Abstracts:

“So put the word down on paper.
From there your cities build.”
Gemino H Abad

by

Dennis Haskell

A division between city and country has long existed in folk culture, and begins in serous English language poetry with Thomas Wyatt’s exile from Henry VIII’s court . Since the early twentieth century, the period of Modernism, a majority of people in Asia and around the world have lived in cities. Cities are associated with tropes of sophistication, the material, the artificial and abstraction; the country with innocence, the spiritual, the natural and the organic. On the whole, poetry has not given cities a good image, following T S Eliot’s presentation of “muttering retreats”, “dingy shades” and “rats’ alley”.

English language poetry in The Philippines is very much centred in the large city of Manila, and its poets seem conscious of artifice and very much concerned with the role of language in representation. In this paper I will examine attitudes to language and the building of the city through words in the work of Filipino poets such as Gemino Abad, Paolo Manolo, Isabela Banzon and Conchita Cruz.

Palimpsests of the ‘Lonely Island’: Wartime Shanghai in the Western Literary Imagination

by

Hsu-Ming Teo
Macquarie University

Shanghai was the largest city in China during the early twentieth century. By 1935 its population had reached 3.6 million, of which approximately 1.6 million lived in the foreign settlements alongside 60,000 foreigners. After the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the population in the International Settlement exploded to 4.5 million. The immensity and cultural complexity of Shanghai during the modernist era is perhaps ungraspable, yet the Anglophone world has a specific, romanticized notion of modernist Shanghai that is specifically refracted through the lens of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Japanese occupation of the International Settlement after December 1941. This essay focuses specifically on how chronotopes of wartime Shanghai are created in four English-language historical novels: J.G. Ballard’s Empire the Sun (1984), Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans (2000), Brian Castro’s Shanghai Dancing (2003) and Ian Buruma’s The China Lover (2008). It uses the idea of the palimpsest to consider how each new textual representation of Shanghai bears the traces of previous textual histories, and how, collectively, chronotopes of glamorous, decadent, modernist Shanghai are created in these novels. The essay arises from research for the third novel, “Rhapsody, Jealousy”, that I am currently writing.

Neoliberal Pleasures – Networked Selves and Literary Identities in Contemporary Singapore

by 

Philip Holden

National University of Singapore

The last decade has seen an explosion of literary activity in Singapore. New independent presses have been founded and older publishing houses have massively expanded their lists, while festivals, prize ceremonies, literary readings, and other events occur with ever-increasing frequency. Many such events are organized by burgeoning non-profit organisations with an interest in the literary arts, often fostering new virtual and material networks of writers and readers. Outside Singapore, Singapore writers have become more visible internationally, often through the production of subtly reworked genre fiction. And while previous generations of diasporic Singapore writers were often fitted, perforce, into categories such as Asian American, Global Indian, or Chinese Canadian, they are now more frequently identified as Singaporean.

Such developments are welcome, and provide a pleasing contrast with the situation in the early 1990s when, before the foundation of the National Arts Council, there was little support for the arts, and when few Singapore writers had the financial independence to devote themselves to writing full-time. Yet the explosion in activity in the literary arts also asks new questions regarding the place of literature in Singapore society. Most Anglophone writers are members of liberal elites simultaneously empowered by and critical of the growing social divides created by meritocracy under neoliberalism, engaging in what we might call an elective precarity enabled by social capital. Growth in the literary arts has been enabled by the flexibility and connectivity of what Manuel Castells has called the network society, and, for many practicing artists, has resulted in the creation of networked selves that often draw uncritically on older, humanist understandings of the role of the writer. Such performed identities often rewrite literary history in Singapore, creating themselves in opposition to a mythical Philistine state, forgetting a past of public engagement with the arts, and privileging writing over reading. As in many areas of contemporary life, Singapore is not unique here, but the emergence of its literary scene perhaps focuses and magnifies tendencies that have already been noted elsewhere. Literary texts thus take on roles as forms of social action that are very different from the roles played by predecessors in the same genre. I will illustrate my discussion with reference in particular to the recent explosion of poetry writing in Singapore, and its attendant networks of composition, performance, anthologisation, and distribution.

