In this thesis I present my interpretation of a moral discourse as it plays out in a Malay village in a period of social and cultural transformation related to the expansion of tourism. I argue that this moral discourse displays dilemmas that are anchored in central Malay beliefs, values and virtues. Some core aspects of this discourse, which can be recognised among Malays elsewhere, are especially prevalent and explicit in this village due to the massive presence of tourists as a significant Other and rapid transformations in the local economy over the past two decades.
I have chosen an interpretive framework to show how the Malays indigenous psychology and cosmological orientations underpin the moral discourse as it plays out in the village. I show that the local Malays categorise the tourists and interpret the transformations - and what is commonly perceived as moral decline - in their own society, through central concepts from their indigenous psychology.
I point out that semangat the vital life force in Malay cosmology - is seen to be weakened at different levels as cool (sejuk) and rational basis for behaviour, based on reason (akal) is seen to increasingly give way to heated (panas) behaviour based on desire (nafsu). When the semangat is weakened this is thought to make people less able to withstand negative influence from tourists. Such negative influence from outside further leads to actions which are defined as heated (panas), based on desire (nafsu) and which are not within the moral code of Islam and tradition (adat). This is experienced as resulting in a downward spiral of moral decline.
In this thesis I do also present the dominant local explanations which view changes in patterns of production and exchange and availability of much more money as the engine of social, cultural and moral transformations in this society. I show that the introduction of monetary relations into areas where reciprocal ties used to be the norm, has reduced the relevance and reach of social and moral sanctioning mechanisms on which much of traditional authority was based. It has thus reduced the possibilities for social and moral control in the village.
I point out that it is not mainly the presence of the tourists and their practices, but rather the changed patterns of production and exchange in this location, which explain these transformations. An extraordinary increase in money flow has been a result of the local tourism business, and this has weakened the mechanisms of social and moral control in the village, and provided radically increased opportunities to travel far beyond where the community can observe and sanction moral violations.
These transformations have been fast and the moral community are no longer able to sanction its subjects as before. The traditional mechanisms for sanctions in the village have been become weaker and many men are now able to travel beyond the village community s moral control, which is referred to locally as to go for enjoy As a result many local Malays are increasingly accused by others in the local context of becoming tourists and loosing the vital life force - semangat.