Bahasa Rojak in Malaysian Literature as a Critique on Postcolonial Identity and Politics

Open Access
Hor, Karen Sin
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Janet M Neigh, Thesis Supervisor
  • Craig Andrew Warren, Honors Advisor
  • bahasa rojak
  • vernacular
  • literature
  • malaysia
  • postcolonial
  • linguistic identity
  • hybrid identity
  • jamal raslan
  • salleh ben joned
The intermingling of the variety of cultures and the legacy of colonialism in Malaysia has produced the Malaysian vernacular, bahasa rojak. While many Malaysians identify with this speech variation, most Malaysians stigmatize bahasa rojak as informal and use it as a measurement of intelligence, professionalism, and nationalism. Two Malaysian authors, Salleh Ben Joned and Jamal Raslan, have challenged these stigmas by producing poems in bahasa rojak, they are “Malchin Testament” by Joned and “Words” by Raslan. Their works explore the themes of language purity, linguistic identity, and the institutional enforcement of a national language in both a postcolonial and a contemporary perspective. This thesis investigates the political intentions for using bahasa rojak in Malaysian literature and its importance to Malaysian linguistic identity. By doing so, this thesis provides a Malaysian and multilingual perspective on postcolonial poetry and contributes to the scholarship on Malaysian literature, which is an underdeveloped field of study.