Reimagining the Postcolonial Cold War in Southeast Asia: Juxtaposing the Writing of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Francisco Sionil José, Sadako Kurihara, and Ee Tiang Hong

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Copyright: Singh, Sandeep
Abstract
The Postcolonial Cold War, a composite term proposed by Heonik Kwon, captures the situation in Southeast Asia of the period subsequent to the Second World War. It encompasses the experience of ideological struggle and the search for an identity in various contexts in the region. Two literary forms - the poem and the novel - are explored in this thesis as evidence that informs a reimagining. This critical reimagination proposes four dominant structuring features of the era. These features are expressed through the four literary works examined in this thesis, but also through the experiences that shaped these works and their authors. These experiences are ‘Exile’, ‘Continuity’, ‘Death World’ and ‘Nostalgia’. These structuring features are integral to the literature of the Postcolonial Cold War in Southeast Asia and can be extrapolated to thematize the experience of conflict in the region. Buttressing this argument, the thesis explores how the scholarly fields of the Cold War and postcolonial studies can be placed in conversation with each other, proving that this conjunction is especially suited to Southeast Asia. This thesis works with literary texts produced both between and outside of the dates understood by scholars to denote the Cold War. This ‘decomposes’ traditional political boundaries, and links Kwon’s formulation to the broader postcolonial project. The thesis also explores and links Cold War literary readings to a search for postcolonial identity. The texts and experiences of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, F. Sionil José, Sadako Kurihara and Ee Tiang Hong, along with those of Eka Kurniawan, Jeremy Tiang, and Ninochka Rosca, reveal that the Cold War in Southeast Asia cannot be examined without a conversation about the colonial experience and decolonization. In this way, the thesis demonstrates that the past is always present in selected texts. Through novels and poems from Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and Malaysia, along with an evaluation of retrospective contemporary literature, the thesis seeks to question the stability of the category of region, including Japan in the imaginary frame of Southeast Asia. Poetry proves conducive as a mode to communicate slippages in Cold War temporality and to voice trauma, and the novel allows us to read at once alongside and against the grain of the independent Southeast Asian nation state.
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Publication Year
2022
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Thesis
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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