Writing and Transforming Through The ASIAPAC Biennial Symposium on the Literature and Culture of the Asia Pacific Region

by

Carlotta Ladyizumi Abrams, PhD
Creative Writing Coordinator,
Estrella Mountain College
Avondale, Arizona
USA

This paper will explore the writer’s journey from a fledgling academic stepping off a plane into the National University of Singapore tropical environs to being accepted and appreciated by an international group of Asia Pacific scholars. The journey includes meeting the premiere poet of Singapore, Edwin Thumboo, the state poet of the Philippines, Frankie Jose, and traveling to Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Perth, and Hong Kong.

The paper will describe the personal journey from a rural New England town to re-exploring my urban Asian roots The journey has spanned many cities and helped to spawn the publication of a book “Smile on Your Brother.” The experience of working and doing international projects with Dr. Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf, reading poetry and sharing culture has helped the writer to move from never being accepted by traditional academia to being part of a worldwide conference that has served as a vehicle for networking, creating, and sharing literature and culture.

The paper will include excerpts from the published book and a discussion of the Asian diaspora, the philosophical context of “Asianness,” and how diverse Asian cultures and religions can use the arts to create better understanding in the metropolises and villages of the Asia Pacific region.

Human and Non-Human Neighbours: The Impact of Urban Ecology on City Culture and Literature

by

Professor Sami Rafiq
Department of English
Faculty of Arts
Aligarh Muslim University
India

The city is the new habitation of humanity.It is a symbol of sophistication and aspiration for wealth and easy living.But the city is not the dwelling place of humans alone because along with humans another world of urban ecology has emerged.This paper would study the impact of these other living forms of the city on literature and society in writings by the following Canadian and American writers Margaret Atwood, John Atcheson, Barbara Kingsolver and Bruce Cameron.

The city is characterised by its malls, flats and parks. Plants and trees become parts of designs and plans of commercialised cities rather than as wild growth.The flora and fauna in these patches of green near concrete buildings learn to survive by adapting to city lifestyles.There are many interesting books written with regard to our city dwelling neighbours such as the trees, crows and squirrels.The paper would delve deep into an understanding of urban ecology in specific books and attempt to uncover the realities of these interactions between city dwellers be they human or non human.A harmonious relationship between humans and nature in cities would amount to taking a few steps towards mitigating or reversing the destruction of natural environments and their resultant negative effects on the planet in addition to creating a new kind of literary experience.

Power without responsibility: Reading Okky Madasari’s Perspective on New Media and Disruption of Social Harmoby in “Kerumunan Terakhir”

by

Dr. Habsari Kusomo,

Universitas Sebelas Maret

Modern city life has undergone transformation because of the growing popularity of the social media. Ideas on space and time have collapsed due to this new model of communication and virtual communication has taken the place of face-to-face interaction. This transformation has also influenced both the public and private lives of city residents.  In relation to woman’s writing, it raises a question concerning the women’s perspective of this new life style since it influences their communication. Although the popular belief on women writers perspectives on social and cultural life mostly concern their contributions to studies on women’s domestic life, with the collapse of the traditional style of communication, woman’s perspective can contribute to the richness of the new life style, which in turn raises the issue of the collapse of the strict division between public and domestic and the intersection between these spaces which could produce new conceptions on disruption to social harmony. This article purposes to scrutinize Okky Madasari’s perspective on the popularity of the new media and how the new media creates a new conception of social harmony and disruption.

Exiled in the City: The Novels of a Nature Poet

by

Amzed Hossein

Professor of English

Aliah University, Kolkata, India

The origin and growth of Calcutta as a city is linked to the British colonial intervention in Bengal. As such, it used to be associated with the colonial discourse of progress and modernity. However, the civilizing mission of colonialism also brought in its wake a cultural dislocation and varied crises in the stratified urban society along with the destruction of the variegated beauty of nature within and without the urban space.

Jibanananda Das (1899-1954), considered to be the most important poet and indisputably the greatest ‘Nature Poet’ of the post-Rabindranath Tagore period in Bengali literature, wrote a series of novels and short stories in the 1930s and the 1940s, but never published them. They were brought out only in the mid-1980s and 1990s. Most of these fictional texts, set in the city of Calcutta, created a sensation in the literary world of Bengal with their linguistic freshness and thematic contemporaneity.

This paper attempts to examine the new mode of representation chosen by a quintessentially Nature Poet to articulate his crises-ridden, ambivalent urban experience, his memories of the pre-colonial Bengali cultural tradition, his sense of exile and his search for identity as a creative subject burdened both with nostalgia and an intense desire to explore the city with all its horrors and potentialities.

