In Pursuit of Capital: The Charismatic Turn among the Chinese Managerial and Professional Class in Malaysia
This article explores a so far neglected dimension of the ongoing debate on the relationship between the politically contested position of the ethnic Chinese and their dominant role in the economies of Southeast Asia in general and in Malaysia in particular. While the prominence of the ethnic Chinese in the business life of Malaysia is ubiquitous, they also seem to be the engine of the striking growth of the Christian community, in particular the Pentecostal-Charismatic groups. This 'charismatic turn', it has been argued, reflects a major shift in the social position and power relations among the ethnic groups and the consolidation of the position of the Malaysian Chinese in the modern Malaysian nation state. This article critically reappraises this 'empowerment thesis' by analyzing the opportunities that conversion to Christianity and membership of Pentecostal-Charismatic groups offer to Malaysian Chinese business people, managers and professionals. In particular, this article identifies the forms of capital (in a Bourdieuan sense) involved and analyzes how these forms of capital are utilized and imbued with meaning in the interface of religion and business.