Forget the stereotype history, focus on ethnic cultures, heritage

Welyne Jeffrey speaks during a webinar.

KUCHING: Malaysia’s history should not be dominated by the official national history but rather be complemented with the experiences of ordinary people, said Dr Welyne Jeffrey Jehom.

The senior lecturer from Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Universiti Malaya (UM) believed that only when this shared history from below is recognised, then the official history would have a foundation.

“The history from below, as it is known in Europe, seeks to take as its subjects, ordinary people and concentrate on their experiences and perspectives, contrasting itself with the stereotype of traditional political history and its focus on the actions of great men and women,” she said.

As such, she said instead of only having the official national history, subjects which focused on the people should be included in order to provide better understanding.

“This should include every ethnic group that exists in Malaysia, its culture and heritage, as well as its present livelihood.

“The history book should be reflective of ethnic culture and it should be diverse, so that students can be part of it. For now, history is very much just the official shared history.”

She said this during a webinar entitled ‘Shared History as the Foundation of Unity and Racial Cohesion’ organised by Yayasan Perpaduan Sarawak today.

“In order to promote acceptance and unity, we need to urgently address the problems and challenges according to the dynamism of history,” said Welyne.

She added unity was partly defined and shared by perceptions which could be corrected, improved and addressed through understanding. Most importantly, empathy should be nurtured from a young age.

“Go local and have empathy, because that is the essence to have a peaceful relationship with others. Only by experiencing others socially and culturally can we have enhanced cohesion and unity,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr Juna Liau, senior lecturer from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), in her presentation spoke of the various factors that affected one’s experiences and history.

She said each ethnic group and community had different contributions and pointed out the need to take into account marginalised communities.

In his segment of the webinar, Jason Wee, co-founder of Architects of Diversity (AOD) emphasised on the importance of engaging the youth in shared history.