Sandra Manickam

Current projects

Japanese Occupation of Malaya: Understanding the Japanese presence in and impact on Malaya through translations of Japanese sources

The Japanese occupation was a watershed period in the history of Southeast Asia in general and Malaysia in particular. Until now, primary research into the occupation in Malaya has been separated by language. This barrier has hampered the historical search into the occupation period, especially Japanese understandings of Malay people and their relationship to the “Asia for Asians” philosophy. In partnership with Dr Iioka Naoko, this project aims to translate several key Japanese texts into English.

The first stage of this project has been completed. This comprises translating Japanese entries in the Bibliography on the Japanese Occupation Period of Malaya (1941-1945). Tôkyô: Ryûkei shosha, 2007. マラヤ日本占領期文献目録(1941-1945)龍渓書舎 2007). Compilers: Akashi Yoji, Hara Fujio and Masutani Satoshi, the Forum for Research Materials on the Japanese Occupation of Malaya and Singapore. As the original bibliography lists English, Malay, and Chinese language publications as well, it is recommended to refer to the original bibliography book, which was published by Ryukei Shosha. The translated entries of the bibliography may be consulted via the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore HSS library intranet.

The second stage of this project is underway. A funding application to Sumitomo Foundation for travel and research costs has been sent. The second stage takes a closer look at a Japanese resident and doctor in Malaya before and during the war, Dr Ando Kozo. This project will study the background of Japanese emigrants in Southeast Asia prior to the war, and their involvement in wartime government. A larger consideration is the place of Japanese doctors in the development of medical infrastructure in Malaya.

Former projects

History of Indigenous Peoples and Anthropology in Malaya: A textual and multi-disciplinary study

This project focuses on the history of racial science as it intersected with colonialism in Malaya and the development of the field of anthropology. I study now the science of race was developed in relation to the peoples in Malay specifically, and how this study developed into anthropological scholarship which relied in colonial government for patronage and was in turn changed by it. This project has resulted in several articles and a book: Taming the Wild: Aborigines and Racial Knowledge in Colonial Malaya, was published in 2015 by NUS Press under the ASAA Southeast Asian Publication Series.

Transliterations and comparisons of several versions of the lithographed text, Hikayat Dunia

With Prof. Dr. Jan van der Putten (University of Hamburg)  

This research aims to continue the series of transliterations (of Jawi, Malay in Arabic script, into romanized Malay) and analyses of the works by Abdullah Abdul Kadir Munsyi begun by Amin Sweeney in his series: Karya lengkap Abdullah Abdul Kadir Munsyi (The Complete Works of Abdullah). Hikayat Dunia, a geography intended to teach students of the Malay world about the world has several versions all of which attempt to spread Western knowledge in 19th-century Malay Archipelago.

Transliteration of a section in Hikayat Dunia (1855) pertaining to the Malay Archipelago completed by Sandra Khor Manickam with advice from Jan van der Putten and Syahidah. Initial transliterations of further Hikayat Dunia (1848, 1856, dan 1885) sections pertaining to the Malay Archipelago completed by Wan Mohd Dasuki Wan Hasbullah.

African Students in Malaysia. Solidarity in an oppressive world? The promise of Malaysia-African interactions in Higher Education

This research investigates how Malaysia’s foreign policy vis-à-vis African countries links to the push for the globalization of Malaysian private higher education (PHE) of which African students as customers plays a big part. From the 1960s, Malaysian politicians have fostered the idea that South-South development initiatives form a strong counter narrative to Western or Northern domination in the political and economic spheres. Leaders of countries involved in South-South initiatives promote this narrative as a better form of development that will lead to less dependence on former colonizing countries’ financial aid. This research traces the early engagements between Malaysia and African countries and, in particular, Malaysian’s support of an anti-apartheid regime in South Africa and its positioning as a champion of South-South solidarity. Yet the solidarity implied in Malaysia educating the citizens of African countries comes up against the realities of inequality among Malaysia’s own citizenry, racism towards African students in Malaysian society and the corruption underpinning South-South partnerships. This paper will look at the contradictions in the promise of South-South development.

Forthcoming publication: "Solidarity in an oppressive world? The paradox of Malaysia-African interactions in Higher Education", for inclusion in Cynthia Joseph & Susan Plowright (Eds) Education reforms, nationalism and neoliberalism: Policies and politics in Malaysian Education. London: Routledge


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Sandra Manickam