Heritage Tourism in Malaysia: Fostering a Collective National Identity in an Ethnically Diverse Country

Gareth Butler, Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore, Paolo Mura

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    40 Citations (Scopus)


    As the processes associated with globalisation swiftly erode distinct cultures and identities, it has been argued that heritage attractions have emerged as powerful communicators in developing collective national identities. Although many countries reveal histories and collective pasts that are universally representative of homogenous populations, Malaysia represents a distinctly contrasting scenario. Malaysian heritage attractions do not necessarily represent a singular population but three distinctive ethnic groups. Thus, selecting heritage attractions that appropriately represent Malaysia remains a complicated issue. Using photographs as "real-world" variables to supplement focus-group interviews, this article reveals that young Malaysians exhibit a limited understanding of religious heritage attractions and have developed identities that are highly specific to their ethnicity and own religious beliefs. However, the stories told by several respondents also show that Malaysia's ethnic- or religious-centred heritage attractions have the power to foster a simultaneous collective national identity if promoted effectively.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)199-218
    Number of pages20
    JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


    • heritage tourism
    • Malaysia
    • national identity
    • religion


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