Paper Abstract

Melaka in the Long 15th Century Conference

2-4 AUG 19

Ruzy Suliza Hashim

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia


Prof. Ruzy Suliza Hashim is professor of literature at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Currently, she is also the Deputy Director at the Centre for Research and Instrumentation Management (CRIM).

Teaching and Research Interests

Prof. Ruzy’s research interests include historical literature, gender issues in literature, and social activism in the literature classroom.

Recent Research Projects

Prof. Ruzy’s book, Out of the Shadows: Women in Malay Court Narratives won the National Book Award in 2005.

Melaka in the 15th Century Conference


Women and Gender Relations in Malay Court Narratives

A common phrase which reads “by whom he had a son” followed by assertions of a long lineage made up of sons demonstrate the difficulty of looking for women and studying gender relations in the Malay court narratives. In an era where men ruled and made decisions, women very rarely showed themselves to be a force to be reckoned with. In this paper, through the lens of social exchange theory, I shall show how women, despite their muted silence and absently present existence, imbue themselves as inalienable beings. Social exchange theorists unveil the nexus between the organization of social relations and acts of exchange. The old Malay world abounds with exchanges of material objects such as people, animals, clothes, jewellery and immaterial objects like greetings and sentiments. As daughters, wives, mothers, female attendants and slaves, women are often chosen as gifts of exchange to stabilize potential court conflicts. An examination of women, from the highest rank to the lowest, will disclose the motives which drive their circulation from one household to another. Whether or not the exchange is reciprocal in nature provides insight into gender relations and power structure of the court which highlights that women are not merely incidental actors in the history of Malay monarchy.