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Refining Politics: Oil Development, Environmental Activism, and Political Improvisation in Rural Malaysia

Chun-Yu Wang (Jo Ann)
Tue June 4th 2024, 1:00 - 2:00pm
Building 40, 41J

This dissertation explores the politics of development, identity, and place in post-colonial, multi-cultural Malaysia. I trace novel place-based claims to citizenship and situated performances of belonging that emerged from a decade-long encounter between diaspora-turned-minority Chinese Malaysian communities in coastal Pengerang and a state-led mega refinery and petrochemical development project. My ethnography shows how the national oil development’s unanticipated “downstream entanglements” created and sustained interstitial spaces and transient moments for rural non-elites to articulate and experiment with new political subjectivities and solidarities, rather than fueled existing “money politics” and “political patronage.” I foreground sedimented identity categories and social relations that informed emergent political agencies and practices not reducible to or predetermined by “ethnicity” and “class.” In doing so, I develop ways of noticing political novelty and strategic positioning of the marginalized at the margins that help us reconsider social categories and political processes we thought we knew.

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PW: 955266