September 30, 2021, by Communications

FASS academics publish books

University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) academics have published books showcasing their expertise. Dr Melissa Yoong and Dr Sumit Mandal published their books titled Professional Discourses, Gender & Identity in Women’s Media and Becoming Arab: Creole Histories and Modern Identity in the Malay World.

Professional Discourses, Gender & Identity in Women’s Media (Palgrave, 2020)

Authored by Dr Melissa Yoong, Assistant Professor of Sociolinguistics and Discourse Analysis at the School of English, this book was published last year.

This monograph is Dr Yoong’s latest publication from her research which closely examines how language is used to talk about gender, paid work and family care in various media contexts such as newspapers, the radio and social media.

In her book, Dr Yoong explores the discourses on career and motherhood that are produced in media targeted at women. Through close linguistic analysis of magazine and newspaper articles and radio talk, the book reveals how these discourses substitute ‘balance’, individual success, self-transformation and positive feelings for structural change, and entrench the very issues hindering gender workplace equality. It discusses a range of issues facing women globally such as sexism and gender stereotypes in the workplace, the unequal sharing of domestic labour, gendered breadwinning norms, beauty expectations for working women, and neoliberal gender equality policies.

According to Dr Yoong, looking at the ways in which the media and the public writes or speaks about women who are successful or struggling, about women’s challenges and opportunities, is important as they offer insights into what is regarded as desirable, ‘normal’ and acceptable for women. They shed light on deep-rooted socio-cultural understandings of women, work and family care that need to be addressed to achieve gender equality.

Dr Yoong was inspired to conduct the study in this book because of her own experiences with the media’s advice to women on how to succeed in their careers. She found this advice to often be sexist, capitalist and highly individualistic, disregarding women’s day-to-day experiences while normalising stereotypes that attribute gender disparities to women’s supposed lack of ambition and confidence.

She went on to say that they place a lot of pressure on individual women to change their mindsets and behaviour, and incite them to work harder for the benefit of their employers, rather than challenge the social norms and discrimination that constrain women’s equal opportunities.

She added that at the same time, these media present themselves as women’s allies by using the language of equality, diversity and empowerment. And because of this she wanted to draw attention to the problematic ideas that are being repackaged as good sense and may not be noticeable because they are entangled with feel-good messages.

Becoming Arab: Creole Histories and Modern Identity in the Malay World

Authored by Dr Sumit Mandal who is Associate Professor of History at the School of Politics, History and International Relations and Deputy Director of the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute (UNARI), Malaysia. In April 2020, Becoming Arab: Creole Histories and Modern Identity in the Malay World was awarded the 2020 Harry J. Benda Prize for arguing “that colonial racial categories are not ‘totalising’ but are subject to reinterpretation and subversion” and foregrounding “Southeast Asian studies in broader conversations about creole histories and racialising area studies.”

The Benda Prize is awarded annually by the Association for Asian Studies in the United States to an outstanding scholar from any discipline or country specialising in Southeast Asian studies for a first book in the field. Presented since 1977, the award honours the late Professor Harry Jindrich Benda of Yale University, one of the pioneers in the field of Southeast Asian studies.

Becoming Arab explores how a long history of inter-Asian interaction was altered but not erased by nineteenth-century colonial racial categorisation and control. It focuses on creole Arabs who were the outcome of centuries of intermixing between Arabs from what is today Yemen and ethnic groups within the Malay world.

The history of these creoles and the Malay world were mutually constitutive and represents a fascinating cultural diversity and fluidity. The book was inspired by a desire to explore forms of belonging and identity that allow for an attachment to multiple places rather than the singular terms of the modern nation-state.

In writing this book, Dr Mandal conducted research in two main sites, namely the National Library in Indonesia and the Dutch Colonial Archives in the Netherlands. He also consulted other repositories and collections in those two countries. The research involved examining primary sources such as newspapers and documents in Malay and Arabic as well as colonial documents in Dutch, French and English.

In April 2021, Dr Mandal was invited by colleagues in the Southeast Asian Studies Program at Cornell University to speak about Becoming Arab to postgraduate students and faculty members in a consortium of eight universities in the United States that is named GETSEA (Graduate Education and Training in Southeast Asia).

He was honoured to learn that the discussion of his book was the inaugural Community Book Read of Benda Prize-winning works. The discussion was held online as he was unable to travel to the United States due to the pandemic. A presentation of his book was followed by a lively discussion with students and faculty from the consortium who were spread across the United States.

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