SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

The Everyday Political Economy of Islamic Finance in Malaysia: Global Ambitions, Local Realities

Lena Rethel
Lena Rethel (University of Warwick)

Date: 3 December 2013Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 3 December 2013Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


The last three decades have seen the rapid expansion of Islamic finance in Malaysia. The government has recently enacted a comprehensive legal, regulatory and supervisory framework for Islamic finance – the Islamic Financial Services Act 2013, while simultaneously maintaining a dual (conventional and Islamic) financial system. From the outset, Malaysian financial elites identified Islamic finance as part of their economic modernisation agenda. However, in so doing, they pursued multiple – and at times conflicting – goals. On the one hand, Islamic finance was identified as a pathway to promoting greater financial inclusion. On the other hand, Islamic finance has become an important part of the country’s ambitious project of financial modernisation and international competitiveness with the ultimate objective of achieving developed country status by 2020. Malaysian financial policymakers have also played crucial roles in international initiatives to promote and regulate Islamic finance. Adopting an everyday political economy perspective, this paper explores the local realities that elite efforts to develop Islamic finance in Malaysia encounter and in so doing, how they are sustained, resisted and transformed.

Speaker Biography

Lena Rethel is Assistant Professor of International Political Economy at the University of Warwick. Her research is on global financial governance, the relationship between financial system change and development and the emergence of Islamic finance, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia. Her book, The Problem with Banks (co-authored with Timothy J. Sinclair) was published by Zed Books in 2012. Together with Juanita Elias, she is currently editing a book on The Everyday Political Economy of Southeast Asia.

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