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Circulating Women as Objects of Trade in Malay Historical Texts

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Abstract In this paper, we shall discuss ‘circulating women’ as objects of trade based on the corpus of three historical texts such as The Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu) and Misa Melayu Perak. Barbara Andaya (2006:104) has cogently argued that “Southeast Asia is an attractive laboratory to investigate women’s economic roles” especially in the early modern period. By focusing on issues related to marriage and slave trade, we look specifically at the movements of women in the chronicles. Whether they were consorts, concubines and maids-in-waiting in the Malay courts, the traffic of women showed an intricate web of social exchange where symmetrical and asymmetrical reciprocity took place in various political situations of the day. By showing these exchanges, we unveil an aspect of women and trade in early modern Southeast Asia where women were involved in boosting male prestige and power, political hierarchy, social identity and legitimacy.

Affiliations: 1: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia


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