IKD-Pusaka Public Policy Forum - Cultural Politics and the Nation

Recent transformations in the political landscape of Malaysia are poised to shape the nation’s future through a renewed vision of national development and purpose. Largely absent from this process of renewal are serious discussions concerning the inextricable connection between culture and politics and the ways in which culture is integral to the life of a nation.


In an effort to meaningfully engage and grapple with these questions, PUSAKA is initiating a series
– Conversations on Culture and Politics , featuring leading regional and local figures from diverse
backgrounds across the fields of culture and politics. This series will be implemented in partnership
with Institut Kajian Dasar, and with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Malaysia. The
Conversation series will focus on a range of pertinent topics that confront contemporary society in
Malaysia and the region – Cultural Politics and the Nation; Culture, Freedom and Democracy;
Culture, History, and Religion in Contemporary Southeast Asia; and Culture and Capital.

The inaugural Conversation on Cultura and Politics explored the topic, Cultural Poltics and the Nation.

Cultural Politics and the Nation began with an opening video, made by PUSAKA, and an
introduction by the moderator, Eddin Khoo. The moderator then posed a question to the speakers on
the past, present and future of cultural understanding and engagement in Southeast Asia and asked
each of them to present their views for 5-7 minutes. The programme then progressed as a
spontaneous conversation among the speakers and moderator. Some of the key points discussed
during the Conversation included:
  1. The notion of shared histories and memories among the diverse communities of Southeast Asia. To what extent is Southeast Asia an ‘Imagined Community’?
  2. Many of the intractable social problems we are experiencing in Malaysia and other countries in the region are rooted in culture, and reveal our lack of deep cultural engagement and understanding. Examples: recent controversy of the introduction of Khat (Jawi calligraphy) in schools, Chinese education examinations, growing racial-religious tensions.
  3. ASEAN and exchange between nation state is too much focused on economy and trade. Culture is usually an afterthought, and even then, it is usually in terms of commodification for tourism.
  4. Translation of literature as a powerful tool for political and cultural understanding and exchange.
  5. Blurred cultural boundaries in areas where community links are strong and intertwined, such as Patani-Kelantan, Southern Philippines-Sabah, Kalimantan-Sarawak.
  6. Tradition as an ever-evolving entity, the understanding of tradition is shifting too. Heritage and tradition needs to be linked to land, worldviews and way of life, not as a commodity to be sold by the state.
  7. Identity politics, nation state vs. community, culture and human rights.
  8. The language of culture should not be defined by policy makers and legalistic language. Does the state have the capacity to articulate living culture

The Conversation lasted for an hour, then it was opened to the participants for a Q&A session,
which lasted half an hour. After the Q&A session, participants were invited to refreshments.

The Conversation was documented by an audio-visual team, encompassing video and audio
recording and photographs.

The actual number of participants exceeded the planned number. We were expecting an audience of
60 people, but the actual attendance was 102 people. The Conversation generated a lot of interest on
Social Media, where more than 600 people expressed interest and shared the event on Facebook,
Twitter and Instagram. The Conversation aimed to engage participants from institutes, universities,
as well as cultural practitioners and intellectuals around Malaysia, including in East Malaysia, as
well as the general public.
YB Fahmi - Q & A session
YB Fahmi - Q & A session
Cultural Politics and the Nation
Cultural Politics and the Nation


Zum Kalender hinzufügen


Kuala Lumpur


  • Fahmi Fadzil - Malaysia Loujaye Sonido - Philippines Dorothea Rosa Herliany - Indonesia Moderator - Eddin Khoo - Malaysia

    Wolfgang Hruschka †