Article

SEARCH: The Journal of the South East Asia Research Centre for Communication and Humanities

, 7:1

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Women’s Roles and Participation in Rituals in the Maintenance of Cultural Identity: A Study of the Malaysian Iyers

Abstract

This paper examines the roles and rituals practiced by Malaysian Iyer women. The Iyers are a small community of Tamil Brahmins who live and work mainly in the Klang Valley. As an Indian diasporic community, who moved to Malaysia from the early 1900s, they have been slowly shifting from Tamil to English and Malay. They are upwardly mobile and place great emphasis on education but at the same time, value their traditions and culture. Data was derived from interactions between women and men from the Malaysian Iyer community together with personal observations made during visits to their homes, weddings and prayer sessions. This data was studied to obtain insights into cultural elements that ruled their discourse. The findings show that for this diasporic community that was slowly losing its language, ethnic identity can still be found in their cultural practices. Women were seen as keepers of tradition and customs that are important to the community. They followed certain cultural and traditional practices in their homes: practiced vegetarianism while cooking and serving food in their homes, followed taboos regarding food preparation, maintained patriarchal practices especially in religious practices and lived in extended families which usually included paternal grandparents. Malaysian Iyer women are seen to continue with the traditional roles given to women of the community.

Keywords:

Ethnic identity language and women women and tradition