“Diversifying Imaginations in the American South Through Asian Pacific American Theatre”

by Francis Tanglao-Aguas, MFA

William and Mary, United States.

The city of Williamsburg in Virginia prides itself in being the site of the first ever theatre to be constructed in North America in 1716. Founded in 1693 in Williamsburg, the College of William and Mary “boasts of the oldest and most reputable theatre programs in the United States.” This pride is rooted in the 1702 student production of a “pastoral colloquy in Latin for the Royal Governor” as well as “America’s first known college production of a play, Addison’s Cato.” This presentation explores how such a city and university adapts to diversity brought about by historic milestones such as the abolition of slavery in 1865, the passage of the civil rights act in 1965, and the election of the first African American president in 2004. The discourse will be through the prism of theatre itself, which has repeatedly been utilized to advance the narrative of excellence and distinction of this city and institution built by the enslaved.

 

City, Religiosity and Spirituality in the Eyes of Islam

by

1Azila Ahmad Sarkawi, 2Alias Abdullah and 3Norimah Md. Dali

1Assoc. Prof. Dr., Dept. Of Urban & Regional Planning, KAED, IIUM

2Prof. Dato’ Dr., Dept. Of Urban & Regional Planning, KAED, IIUM

3Doctoral candidate, Dept. Of Urban & Regional Planning, KAED, IIUM

Religiosity and spirituality are possible indicators that could measure the quality of life of city dwellers.  This is particularly made evident by the fact that city planners are known to include facilities, such as places of worship, in their development plans.  This paper aims to connect religiosity and spirituality with the formation of a city in the eyes of Islam.  For this matter, the interconnectedness between the Arabic terms din (or religion) and madinah (city) will be discussed.  Quranic verses and Prophetic reports pertaining to city planning will also be highlighted.  The planning of Madinah al-Munawwarah by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) will be used as an example of an Islamic city planning.  Overall, the paper presents the philosophy behind this Islamic city planning as exemplified by Madinah al-Munawwarah.  It will also showcase the fact that a city in Islam is a place where religion is manifested and practiced  together with its political, economic and social systems as it is a way of life.

Redefining Womanhood: A Study of Qaisra Shahraz’s novels

by

Dr. Munira T

Aligarh Muslim University,  INDIA

Qaisra Shahraz is a novelist of the new era. She is a multicultural personality and her familiarity with many nations and cultures is reflected in the characters that she has sketched in her novels. Shahraz was born in Pakistan and grew up in Manchester. Her formative years were spent in Pakistan and her short trips to her grandparents home left a lasting impression on her young mind. Watching the lives of people around her, she has made an earnest attempt to bring to light the customs, traditions and culture of a Muslim society steeped in superstitions and age old beliefs. The rural Pakistan presented by Shahraz is by no means a backward village. It has its share of joys and sorrows. The characters bring alive the society of the time and her insight into the life of these people project her understanding of Islam and of the Pakistani Muslim society. Shahraz is a master craftsman who has handled sensitive issues with subtlety  and care. Her characters are neither evil nor epitomes of goodness. In fact they are delicately balanced with a universal appeal. Her language is simple and interspersed with Urdu words which she does deliberately to’ linguistically contextualize’ the world that she is portraying. Shahraz has dealt with issues of modern society where the cultures are in a flux and the East is coming to terms with the onslaught of western ideas.  The women in her novels are projected as smart women who are capable of taking their own decisions. Even though they have shackles of patriarchy holding them down, they are able to find their space within this limited sphere.

This paper is an attempt to look at the female characters in the works of Qaisra Shahraz. The women in her three novels The Holy Woman, Typhoon and Revolt are strong and sensitive. They all have modern education and have made their mark in careers of their choice. But they live in a patriarchal society and are forced to follow certain traditions against their own will. Her characters do not revolt but adapt to their situations and emerge stronger as women. Thus Qaisra Shahraz is able to challenge cultural hegemony and redefine women’s identity through her characters.

