ASEAN Literatures: Roads Yet to be Taken


Prof. Edwin Thumboo

National University of Singapore

Abstract – When we first discussed the Symposium those many years ago, Bruce Bennett agreed that a key component would be the study of ASEAN literatures in our universities. We knew the challenge of dealing with works in different national languages.  But we felt confident that these literatures could be studied profitably in translation. This has yet to develop. The challenges remain, but I believe it is time we push for suitable programmes. The paper will suggest some of the general principles relating to structure and content, and the opportunities for comparative studies that will also continue to take in the range of texts in Englishes.


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


Prof. Dennis Haskell

University of Western Australia

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


Dr. 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.


Literary Encounters with Penang, Malaysia


Prof. Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof

This paper looks, firsthand, at the manner in which the city of Georgetown, on the Malaysian island of Penang, and the island itself inspired, became the setting for, as well as an influence  upon Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof’s work as a writer.

Two of his plays Halfway Road, Penang and Small Business Loan deal with certain national issues, particularly inter-racial relations in the aftermath of the May 13 incident. Beyond that,  several of his poems as well as three of his most important short stories,  Lottery Ticket, Sujjan Singh and Meditations on a Charpoy, focusing on Tamil Muslims and Punjabis (Sikhs,  Muslims as well as Hindus), examine the impact of Penang’s  colourful  and vibrant setting  on  the shaping of his characters, themes and style.  Figures from these minority communities do not appear in the work of other Malaysian writers in English. This paper thus provides a unique insight into their lives.


Exploring the Liminal Spaces in Edwin Thumboo’s Poetic Map of Singapore through His Place Poems


Michelle Heng

As a global city, Singapore offers its citizens, permanent residents and visitors the best advantages of social amenities and commercial opportunities found in a comfortably cosmopolitan city-state. The flipside of its economic success, however, is a rising tide of concern over the Republic’s continuous urban renewal efforts that have seen many familiar landmarks making way for new developments. Juxtaposed against the stark realities of carving out spaces for residents and new immigrants is a growing anxiety over the lost, ‘in-between’ spaces in Singapore. This ongoing ‘battle’ for space island-wide has witnessed an outpouring of public sentiments and citizen-driven initiatives to conserve much-loved spaces and places.

In the past decade, citizens (and netizens) of Singapore have lobbied for the preservation of places with heritage value including the old National Library Building at Stamford Road, Bidadari Cemetery with written petitions for their conservation to major media newspapers and discussions held at public forums. Amidst a mounting disquiet to stem the wave of urban redevelopment feats, Edwin Thumboo’s place poems form a poetic map of fast-fading places in Singapore.

This paper explores the liminal spaces within Edwin Thumboo’s place poems which give an insight into the rapid transformation of this city-state and explore the “in-between” emotional capacities found in various familiar cityscapes such as the HDB (Housing Development Board) heartlands of Toa Payoh, Bukit Batok, Outram Park and other neighbourhood residential areas in Singapore as well as public monuments such as the transformation of the National Library, the state universities in Singapore and various burial grounds. The paper will analyse how Thumboo’s childhood and youth set against a greener and less ‘manicured’ Singapore has deeply influenced his poetry, and yet, the motifs in his poems recognise a need for manicuring especially in land-hungry Singapore.Amidst the poet’s yearning for his favourite youthful haunts at the abundantly verdant and wild Mandai and other places in poems such as “Yesterday”, “Ayer Biru” and “Leaf”, lies a tacit nod to the inevitability of urban renewal in poems like “Island”, “Bukit Panjang: Hill, Village, Town” and “National Library, 2007, nr Bugis”


City Writer: Rani Manicka on Home, Identity and Gender


Professor Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf

International Islamic University Malaysia

Rani Manicka grew up in Terengganu in the east coast of Malaysia. She graduated with a degree in Economics from one of the universities in Malaysia. She rose to fame when her first novel The Rice Mother won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Southeast Asia and South Pacific region in 2002. The book is translated into 22 languages. Manicka has three other novels to her name – Touching Earth (2005), The Japanese Lover (2009) and Black Jack (2013). Despite her international success, not much is researched and written on Manicka. This paper will examine Rani Manicka as a city writer and how she projects the concept of home, identity and gender in two of her earlier novels The Rice Mother (2003) and The Japanese Lover (2009)


Portrayal of Postcolonial Lahore in Selected Pakistani Postcolonial Fiction: Historical versus Modern perspective


Dr. Zia Ahmed

This paper studies and analyses the representation of city of Lahore in the selected Pakistani fiction under the lens of postcolonial theory. The city has been the periphery during colonialism and is the center during the postcolonial period in Pakistan. Pakistani writers like Sidhwa, Hamid, and Ali have been portraying it as a postcolonial Pakistani space with its historical as well as modern postcolonial culture under the forces of the globalization and neocolonialism. This study discovers the multifaceted changes that have occurred overtime and tries to equate it with the perceptions of the people of Pakistan. The postcolonial theory interprets the value of center and periphery in the development of the postcolonial discourse which influences the people living in and around it, as is suggested by Ashcroft. The study critically reads selected passages and uses them to explore the role of the representations of Lahore in these fiction. The most probable conclusion is that there are similarities as well as differences in the portrayal of Lahore with the passage of time.


