sunway, Malaysia

Chair: Dr Ting-Fai Yu


This panel examines some of the transnational currents shaping the ways Malaysians imagine their futures. It aims to piece together a mosaic of temporalities that problematise the idea of a Malaysia primarily defined by hopes for, disillusionment with, and contestation of post-GE 14 reform. Our panel shows how visions of Malaysian futures are emerging from transnational exchanges, specifically trans-Asian ones, that build on longstanding orientations to East and Southeast Asia.

Notably, the visions we uncover register the multiple and conflicting cultural forces at play in the moulding of post-GE14 modernities. We depict a field that includes a Malaysian queerness constructed through Sinophone mobilities, and articulations of Malaysian feminism invoking Southeast Asian supernatural figures. Also notable is the role the Chinese state – an important point of orientation for many Malaysians, and also a source of considerable investment in Malaysia’s digital development – is playing in shaping Malaysians’ visions of the future. We discuss how the Malaysian internet, subjected to considerable Chinese investment, has been discursively reconstructed as a value-free marketplace rather than a liberal utopia, and how exchanges on WhatsApp family groups both reinforce and contest the validity of the Chinese state as a point of Malaysians’ cultural orientation.


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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