Science and modernity : modern medical knowledge and societal rationalization in Malaysia
The focus of this thesis is on the social history of public health and medicine in British Malaya during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I argue that the introduction of modern medicine, medical services, and medical knowledge to Malaya, while serving the immediate needs of colonial economic extraction, and providing legitimacy to colonial rule, also functioned as a cultural agent of colonization, and later modernization. As a cultural agent, modern medical knowledge challenged traditional medical practices and beliefs, and set a new cultural standard of truth, morality, and aesthetic that was to become the cultural basis of modern Malaya and later Malaysia. Using Weber and Habermas’ theory of societal rationalization, I further contend that the disenchantment of the world by modern medical knowledge, and the reign of the instrumental rationality of modern science, resulted in a predicament of modernity that continues to plague modern Malaysia. The tension of modernity is reflected in the struggle by the Malaysian government to maintain a balance between the pursuit of modernity on one hand, and the preservation of Islamic religious beliefs that define the very nature of the Malaysian nation on the other. In other words, there is an effort to make Malaysia both a modern scientific state and a Muslim state; and I contend that the goal is achieved through cultural discourses of Islam and modern science that are in harmony with each other.
Colonial Science, Medical Sociology, Modernization, Sociology of Science
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)