Volume 32, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0957-6851
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9838
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Wayang Kulit performance, the art of shadow puppetry, has long embodied and conveyed political and secular voice throughout South and Southeast Asia, significant for the maintenance of cultural heritage. Throughout Malaysia’s modern history, Wayang as a dominant medium of education has mediated shifts in language ideologies and socialization, to the extent where changes to the Wayang correlate highly with changes to the Malay language. In the 1980s, the Malaysian government sought to attack and hence curtail Wayang performance, and to obscure its lineage, claiming that the Wayang defiles Islam and Malaysia as an Islamic state. The government sought to discontinue the Wayang, or at least to alter it significantly, and to persecute its adherents. With its attempts to mobilize the economy through neoliberal politics and the adoption of new non-poetic language registers, the Malaysian government altered Malaysian vernacular, cultural practices, and ideologies. Yet, little scholarly work, particularly through an Anthropological lens, has discussed the correlations and influences to these shifts.

This paper addresses the significance of Wayang Kulit to the Malay language, that is, its contiguity with standardized language and vernacular, its semiotic complexities during performance and in larger society, and its junctures with Malaysian politics. The study unearths changes in the Wayang, its stylizations, symbolisms and performativities, in the latter 20th century, where these changes have aligned with cultural and language shifts, yet which the government has legitimated as pro Islamic and neoliberal. The data set includes a multi year ethnography of the Wayang, and a corpus of discussions, documentations, and scripts of Wayang performances and narratives.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Agha, Asif
    (2003) Recombinant Selves in Mass-Mediated Spacetime. Language & Communication27:320–335. 10.1016/j.langcom.2007.01.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2007.01.001 [Google Scholar]
  2. (2007) The Social Life of Cultural Value. Language & Communication23:231–273. 10.1016/S0271‑5309(03)00012‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0271-5309(03)00012-0 [Google Scholar]
  3. Blackham, Olive
    (1960) Shadow Puppets. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Blaikie, Norman
    (2007) Approaches to Social Enquiry: Advancing Knowledge. Cambridge: Polity
    [Google Scholar]
  5. (2010) Designing Social Research: The Logic of Anticipation. Cambridge: Polity.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Brandon, James
    (1967) Theatre in Southeast Asia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Buck, Harry
    (1980) The Role of the Sacred Book inReligion – The Ramayana [Engl.]. In: The Ramayana tradition in Asia: papers presented at theInternational Seminar on the Ramayana Tradition in Asia, New Delhi, December 1975.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Bucholtz, Mary
    (2003) Sociolinguistic Nostalgia and the Authentication of Identity. Journal of Sociolinguistics7(3):398–416. 10.1111/1467‑9481.00232
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9481.00232 [Google Scholar]
  9. Caton, Steven
    (1987) Contributions of Roman Jakobson. Annual Review of Anthropology16:223–260. 10.1146/annurev.an.16.100187.001255
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.16.100187.001255 [Google Scholar]
  10. Cohen, Matthew
    (2006) Wayang Kulit and Islam: Perspectives from Cirebon. InF. N. M. Noor. (Ed.), Dimensions of Shadow Play in Malay Civilisation. (pp.39–61). Kuala Lumpur: Centre for Civilisational Dialogue, University of Malaya.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Dibia, Wayan I.
    (2004) Searching Identity in Wayang Kulit performance. Mudra (Jurnal Seni Budaya), Special Edition: 48–58
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Duranti, Alessandro
    (2015) The Anthropology of Intentions: Language in a World of Others. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781139207706
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139207706 [Google Scholar]
  13. Eickelman, Dale and Piscatori, James
    (2004) Muslim Politics. Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. National Entertainment act of Malaysia
    National Entertainment act of Malaysia (1998) Arkib Malaya Kebangsaan. Kuala Lumpur
  15. Fox, James
    (2014) Explorations in Semantic Parallelism. Canberra: Australian National University Press. 10.26530/OAPEN_496511
    https://doi.org/10.26530/OAPEN_496511 [Google Scholar]
  16. Gal, Susan and Judith Irvine
    (1995) The Boundaries of Languages and Disciplines: How Ideologies Construct Difference. Social Research62(4):967–1001.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Gallop, Annabel
    . The (1991) Malay Manuscript Art: The British Library collection. British Library Journal, 17(2):167–189.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Geertz, Clifford
    (1960) The Religion of Java. Chicago: The Chicago University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Gramsci, Antonio
    (1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. New York: International Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Hanks, William
    (1996) Exorcism and the Description of Participant Roles. InNatural Histories of Discourse. Michael Silverstein and Greg Urban. Eds.Pp.160–200. Chicago, Il: University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Hashim, Yaacob
    (2006) Wayang Kulit Siam in the Malay Cosmology. InFaridah Noor Mohd Noor. Ed.Dimensions of Shadow Play in Malay Civilisation. Pp.33–51. Kuala Lumpur: Centre for Civilisational Dialogue, University of Malaya.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Hill, A.
