The Ah Beng Subculture as a Case Study of Malaysian Chinese Identity Formation

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Rachel Suet Kay Chan
Juli Edo


Malaysians often use the term 'Ah Beng' to refer pejoratively to a group of people who are Malaysian Chinese in ethnicity, speak mainly in Chinese, and follow East Asian fashions. There is a certain look associated with this term, which is a tendency to have loud and non-elitist tastessuch as wearing mismatched clothes and having brightly dyed hair. This study examines the identity of people categorised as Ah Bengs, and how this is not just a stereotype, but an existing subculture which is driven by conspicuous consumption. It is theorised that Ah Bengs derive their identity from their consumption habits, which orientates itself towards the Chinese-speaking world. This study incorporates ethnographic evidence including photographs and interviews. Findings show that the Ah Beng subculture possesses values which are more prone to consumption rather than political ideology. Hence the Ah Beng subculture is driven by conspicuous consumption.


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