Dialogical intersections of Tamil and Chinese ethnic identity in the Catholic church of peninsular Malaysia

Shanthini Pillai, Pauline Pooi Yin Leong, Melissa Shamini Perry, Angeline Wong Wei Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The contemporary Malaysian Catholic church bears witness to the many bridges that connect ecclesial and ethnic spaces, as liturgical practices and cultural materiality of the Malaysian Catholic community often reflect the dialogic interactions between ethnic diversity and the core of traditional Roman Catholic practices. This essay presents key ethnographic data gathered from fieldwork conducted at selected churches in peninsular Malaysia as part of a research project that aimed to investigate transcultural adaptation in the intersections between Roman Catholic culture and ethnic Chinese and Tamil cultural elements. The discussion presents details of data gathered from churches that were part of the sample and especially reveal how ceremonial practices and material culture in many of these Malaysian Catholic churches revealed a high level of adaptation of ethnic identity and that these in turn are indicative of dialogue and mutual exchange between the repertoire of ethnic cultural customs and Roman Catholic religious practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-181
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Dialogism
  • Diaspora
  • Ethnic diversity
  • Heteroglossic Catholicism
  • Malaysian Catholic Church
  • Transcultural adaptation

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