    (1955) The Hikayat Abdullah. Singapore. Malaya Publishing House.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Holt, Claire
    (1967) Art in Indonesia: Continuities and Change. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Hourani, Albert
    (2001) Islam in European thought. Cambridge, United Kingdom. Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Irvine, Judith and Susan Gal
    (2000) Language Ideology and Linguistic Differentiation. InRegimes of Language. Paul Kroskrity. Ed.Pp.35–83. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Jaffe, Alexandra
    (1999) Locating Power: Corsican Translators and Their Critics. InLanguage Ideological Debates. Jan Blommaert. Ed.Pp.39–66. Global: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110808049.39
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110808049.39 [Google Scholar]
  27. (2009) Introduction: The Sociolinguistics of Stance. InStance: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Alexandra Jaffe. Ed.Pp.3–28. Global: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331646.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331646.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  28. Jakobson, Roman
    (1968) Poetry of grammar and grammar of poetry. Lingua21:597–609. 10.1016/0024‑3841(68)90079‑X
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0024-3841(68)90079-X [Google Scholar]
  29. Johnstone, Barbara
    (2011) Dialect Enregisterment in Performance. Journal of Sociolinguistics15 (5):657–679. 10.1111/j.1467‑9841.2011.00512.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9841.2011.00512.x [Google Scholar]
  30. (2013) ”100% Authentic Pittsburgh”: Sociolinguistic Authenticity and the Linguistics of Particularity. InIndexing Authenticity: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Veronique Lacoste, Jakob Leimgruber, and Thiemo Breyer. Eds.Pp.97–112. Global: Walter de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Lieber, Robert and Ruth Weisberg
    (2002) Globalization, Culture, and Identities in Crisis. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society16: 273. 10.1023/A:1020581114701
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020581114701 [Google Scholar]
  32. Magelssen, Scott
    (2002) Remapping American-ness: Heritage Production and the Staging of the Native American and the African American as Other in ’Historyland.’National Identities4(2):161–178. 10.1080/14608940220143836
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14608940220143836 [Google Scholar]
  33. Mahathir, Mohammed
    (1970) The Malay Dilemma. Singapore. Marshall Cavendish.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Malay concordance project
    Malay concordance project (2016) <mcp.anu.edu.au/. Accessed onSeptember 28, 2016.
  35. Malhi, Amrita
    (2003) The PAS-BN Conflict in the 1990’s: Islamism and Modernity. InHooker, Virginia and Othman, Norani. (Eds). Malaysia: Islam, Society and Politics. Pp.236–267. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Mangkunagoro VII
    Mangkunagoro VII (1957) On the Wayang Kulit (Purwa) and Its Symbolic and Mystical Elements. New York: Cornell University.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Matusky, Patricia
    (1997) Malaysian Shadow Play and Music: Continuity of an Oral Tradition. Global: Oxford University Press/Malaysia: The Asian Centre.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Mellema, R.
    (1954) Wayang Puppets: Carving, Colouring and Symbolism, Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen Amsterdam.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Moebirman
    Moebirman (1973) Wayang Purwa, the Shadow Play of Indonesia. Jakarta: Yayasan Pelita Wisata. National Cultural Policy of Malaysia (1970) Arkib Malaya Kebangsaan. Kuala Lumpur
    [Google Scholar]
  40. The National Cultural Congress of Malaysia
    The National Cultural Congress of Malaysia (1971) Arkib Malaya Kebangsaan. Kuala Lumpur.
  41. National Language Policy of Malaysia
    National Language Policy of Malaysia (1976) Arkib Malaya Kebangsaan. Kuala Lumpur.
