Serumpun in Southeast Asia: The Richness of Cultural Identities that Cross National Borders

Serumpun in Southeast Asia: The Richness of Cultural Identities that Cross National Borders

The meaning of serumpun literally refers to a group of people who share the same race or ethnicity. Even so, the origin of the word "Malay" is still surrounded by doubt. The first use of the word "Malay/Malay/Malay" is recorded in a Chinese chronicle in 644 AD, where it is mentioned that an ambassador from the Malay region around the Jambi or Batang Hari river in Central Sumatra, visited the Chinese imperial court.

Ethnic Malays in Southeast Asia have been influenced by various other ethnicities, both from mainland China, Arabia, and Europe. Today, ethnic Malays can be found in various countries in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Southern Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and other regions. The development of ethnic Malay in Southeast Asia covers various aspects of human life, including language, culture, and other aspects. In addition, ethnic Malays have also made important contributions to social integration in Southeast Asia through traditional dress, food, dance, music, mindset, and philosophy. Although the Malays have been in Southeast Asia for thousands of years, there is still the influence of immigrants in their development.

For centuries, the Malays have inhabited the Southeast Asian region before international boundaries and the concept of nation-states. However, the advent of colonialism fragmented Southeast Asia, which had been under the rule of Malay kingdoms for hundreds of years. Colonial divisions, such as the 1924 Treaty of London between Britain and the Netherlands, separated the Malay kingdoms of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

After the end of colonialism in the 20th century, many regions or countries in Southeast Asia began to seek their identity again, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, and other countries. Although after colonialism, many Malay-allied countries in Southeast Asia referenced colonial laws and government systems in their development, it did not erase the Malay identity that has existed in Southeast Asia for thousands of years.

This can be seen from the cultural similarities that exist in Southeast Asia, for example the use of language in Indonesia and Malaysia, where many people still use Malay. Another example of similarity is the culture of baju kurung in Brunei Darussalam which also has similarities to baju kurung in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand. Then, the Malay ethnicity itself has a strong and deep-rooted agrarian and maritime tradition, this can also be seen from the current state of countries in Southeast Asia. Although, there are also those that are starting to be eroded by civilization and colonialism.

Unfortunately, these cultural similarities also often lead to disputes between countries. These similarities should strengthen regional integration for the better. So it is important to strengthen the bonds of culture, history, and tradition among allied countries in Southeast Asia. This commonality will in turn help in the stability of the region and the development of the regions in Southeast Asia through various cooperation.

Before international boundaries were established in the 19th century, Malays had inhabited Southeast Asia for centuries. In fact, the concept of ethnicity itself is broader than the boundaries of the state as defined in modern concepts. Thus, the use of Malay identity should provide a lot of potential in regional development because in Southeast Asia, Malay identity is not just an identity, but also a Transboundary Identity because it transcends national borders.


Wardhani, Bayu. (1999). Indonesia-Malaysia Relations in The Post-Confrontation Era: The Role of The Serumpun Concept. Masyarakat, Kebudayaan dan Politik, 12(3-4)

Drs. Muhammad Takari, M.Hum., Ph.D, “Melayu : Dari Lingua Franca Ke Cultura Franca”, Universita Sumatera Utara

Hlakis, Muhammad. (2014). Tinjauan Sosial-Politik Terhadap Islam dan Tamadum Melayu di Asia Tenggara Tantangan dan Harapan. Jurnal, 6(1)

Ghani, Rohaji, Zulhilmi Paidi. Malaysia-Indonesia: Pengalaman Hubungan Dua Negara Serumpun

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