International Development Planning Review

Insurgent space in Malaysia: Hindraf movement, new media and minority Indians

International Development Planning Review (2014), 36, (1), 73–90.

Abstract

Insurgent space is a prerequisite for a public city to accommodate a wide variety of social actions and activities. Based on content analysis of blogs and interviews with bloggers, the discussion in this article presents the interplay between urban space and minority politics in the technological context in Malaysia. The fact that the government failed to uplift the status of the Indians, coupled with issues relating to religiosity, outraged the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) advocacy group, which was empowered by new media to organise itself for action, resulting in the successful mobilisation of a crowd of 30,000 people on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 25 November 2007. The outcome of this rally reflects the potential that urban space can be (re)claimed, appropriated and put to use (via links to cyberspace) for political action, even in a ‘semi-democracy’ like Malaysia, when sufficient conditions, such as grievances, identity politics, organisational forms and collective consciousness among supporters, exist. Inherent in these actions is a particular history of people and place that provides the broader narrative for understanding why discontents arose and were manifest by shifting from cyber-activism to the street marches in Malaysia. This article analyses the Hindraf movement's challenges to government with a view toward shedding light on the interplay between insurgency, social media and reclaiming the public city in a non-Western setting and with regard to a minority population in Malaysia.

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Pandi, Asha