The Malayan Emergency

A Small, Distant War

Souchou Yao

208 pp., Maps and illustrations
NIAS Monographs # 133
Available from NIAS Press worldwide




Hardback - 2016, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 190 1, £60
Paperback - 2016, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 191 8, £19.99


  • Examines the Malayan Emergency afresh.
  • Brings into focus issues not normally covered in other accounts.
  • Explores the moral costs of modern counter-insurgency.


One of the first conflicts of the Cold War, the Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and communist insurgents in Malaya from 1948 to 1960. Souchou Yao tells its story in a series of penetrating and illuminating essays that range across a vast canvas. Throughout the book runs a passionate concern for the lives and struggles of ordinary men and women in colonial Malaya. Here, the effect of counterinsurgency measures are captured by the anthropologist’s art of ethnography and cultural analysis. Among the vignettes are an ethnographic encounter with a woman ex-guerrilla, and the author’s remembrance of his insurgent-cousin killed in a police ambush. As such, this fascinating study examines the Emergency afresh, and in the process brings into focus issues not normally covered in other accounts: nostalgia and failed revolution, socialist fantasy and ethnic relations, and the moral costs of modern counterinsurgency.

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