Conceptualizing the Malay World explores the interrelations between the indigenization of “colonial knowledge” and the quest for pan-Malay identity in Malaya. In what way, to what extent and for what purpose did the colonized accept, modify and adapt the colonizer’s worldview? To answer these questions, this study examines textbooks produced by British and Malay authors for teaching Malay history and geography to the local populace in teacher training colleges. The research then focuses upon a case study of one of these students who would go on to become a prominent nationalist activist. The inquiry reveals that, while the colonizers brought new concepts of Malayness to Malaya, the indigenization of colonial knowledge entailed significant reinterpretation, transformation, and appropriation.