Social representations of history in Malaysia and Singapore: On the relationship between national and ethnic identity


Dr James Liu School of Psychology, PO Box 600, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New


Social representations of history were investigated using surveys among university populations of ethnic Malays, Chinese, and Indians in Singapore and Malaysia. Representations of history and historical leaders tended to be hegemonic or consensual, showing low levels of conflict across ethnicity and nationality, even regarding the separation of these two nations. Tendencies towards in-group favoritism and ontogeny were slight, but statistically significant on some measures. National and ethnic identity were positively correlated, with ethnic identity stronger than national identity in Malaysia, and strongest among Malays in Malaysia. National identity was strongest among Chinese in Malaysia, followed by Chinese in Singapore. Results of regression analyses on national identity suggest that ethnicity is more sensitive in Malaysia than in Singapore. Results are interpreted through the frameworks provided by social representations theory and social identity theory. It is argued that hegemonic representations of history are associated with positive correlations between national and ethnic identity.