  42. Osnes, Beth
    (1992) A Survey of Shadow Play in the Malaysian Traditional Shadow Puppet Theatre. Dissertation. UMI Disseration services.
  43. (2010) The Shadow Puppet Theatre of Malaysia. A Study of Wayang Kulit with Performance Scripts and Puppet Designs. Jefferson, NC. McFarland.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Peirce, C. S.
    (1934–1963) Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol.1–7. (Charles Harthshorne and Paul Weiss, eds). Cambridge, Ma.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Ramlan, Madiha and M. A. Quayum
    (2010) Mapping the History of Malaysian Theatre: An Interview with Ghulam Sarwar Yousof. Asiatic4(2): 155–168.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Rentse, Anker
    (1936) The Kelantan Shadow Play. Journal of the Malayan Branch, Royal Asiatic Society, X/V, 3:284–301.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Sather, Clifford
    (2005) Words, Poetics, and the Disclosure of Meaning in Saribas Iban Healing Rituals. Borneo Research Bulletin36: 139–162.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Schutz, Alfred
    (1963) Collected Papers I: The Problem of Social Reality. Natanson, M. A. (Ed.). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Skeat, Woo
    (1967) Malay Magic. New York: Dove Publications, Inc.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Sokolowski, Robert
    (1992) Parallelism in Conscious Experience. Daedalus, “A New Era in Computation. Winter 1992.”The Proceedinsgs of the American Acadmy of Arts and Sciences121(1): 87–103.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Solomonik, Inna
    (2006) The Invisible Through the Visible: The Analysis of Traditional Shadow and Puppet Performances. InFaridah Noor Mohd Noor. Ed.Dimensions of Shadow Play in Malay Civilisation. Pp.101–130. Kuala Lumpur: Centre for Civilisational Dialogue, University of Malaya.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Steinman, Louise
    (1986) Steirunan, Louise. The Knowing Body. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Sweeney, Amin
    (1969) The Rama Repertoire in the Kelantan Shadow Play: A Preliminary Report. London: British Museum Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. (1972) The Ramayana and the Malay Shadow Play. Kuala Lumpur: The National University of Malaysia Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. (1994) MalayWord Music: A Celebration of Oral Creativity. Kuala Lumpur. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. Temperley, David and Christopher Bartlette
    (2002) Parallelism as a Factor in Metrical Analysis. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal20(2):117–149. 10.1525/mp.2002.20.2.117
    https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2002.20.2.117 [Google Scholar]
  57. Tuan, Yi-Fu
    (1991) Language and the Making of Place: A Narrative-Descriptive Approach. Annals of the Association of American Geographers81(4):684–696. 10.1111/j.1467‑8306.1991.tb01715.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8306.1991.tb01715.x [Google Scholar]
  58. Uthman, EI Muhammady
    (2004) Shadow Play and Identity. International Shadow Play Conference. Kuala Lumpur: Civilisational Dialogue & Museum of Asian Art.
    [Google Scholar]
  59. Ulbricht, H.
    (1972) Wayang Purwa: Shadows of the Past. London: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Winstedt, Richard
    (1981) The Malays. A Cultural History. Singapore: Graham Brash.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Wright, Barbara Ann Stein
    (1980) Wayang Siam: An Ethnographic Study of the Malay Shadow Play of Kelantan. Dissertation. New Haven. Yale University.
  62. Yousof, Abdul Maulud
    (1985) Culture Change in Malay Society: From Peasantry to Entrepreneurship. Academia 29 Journal7: 35–47.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Yousaf, G. -S.
    (1997) The Malay Shadow Play: An Introduction. Penang, Malaysia: The Asian Centre.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. (2004) The Malay Shadow Play as a Continuing but Changing Tradition. International Shadow Play Conference. Kuala Lumpur. Civilisational Dialogue & Museum of Asian Art.
    [Google Scholar]
  65. (2011) Mak Yong Theatre of Kelantan, Malaysia: An Introduction. Kuala Lumpur: The Asian Cultural Heritage Centre Berhad.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. Zieseniss, Alexander
    (1928) Die Rama Sage bei den Malaien ihre Herkunft und Gestaltung, von Alexander Zieseniss. Hamburg, Firederichsen, de Gruyter: p.121–123.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error