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The concept of a Malay race (Malay: Bangsa Melayu) was proposed by the German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840).[1] Since Blumenbach, many anthropologists have rejected his theory of five races, citing the enormous complexity of classifying races. However, the term Malay is still often used in this context, and it is the basis for Malay identity within the country of Malaysia. However, the term Malay Race is rarely used in Indonesia.

The concept of a "Malay race" differs with that of the Malay ethnic group centred around Malaysia and parts of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Contents

Origins

In his 1775 doctoral dissertation titled De generis humani varietate nativa (On the Natural Varieties of Mankind), Blumenbach outlined four main human races by skin color, namely Caucasian (white), Ethiopian (black), Native American (red), and Mongolian (yellow).

By 1795, Blumenbach added another race called 'Malay' which he considered to be a subcategory of both the Ethiopian and Mongoloid races. The Malay race were those of a "brown color, from olive and a clear mahogany to the darkest clove or chestnut brown." Blumenbach expanded the term "Malay" to include the inhabitants of the Marianas, the Philippines, the Malukus, Sundas, Indochina, as well as Pacific Islands such as Tahitians. He considered a Tahitian skull he had received to be the missing link; showing the transition between the "primary" race, the Caucasians, and the "degenerate" race, the Negroids.

Blumenbach writes:

Malay variety. Tawny-coloured; hair black, soft, curly, thick and plentiful; head moderately narrowed; forehead slightly swelling; nose full, rather wide, as it were diffuse, end thick; mouth large. upper jaw somewhat prominent with the parts of the face when seen in profile, sufficiently prominent and distinct from each other. This last variety includes the islanders of the Pacific Ocean, together with the inhabitants of the Marianne, the Philippine, the Molucca and the Sunda Islands, and of the Malayan peninsula. I wish to call it the Malay, because the majority of the men of this variety, especially those who inhabit the Indian islands close to the Malacca peninsula, as well as the Sandwich, the Society, and the Friendly Islanders, and also the Malambi of Madagascar down to the inhabitants of Easter Island, use the Malay idiom.[2]

Colonial influences

The view of Malays held by Thomas Stamford Raffles had a significant influence on English-speakers, lasting to the present day. He is probably the most important voice who promoted the idea of a ‘Malay’ race or nation, not limited to the Malay ethnic group, but embracing the peoples of a large but unspecified part of the South East Asian archipelago. Raffles formed a vision of Malays as a language-based 'nation', in line with the views of the English Romantic movement at the time, and in 1809 sent a literary essay on the topic to the Asiatic Society. After he mounted an expedition to the former Minangkabau seat of royalty in Pagaruyung, he declared that it was the ‘the source of that power, the origin of that nation, so extensively scattered over the Eastern Archipelago’. In his later writings he moved the Malays from a nation to a race.[3]

Malaysian context

In Malaysia, the early colonial censuses listed separate ethnic groups, such as "Malays, Boyanese, Achinese, Javanese, Bugis, Manilamen and Siamese". The 1891 census merged these ethnic groups into the three racial categories used in modern Malaysia – Chinese, ‘Tamils and other natives of India’, and ‘Malays and other Natives of the Archipelago’. This was based upon the European view at the time that race was a biologically based scientific category. For the 1901 census, the government advised the word "race" should replace "nationality" wherever it occurs.[3]

After a period of generations being classified in these groups, individual identity formed around the concept of bangsa Melayu (Malay race). For younger generations of people, they saw it as providing a unity and solidarity against the colonial powers, and non-Malay immigrants. The Malaysian nation was later formed with the bangsa Melayu having the central and defining position within the country.[3]

Philippine context

In the Philippines, many Filipinos consider the term "Malay" to refer to the indigenous population of the country as well as the population of neighboring countries like Indonesia , Malaysia,Singapore,and as well as other Southeast Asians. This misconception is due in part to American anthropologists H. Otley Beyer who proposed that the Filipinos were actually Malays who migrated from Malaysia and Indonesia. This idea was in turn propagated by Filipino historians and is still taught in schools. However, the prevalent consensus among contemporary anthropologists, archaeologists, and linguists actually proposes the reverse; namely that the Austronesian people of Malaysia and Indonesia originally migrated south from the Philippines during the prehistoric period.

United States context

In the United States, the racial classifcation "Malay race" was introduced in the early twentieth century into the anti-miscegenation laws of a number of western US states. Anti-miscegenation laws were state laws that prohibited marriage between whites and African-Americans and in some states also other non-whites. After an influx of Filipino immigrants, these existing laws were amended in a number of western states to prohibit marriage between whites and Filipinos, who were designated as members of the Malay race, and a number of Southern states committed to racial segregation followed suit. Eventually 9 states (Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming) explicitly prohibited marriage between Whites and Asians.[4]

Many anti-miscegenation laws were gradually repealed after the Second World War, starting with California in 1948. In 1967, all remaining bans against interracial marriage were judged to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia and therefore repealed.

See also

References

  1. ^ University of Pennsylvania [1]
  2. ^ Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, The anthropological treatises of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, translated by Thomas Bendyshe. 1865. November 2, 2006. [2]
  3. ^ a b c Reid, Anthony (2001). "Understanding Melayu (Malay) as a Source of Diverse Modern Identities". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 32 (3): 295–313. doi:10.1017/S0022463401000157.  
  4. ^ Pascoe, Peggy, "Miscegenation Law, Court Cases, and Ideologies of "Race" in Twentieth Century America, The Journal of American History, Vol. 83, June 1996, p. 49
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