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Book Reviews

Book Reviews: Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka (2008 ) by Leonard Y. Andaya

 I will review a book on the history of Malay di Southeast Asia, as part of social science,  written by Leonard Y. Andaya, a historian of Southeast Asian History at Hawaii University in Honolulu, entitled Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka (2008 ). This book is interesting because it explains the history of the emergence of Malay and how the concept of Malay is found in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra Island, which the Melaka Strait separates.

This book describes the origins of Malayness in Southeast Asia. The author of this book has produced many works on the history of Southeast Asia, including The Kingdom of Johor (1975), The Heritage of Arung Palakka: History of South Sulawesi (Celebes) in the Seventeenth Century (1981), A History of Malaysia (with Barbara Watson Andaya, 1982, revised edition, 2000), The World of Maluku: Eastern Indonesia in the Early Modern Period (1993), Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka (2008), A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia, 1400-1830 (with Barbara Watson Andaya, 2015).

Andaya’s focus is on the early history of Modern Southeast Asia. Here, we also find one of the foremost historians who wrote many books about Southeast Asia, namely Anthony Reid. He is one of the leading writers on the History of Southeast Asia. He has been at the Asia Research Institute in Singapore prior his current position at Australian National University. Many researchers have carried out studies on Malay, such as Milner, Joel S. Kahn, and Timothy Barnard.

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Source: https://www.iias.asia/

There are six essential things from Leonard Y. Andaya’s book. First, Andaya tries to review the concept of Malay from its historical roots in Tanah Melayu. This method is attractive because Andaya presents various sources of studies on Malay studies, both local authorities and the results of research by previous scholars. Research on ethnic Malays never stops being studied by researchers. Some saw it from the aspect of manuscripts, trade, politics, culture, and their relationship with European countries when they arrived in Malaya. Andaya managed to photograph the origin of the Malays telegraphically and can be used as a source of new research for future researchers.

Second, Andaya examines the vital contribution of Aceh in strengthening the concept of Malayness. From the 16th century AD to the early 19th century, Aceh was the centre of Malay glory in the Nusantara, marked by intellectual development, the kingdom of Aceh Darussalam, and the use of Malay as an academic language from the works of ulama in Aceh. About the emergence of Aceh as a superpower in the Malay World, Andaya says that  “Aceh became Melaka’s de facto successor in the Straits of Melaka for about 150 years, from the reign of Sultan Ali Mughayat Syah (1514-1530) to that of Sultanah Taj al-Alam Safiyat al-Din (1641-1675) ” (p.137).

Third, Andaya also discusses the role of the Minangkabau ethnic group in strengthening the Malay concept. This ethnic origin from West Sumatra, which has a history in the Nusantara, has played an essential role in developing the Malay world. Andaya describes the early history of Minangkabau, core concepts in Minang culture, the model of Kingdom government in Minangkabau, and the Minang merantau tradition that brought their culture with them to the land of the people. Andaya says that: “Though the Minangkabau had been part of the Malay Polity in the fourth-teenth century and therefore with bhumi Melayu, their identification with the latter had lessened in subsequent centuries” (p.107).

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Fourth, Andaya also includes Batak ethnicity in his study of the formation of the concept of Malay ethnicity in the Melaka Strait. Regarding the Batak in Malay history, there is their presence on the coast of the Melaka Strait, which is directly adjacent to the Malay Peninsula. Andaya explained the origin of the Batak, the Batak community, the trade routes that crossed and were crossed by the Batak people, the vital role of Barus as a trading port-city in North Sumatra, the migration of the Batak people, and the Batak Kingdom. To prove how Batak became Malay, Andaya stated that “The Batak who were involved in trade with Malay by embracing Islam and using the Malay language” (p.172).

Fifth, if previously searching for Malay ethnicity from mainland Sumatra, Andaya included the Orang Laut as an important actor in Malay history. There are at least three groups of Orang Laut: Sama-Bajau, Orang Laut, and the Moken/Moklen (p.173). The existence of the Orang Laut can be seen in the coastal areas of Riau and the Kepulauan Riau. Historically, their presence was quite significant in trade which also connected the WesternNusantara with the Eastern Nusantara. This interaction then connects them with the Malays, mainly when they use the language of instruction, namely Malay. Andaya argues that “because of the crucial role played by the Orang Laut … in maintaining the power of a Malay ruler, the ruler sought to bind them closer to him through intermarriage, the linking of tradition, and the awarding of titles” ( p.200).

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Sixth, Andaya then explained the vital contribution of the Orang Asli to the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. Those who have mingled with the Malays, although some of them still live in inland villages or forests in today’s Malaysia. While in Sumatra, they also still live in the forests by maintaining their cultural traditions. Andaya describes the dynamics of the Orang Asli in Malaysia and Sumatra, their trade routes, their relationship with the Malays, and the current, less harmonious relationship between the Orang Asli and the Malays in Malaysia. Although full of dynamics, their existence at least shows that the Orang Asli had an essential role in Malay history.

Finally, we can say that Andaya’s study has linked the various ethnic groups in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra through their encounters in the Straits of Melaka in multiple ways and methods in contributing to Malay History in Southeast Asia. The process of ethnic Malays seems to be very hybrid and embedded between each other as actors on the coast of the Melaka Strait.

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam Ahmad

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam-Ahmad (KBA) has followed his curiosity throughout life, which has carried him into the fields of Sociology of Anthropology of Religion in Southeast Asia, Islamic Studies, Sufism, Cosmology, and Security, Geostrategy, Terrorism, and Geopolitics. KBA is the author of over 30 books and 50 academic and professional journal articles and book chapters. His academic training is in social anthropology at La Trobe University, Islamic Political Science at the University of Malaya, and Islamic Legal Studies at UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta. He received many fellowships: Asian Public Intellectual (The Nippon Foundation), IVLP (American Government), Young Muslim Intellectual (Japan Foundation), and Islamic Studies from Within (Rockefeller Foundation). He is based in Banda Aceh and can be reached at ceninnets@yahoo.com.au

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