Resistance, Engagement, and Heritage Conservation by Voluntary Sector : The Case of Penang in Malaysia

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-644
Journal / PublicationModern Asian Studies
Issue number3
Online published30 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


An enduring question with regard to the voluntary sector is how it can nurture civic engagement and provide public goods. A World Heritage listing for Penang highlights this question by revealing a vibrant civil society network that has made heritage conservation an issue for public discourse and policy agenda. This paper discusses how the marginalized trajectory of Penang is related to the development of its civic realm, social cohesion and local identity, which are sources of Penang's voluntarism. It then examines the engagement pattern of the Penang Heritage Trust, a leading association, which has mounted resistance against the state's failure in heritage provision. This bottom-up approach has preserved Penang's cultural heritage and associated identity, and reveals the distinct nature and capacity of Penang's voluntary sector that goes against the general pattern in Malaysia.