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Alatas, Syed Hussein


Subject Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial History » Postcolonial History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444334982.2016.x


If we were to summarize Professor Syed Hussein Alatas's (1928–2007) legacy in the world today, it would be as his role of a Malay intellectual. Although in his lifetime the Malaysian national held many positions, from a politician to a social scientist, from a local community leader to a doting father, he is best remembered for his many contributions to raising the colonial consciousness of the Malay people. In this brief account, parts of Alatas's oeuvre that continue to be relevant and significant for readers of the twenty-first century will be covered. Alatas's most important ideas can be found in The Myth of the Lazy Native (1977b/2010), in which he alleges that the Europeans constructed a colonial ideology in order to justify their alien control of native land and labor. Not only did the colonial powers – authors, administrators, priests, and travelers – monopolize indigenous trade and obliterate the natives’ business acumen, they also inculcated distorted images of the natives into the political and economic history of the area. Alatas suggests that the figure of the native has to be depicted as lazy and backward in order to convince the European public of their erstwhile colonial presence. As a result, since the eighteenth century, major ethnic communities were degraded and made inferior by a minority dominating class. Alatas encapsulates these relations as the prejudices ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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