The Uses of Magic: Local Knowledge and the 'Unscientific Native' in Colonial Malaya

Ahmad Noor, Farish A. Noor@Badrol Hisham (2021) The Uses of Magic: Local Knowledge and the 'Unscientific Native' in Colonial Malaya. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 94 (321). pp. 97-119. ISSN 0126-7353, DOI

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Colonial violence cannot simply be studied by looking at the instances of wars and battles fought in the age of Empire. Equally important is the working of epistemic violence and the violence that accompanies the process of learning about, framing and categorizing the colonized Other. This paper looks at one aspect of colonial Othering in particular, which is the manner in which colonial functionaries and scholars turned their attention to the local knowledge/s of those who came under colonial rule, and how in the course of collecting, codifying and categorizing these knowledges native texts, histories and narratives were systematically devalued-as 'mythologies', 'legends', or fairy-tales-and in due course relegated to a secondary register as 'non-knowledge' that could not be instrumentalised to serve the needs of racialized colonial-capitalism. Focusing in particular on the works of Walter William Skeat with those of his co-authors Charles Otto Blagden and A. Hillman- officials who were embedded in the machinery of British rule in Malaya-this paper will look at how their study of Malay customs and beliefs was based on Western/Eurocentric understandings of (rational, instrumental) knowledge that in turn downgraded other non-Western epistemologies and belief-systems; and by doing so contributed to the notion of the lazy/backward/unscientific native Other. © 2021 Royal Asiatic Society. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Article
Funders: None
Uncontrolled Keywords: C. O. Blagden; Imperialism; Malay magic; W. W. Skeat
Subjects: L Education > LA History of education
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of History
Depositing User: Ms Zaharah Ramly
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2023 01:19
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2023 04:49

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