Working with the Semai, indigenous people of Malaysia: Collaborative Research Projects between CAEPR and UTP

Detail from Gulach (2006) by Terry Ngamandara Wilson
Detail from Gulach (2006) by Terry Ngamandara Wilson

In this presentation Dr Sumathi Renganathan and Dr Inge Kral will talk on the various projects between CAEPR and University Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) in Malaysia, describing their collaborative work with Semai-speaking Orang Asli in Malaysia. Their collaborative work started in 2009. Since then they have worked on several research projects (funded by the Malaysian Ministry of Education, University Teknologi Petronas and ANU). In this presentation, Dr Renganathan and Dr Kral will describe outcomes of various projects working with a Semai community in Perak, Peninsular Malaysia where they have explored issues relating to education, literacy and language and culture maintenance. One aspect has focused on indigenous youth learning through digital media. Dr Renganathan and Dr Kral explored how indigenous youth use digital resources to mediate language and culture maintenance (Kral & Renganathan 2017). In 2017 they worked with the community to document the oral traditions, history and cultural practices of the Semai. This is being compiled and edited for a co-authored book on Semai language, culture and history.


Sumathi Renganathan is a senior lecturer at University Teknologi PETRONAS. She obtained her PhD in education from King’s College London (2005). Through the Endeavour Research Fellowship (2009) she did her attachment with the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University. Sumathi has been working with the Semai-speaking Orang Asli community since 2008.

Inge Kral is a linguistic anthropologist co-affiliated with the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) and the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL). Inge draws on some thirty years’ experience in Indigenous education, language and literacy in remote Australia. She recently completed an ARC DECRA researching changing modes of communication and the consequences of digital technologies in remote Indigenous Australia. She is currently a co-researcher on an ARC funded project documenting and analysing Western Verbal Arts in remote Australia. She continues to work with Renganathan on projects in an Orang Asli indigenous village in Peninsular Malaysia.

Date & time

Wed 02 May 2018, 12.30pm


Room 2145 (Jon Altman Room), Level 2, Copland Building #24 (Kingsley Place behind the Street Theatre), Australian National University


Dr Sumathi Renganathan, Visiting Fellow at CAEPR, ANU. Visiting from Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP), Malaysia
Dr Inge Kral, Research Fellow at CAEPR, ANU

Event series


Tracy Deasey
02 61250587


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