The Idea of Karachi in Kamila Shamsie’s Novels

by

Prof. Shahla Ghauri

Department of English

Aligarh Muslim University

Diasporic writers feel nostalgic about their native place and this nostalgia gets permanently impressed in their subconscious mind. Implicitly or explicitly their country and their hometown get reflected in their writings. Kamila Shamsie is one such Pakistani writer who grew up in Karachi, a city that has such an overwhelming presence in the first four of her novels that it almost emerges as a character, in particular a round one. Though she has spent the major part of her life in the US and the UK, she has never severed herself from her roots. Despite being a Diasporic writer, she does not write about Pakistan with a distant eye but with a keen insider’s outlook. When studying abroad, she would come back to Karachi during winter and summer holidays. It was during these seven years that Shamsie did most of her writings. Even after settling in London, Karachi remains her base. She has the lingering longing of an expatriate without its complexity and the grim identity conflict. The city becomes as real and alive as any of Shamsie’s protagonists, who, in turn are equally imbued with her love of Karachi and the sea by which it sits. It is the bedrock on which she builds up the edifice of her narrative, a background against which she weaves her stories. Shamsie’s obvious admiration for Karachi inevitably seeps into the colourful prose of her novels which may relate to the way in which historical events mould her character’s lives and personal relationships.The paper is an attempt to trace the idea of Kamila Shamsie’s Karachi as depicted in her first four novels which gets transformed through her vision to become a city with an identity of its own and with innate powers to ascertain the identity of its people.

Rohinton Mistry’s Vision of A Pluralistic Society in His Selected Works

by

Dr. Rubina Iqbal

Associate Professor of English

AMU, Aligarh

“Bombay endures because it gives and receives. Within this warp and weft is woven the special texture of its social fabric, the spirit of tolerance, acceptance, generosity” (Family Matters)

The largest democracy of the world, India is a multicultural country with a long history of   religious  diversity.  The basic construction of India is inspired by the vision of “Sarvadharma  Sambhava” that is created in accordance with the heterogeneous nature of its populace. Rohinton Mistry’s works, like Family Matters and Such a Long Journey, undertake to explore characters in the background of India’s most well known cosmopolitan city of Bombay. This paper  aims to  focus his depictions of the  plural nature of coexistence in India as well as its challenges. It argues that Mistry’s writings dissect the constantly changing nature of this city and feature Bombay as a distinct character in his novels. His works, as this paper shows, celebrate the flux and changes affecting ordinary lives that are trapped in urban chaos as well as express a concern with more contemporary issues, such as Babri masjid demolition and the drive to expel  Biharis and Upites from Bombay.

Manila Chinatown as Cultural and Spiritual Cityscape in  Charlson Ong’s Blue Angel, White Shadow

by

Lily Rose Tope

University of the Philippines

Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown, is the immigrant Chinese’s sanctuary where he finds things that are familiar and comforting, an oasis in the midst of Filipino mainstream life. But in Charlson Ong’s detective novel, Binondo has become the strange other, ominous and deadly.  Ong’s contemporary Binondo is a place where identities have become intractable and Chineseness has become extremely liminal. The novel revolves around the mysterious death of a Filipino woman in Binondo. This paper examines the existential and cultural questions that her death generates.  It will explore resulting ethnic anxieties in the context of the complex hybridities that sprouted from a Binondo that has become more porous and therefore vulnerable to the unwanted socio-political osmosis from the external Filipino world. It is an undesirable frightening place where community disintegrates and humanity becomes a burden.

The Periphery in Selected Stories about Manila

by

Isabela Banzon

University of the Philippines

The city is traditionally associated with centrality, and periphery would suggest a center from which it derives its meaning, its identity. The periphery, or that where “low life” or the “street” proliferates, are spaces or zones usually set against the city normal. These spaces, whether actual or notional, are generally understood to be beyond “proper” city limits.

In Manila, the Philippine capital city, the peripheral appears to be inclusive more than exclusive of a center. This characteristic is geographically evident in the way slums exist beside “decent” city sites, how the impoverished live alongside the better off. In this paper, in selected stories about Manila, I will explore peripheral space as a core characteristic of the city, its construction and projection, its dynamics and tensions, not outside but within city limits.

Jaffa, The City Where The Scent Of Orange Prevails

by

Mohammad Makram Balawi

Many novels by Palestinian’s writers are usually written to contradict the Zionist’s propaganda that portrays Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land” by highlighting the sufferings of the Palestinian people under the Zionist occupation. This paper, however, suggests that the Palestinian novelist’s Anwar Hamed’s Jaffa Prepares Morning Coffee (2013) breaks away from this portrayal by depicting the lives of the inhabitants of Jaffa, the biggest city in historical Palestine, as varied and full of contradictions. The novel charts the transformation that the city underwent from a vibrant port into a backward and dirty neighbourhood in Tel Aviv. One thing, however, has remained unchanged and it is the orchards of oranges that engulf the city with the scent of orange blossom.

 

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