'No Chinatown, please!': Contesting race, identity and postcolonial memory in Kuala Lumpur

Research output: Journal PublicationReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


From the 1980s onwards, the Malaysian government embarked on a policy to Malaynise and Islamise the urban landscape of Kuala Lumpur. At the same time, the historical Chinese oldest quarter of the city experienced various measures threatening to erase Chinese urban history and turn the area into a 'Chinatown', arousing strong resistance from the Chinese community. This paper examines the spatial struggle of the Malaysian Chinese community and its contesting of the state-sponsored representation and creation of 'Chinatown' in Kuala Lumpur in the 1990s. It argues that the making of 'Chinatown' symbolised the minoritisation of the Chinese. To challenge the conception of the post-colonial city which focuses on giving voice to the once-colonised nation whilst keeping the ethnic minority groups in the shadow of the nation, this paper explores a contested vision of Kuala Lumpur with the inclusion of the marginal Chinese urban spaces. It examines how the Chinese used the contested Chinatown to negotiate their cultural identity, to challenge the state's version of nationalism and multiculturalism, and to call for a more inclusive interpretation of the urban landscape of Kuala Lumpur.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-870
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Architecture
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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