Urban Resurgence through Writing


 Mustapha Kamal

‘Literature is another area to be thought of doing design with the aim to promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing​​world​​by​​creating​​cultural​​diversity.’

Developments in urban literature can be linked with the developments of the city. Literature gave imaginative reality to the city, urban changes in turn helped transform the literary text. Literature may examine the changes and constancies in the function, physical structure, and conceptualization of cities. By analyzing how the forms and functions of the city shaped literary trends, structure and ideas will be interconnected with each other. This methods of innovations might offer historians a strategy for exploring not just the themes and images of urban literature, but also what the particular narrative methods can tell us about the history of the city. The effects of ethnic, racial, and economic diversity on community within the city; the contrasts of individual opportunity and alienation; the difficulty of knowing or explaining a city; and the relationship between the city and the frontier, and between the metropolis and the hinterland. As the city grew and its social and economic functions became more complex, various stages of urban development thus generated new ways of conceptualizing​​the​​city.​​The​​city​​and​​the​​literary​​text​​have​​had​​inseparable​​histories.

Generally, city cultures derives from two different considerations. First, there is difference between observations of the cultural life of cities and this life in reality. Second, it is clear to most anyone who has spent some time in cities that city individuals do not really live in, or socially navigate, the entire city but, rather, live in much smaller parts of it. An organic community would simply had to live, and interact, face-to-face with strangers in order to get by. In fact, paradoxically, one had actually to depend upon strangers for day-to-day needs. Thus, city culture is not about doing things like they have always been done but, rather, about making things up,​​so​​to​​speak,​​as​​one​​goes.

In 2004, Creative Cities Network launched The UNESCO’s City of Literature program. The network was born out of UNESCO’s Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity initiative which was created in 2002. Each city is dedicated to pursuing excellence in literature on a local level, engaging citizens in a dynamic culture of words. Each cities will work together to build strong global partnerships which will encourage the literary exchanges, creating cross-cultural initiatives and developing local, national and international literary links. The cities in network promote their local creative​​scene​​and​​conform​​to​​UNESCO’s​​goal​​of​​fostering​​cultural​​diversity.

In order to be approved as a City of Literature, cities need to meet a number of criterias​​which ​​includes;

  • Quality,​​quantity​​and​​diversity​​of​​publishing​​in​​the​​city;
  • Quality and quantity of educational programmes focusing on domestic or foreign​​literature​​at​​primary,​​secondary​​and​​tertiary​​levels;
  • Literature,​​drama​​and/or​​poetry​​playing​​an​​important​​role​​in​​the​​city;
  • Hosting literary events and festivals which promote domestic and foreign literature;
  • Existence of libraries, bookstores and public or private cultural centres which preserve,​​promote​​and​​disseminate​​domestic​​and​​foreign​​literature;
  • Involvement by the publishing sector in translating literary works from diverse national​​languages​​and​​foreign​​literature;
  • Active involvement of traditional and new media in promoting literature and strengthening​​the​​market​​for​​literary​​


Seas, Rivers, Cities: Fantastic Psychogeographies of Malacca and Brisbane in the novels of Yangsze Choo and Angela Slatter


Dr. Anita Harris Satkunananthan

This paper proposes to examine the ways in which Gothic fantasy and Urban fantasy novels repurpose and reconfigure the architecture and geographies of cities through a psychogeographical perspective. Two cities in the Asia Pacific Region will be explored in this comparative analysis: Malacca and Brisbane through the works of Yangsze Choo (The Ghost Bride) and Angela Slatter (Vigil, Corpselight). In the work of both authors, the familiar is made strange and uncanny through alternate fantastic versions of both cities. Both Malacca and Brisbane are near-coastal cities, albeit inland enough that their identities are defined by rivers rather that the sea. However, both cities are steeped with hybrid cultures from different countries that overlap and inform each other. In Yangsze Choo’s Mythopoeic Award-nominated novel The Ghost Bride, the streets of Malacca have an analogue in the underworld, and the protagonist’s odyssey through it brings her through landmarks such as the Stadhuys. Similarly, in Slatter’s Vigil, the narrative roots through familiar Brisvegas landmarks and streets such as West End and Boundary Street, revealing a hidden supernatural hierarchy interspersing the day-to-day and the mundane. Rated as urban fantasy, Slatter’s Vigil has a supernatural protagonist embroiled in a war on the streets of Brisbane. In both Choo’s and Slatter’s novels hidden hierarchies and geographies are superimposed upon the day-to-day and the mundane. Through a Gothic and psychogeographical theoretical framework, this paper will unearth the ways in which the geography of both cities leave an impact upon the surreal and speculative visions of both authors, and what these visions reveal about human hopes, wants and desires as framed by buildings, streets, and the less tangible liminal structures between life and death.


