• Kamarulnizam Abdullah Institute of Malaysia and International Studies (IKMAS), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
  • Abdul Rahim Anuar Former Fellow at the Research Institute for Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore(UUM)
  • Abubakar Eby Hara International Relations Program, Universitas Jember



everyday-defined social reality, elite discourses, cross-border relations, Indonesia, Malaysia


This article discusses and analyses relations between Indonesia and Malaysia from the relational dynamism between people and the state. Theoretically, the relations can be narrated through identity formation approach in the context of ‘authoritative-defined social reality’ and ‘everyday-defined social reality’. The reality of Indonesia-Malaysia relations in the last twenty-five years was very much defined by authoritative or elitist views, which have dominated and controlled the everyday discourses. However, elitist groups’ reality-defined perspective does not paint the whole picture of relations. This article argues that it is crucial to analyse the relations in the context of ‘everyday-defined social reality’ especially from the common people’s perspective such as workers, traders, activists, novelists, religious groups, artists, and families, who experience the reality of the relations. This ‘social reality’ can be observed in the dynamism of cross border relation between people-to-people, as has been shown in our case studies, in the border areas of Kalimantan Barat and Sarawak as well as Kalimantan Utara-Sabah. It shows complex but generally positive pictures in understanding relations between two countries. It is therefore expected that the awareness and understanding of this ‘everyday-reality’ can contribute to a better understanding of relations between the two countries. 

Author Biography

Kamarulnizam Abdullah, Institute of Malaysia and International Studies (IKMAS), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)

Dr Mohd Kamarulnizam Abdullah is Professor and Principal Fellow at the Asian Studies Centre, Institute for Malaysia and International Studies (IKMAS), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). He served UKM earlier between 1991-2012 before joining School of International Studies, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) as Professor in National Security for ten years (2012-2022). He received his PhD from Lancaster University, UK; MA (International Relations) from the Australian National University, and Bachelor of Science (Political Science) from the University of Utah, USA. His areas of research focus on terrorism, political violence and religious militancy. Among his latest publications are: “Malaysia’s Navigation against Salafi-Wahabi Ideological Expansionism: State’s Strong Role and Societal Resilience” (Studia Islamika, 2022); “Political Islam and Democracy in Malaysia,” (2019, Secularism, Religion and Democracy in Southeast Asia, Oxford University Press) dan ‘Malaysia: Adapting to the Dynamic Changes of Terrorist Threats.’ (co-author, 2019, Non-Western Responses to Terrorism, Manchester University Press). Currently, he is Senior Consultant for the Home Ministry’s project on National Action Plan (NAP) on Violent Extremism. Other governmental appointments or international consultative projects include Maritime Criminality in Malaysia (United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, UNODC); Malaysia’s White Paper on Defence (Defence Ministry); Rehabilitation, De-radicalization and Counter-Terrorism Programs as well as for the Formulation of Home Security Policy (Home Affairs Ministry); and Steering Committee for the establishment of National Defence University Malaysia (UPNM) (Ministry of Higher Education). He is also country coordinator for the International Civilization Dialogue and Religious Understanding Program (Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs). He is currently an editorial member for the Scopus indexed Journal of Human Security and Journal of International Studies (JIS); Jurnal Kinabalu (EJK), Jurnal Hubungan Internasional (UMY), as well as associate member of the -the Southeast Asia Conflict Studies Network. He has been appointed as non-resident professor at Jinan University, Guangzhou; Institute of Diplomacy Timor Leste; and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (Unisza). He also served as resident professor at the Universitas Pasundan Bandung; Universitas President, Bekasi; and Universitas Pembangunan Veteran Nasional, Yogyakarta.

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