On April 17, 2013 Dr Pei-Chien Wu gave a research lecture at AKU-ISMC. The talk, entitled 'Fostering Muslim Identity: the Practice of Keluarga Angkat (foster family) among Muslim Converts in Malaysia’, stimulated a lively question and answer session and attracted a local academic audience as well as a global audience of webcast participants.
Dr Wu spoke about Muslim converts in some parts of Malaysia, who are required by Islamic authorities to have a Muslim keluarga angkat (foster family) upon their conversion to Islam. The keluarga angkat serves as a medium and mentor during the conversion process, providing the converts with religious, emotional and social support. Her paper examined the rationale behind this practice from an anthropological perspective and assessed its role in consolidating the Muslim identity of the convert. In addition, since traditionally the majority of Malaysian Muslims are ethnically Malay, converts to Islam are usually non-Malay and are introduced to the Muslim community through a Malay foster family. This means that most non-Malay Muslim converts struggle to maintain their original ethnic identity. Dr Wu's paper thus also explored the delicate balance that Muslim converts must maintain between gaining acceptance from the established Muslim community and retaining a distinctive ethnic and cultural identity.
Dr Pei-Chien Wu completed her PhD in Anthropology at SOAS on ‘Challenging the Ethnic Paradigm: Religious Conversion and Identity Construction amongst Chinese Muslims in Penang, Malaysia’. Dr Wu also has an MSc in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences and is familiar with Chinese and Malay. She is currently a Research Fellow at ISMC where she is undertaking research on ‘Freedom of Marginality: Chinese Muslim converts and the Islamic modernity in Malaysia’. Her research project falls within ISMC's 2012-13 research theme of Understanding the Processes of Change in Muslim Societies and Cultures, focusing on 'Minorities in Muslim-majority Societies: Contributions, Challenges and Outlooks'.