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Behind barbed wire: A social history of Chinese new villages in Malaya during the emergency period (1948-1960)

Phee, Tan Teng (2011) Behind barbed wire: A social history of Chinese new villages in Malaya during the emergency period (1948-1960). PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

The subject of this study is the social history of the Chinese New Villages during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960). The thesis attempts to reconstruct the everyday lives of the displaced Chinese New Villagers forced to live behind barbed wire-their social conditions, daily activities, perceptions and responses to British colonial policy and practice. In order to provide a more complete and fresh understanding of this history, the thesis is divided into two parts. Part I consists of five chapters which include an examination of the nature of the Emergency in the first Chapter and the birth of the New Villages in Chapter Two. While Chapter Three introduces the physical layout and environment of the New Villages, Chapter Four analyses the British Colonial Government's efforts to transform its ''unknown subjects" into ''New Villagers" and, decent citizens. Chapter Five then focuses on colonial discipline and punishment, and, the arts of resistance in the New Villages. Part II comprises four chapters which investigates different case studies of New Villages, namely Bertam Valley, Gunung Hijau, Pulai and Tras. The fieldwork and ethnography on which these chapters are largely based sheds new light on the multifaceted nature of the New Villages. Each case study not only illustrates the complexity of circumstance and dynamic social history of a particular Chinese New Village, but also presents a singular example of how the British dealt with specific types of New Villages, as well as how the various villagers themselves responded to the colonial authorities at the grassroots level. By using both archival sources and an oral history approach, this thesis challenges the 'top-down', or state-oriented approach and discourse on the 'success' of the Emergency, with particular reference to the origin and development of the Chinese New Villages. What emerges from the oral recollections of the elderly residents of the New Villages contradicts much of the official narrative about the success of the Emergency, given the Chinese people's long standing memories of their actual experiences of the resettlement programme. It is hoped that this pioneering ethnohistorical study will redress some of the lacunae in our present knowledge about these marginalized people in the immediate post-war history of Malaya.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you
Supervisor: Warren, James
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/40824
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