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Title: Never-married Malay Muslim women in modern Malaysia : gender, identity and agency
Author: Ibrahim, Rozita
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis presents an ethnographic study of the experiences of singlehood within the Malay Muslim society in Malaysia. The study focuses on never-married women over the age of 30, past the normal marriageable age. Singlehood is regarded as a 'glocal' phenomenon. In other words, while the phenomenon is happening globally within modern societies, the experiences of singlehood are locally constructed. The experiences of singlehood are also gendered, where singleness among women is generally regarded negatively compared to men. This study attempts to answer the following questions: (1) How do Malay Muslims experiences singlehood at the societal level (macro level)? (2) How do never-married Malay Muslim women define their identities at the individual and interactional levels (micro level), within the family, at the workplace and as Muslims? (3) How are Malay Muslims' experiences of singlehood similar to, or different from, other socio-cultural contexts? In terms of data collection methods, in-depth interviews, participant observation and textual analysis were utilised. Analysis of the public discourses in Malay language newspaper articles and a Malay movie revealed that at the macro level, singleness is perceived as a 'problem' and single women are considered as having 'deficit' or 'incomplete identity'. However, at the micro level, analysis of the in-depth interviews using bases of identity as a framework revealed a mismatch between the public discourse of singlehood and the actual lived experiences of single women and their immediate environment. Evidently, the study participants were not passive subjects, but were rather active agents who creatively negotiated 'complete' identities within their families, at the workplace and as Muslims. Generally, the Malay Muslim experience of singlehood corresponded with the global trends in terms of the contributing factors towards the emergence of the phenomenon, and the common stereotypes attached to single women. However, further examination of the lived experiences of the study participants demonstrated that aspects of Malay culture (such as the concepts of jodoh [soulmate granted by God at the perfect time], langkah bendul [jumping the ledge], and mandi bunga [floral bath]), and Islamic teachings (such as dosa and pahala [God's punishment and reward], rezeki [sustenance], ikhtiar [effort] and redha [acceptance]) were the basis of the attitude and behaviour of never-married women within the context of the Malay Muslims in modern Malaysia.
Supervisor: Segal, Robert ; El-Alami, Dawood Sponsor: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Muslim women ; Single women ; Sex role