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


Dr. Carlotta Ladyizumi Abrams

Estrella Mountain College

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.


City and People in Historiographical Malay Narratives: The Case of Sulalat Al-Salatin


Dr. Nasirin Abdillah

Sulalat al-Salatin, Yakni Pertuturan Segala Raja-Raja (Genealogies of the Sultans), is one of the most important magnum opuses in Traditional Malay Literature. To some extent, this particular historiography is the most important of all traditional Malay Grand Narratives according to some scholars (Raffles, Winstedt, Ahmat Adam and many others). Though the focus of the narration is on the rise and fall of the 15-16th century maritime Melaka Empire, Sulalat al-Salatin also chronicles a number of ancient and early Malay kingdoms such as Gangga Negara, Palembang, Majapahit, Bentan, Temasik, Inderagiri, Pasai, Acheh, Pahang and Aru, to name a few. This paper discusses the significance of several ancient/early cities highlighted in the traditional text, from Bukit Siguntang Mahameru through Temasik and Melaka, to Johor-Riau, the last bastion of the Malay strongholds before the emergence of the modern demarcation of the Malay geographical world in 1824. Sulalat al-Salatin provides a rich source of political order and social chaos of the Malay people seen through the developments of the cities and their people, from the ancient time up to the fall of Melaka in the hands of the Portuguese in 1511 that marks the first encounter with the Western colonial powers. The main material for analysis in this paper uses the Krusenstern version, Sulalat u’s-Salatin, the 2016 transcription of the classical historiography by Ahmat Adam. In analysing the city and people in the old Malay narrative, this research employs the concept, ‘Image–I–Nation’, a new theory of Mythology developed by Nasirin Abdillah (2016). It is also hoped that by using the latest version of the traditional text and the new theory, this paper may trace developments and offer new ideas in the study of Sulalat al-Salatin as it has attracted numerous researches since its first Jawi publication in the 18th century.


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


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


Prof. Amzed Hossein

Aliah University, Kolkata

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”


Prof. 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.


‘New Islamic Malaysia’: Redefining the City through an Emerging Urban Youth Culture


Assoc. Prof. Dr. Noritah Omar

Universiti Putra Malaysia

Since Mahathir’s declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic country in 2001, Malaysia has become known as an Islamic country worldwide, and has built a reputation in areas such as Islamic banking and finance, halal products, and hijab fashion for women.  As a result of government policies such as Islam Hadhari, Maqasid Syariah etc., mainstream popular culture has been infiltrated and inundated with overt Islamic identity, with more pop culture figures proudly reconciling and reclaiming their Islamic identity by promoting the idea that you can be both “Muslim” and still “cool”.  In the publishing world, Malay publishers too, have made use of this desire for Islamic products by focusing on Islamic pop fiction.  Interestingly, at the same time, another face of Malaysia is emerging in its youth culture, which sees Muslim youths embracing an underground movement which resists and rejects such government approved Islamisation projects via a more multicultural cosmopolitan identity.  This can be seen in the proliferation of book publishers and bookstores which publish alternative readings in the Malay language. These publishers, such as Matahari Books, I AM LEJEN, and Fixi Bookstore, began as underground publishers which produce books in the Malay language catering to audiences who want to read a more ‘adult’ type of books (‘adult’ meaning no holds barred in the kind of content or language used in them).   Such alternative formations of identity have also led to this new generation of Malay Muslim audience to find space in independent events such as Merdekakarya which allows for a more multicultural and cosmopolitan outlook and urban culture, thus disregarding the face of Islamic Malaysia as created and approved by the government.  This paper explores this emerging urban Islamic identity which is not only reshaping and redefining the city, but also resisting and challenging the mainstream Malay Muslim identity as framed by the government.


Meaningful Wandering of the Female Flâneur in Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf’s Selected Poems


Mohd Fadhli Shah Khaidzir,

Ruzy Suliza Hashim, Noraini Md. Yusof

University Kebangsaan Malaysia

A traveller is often moved by his or her curiosity to explore places, especially places that are unknown and unfamiliar to their sights. In her anthology of poems ‘The Art of Naming’ (2006), Faridah Abdul Manaf compiled her poems into a book that represented the people and places that played a significant role in constructing the poem. Using the role of a flâneur which is closely associated to the theory of Psychogeography, this article examines how Faridah, as a flâneuse (a female version of flâneur) wanders and strolls through the places visited and how these surroundings affect her mental and behavioural aspect as a human being. Through her narratives in the poems, they depict a clear understanding, participation and portrayal of images based on the immediate encounter of the urban cities visited which represents important pieces of evidence of what flâneur go through during their wanderings. Based on the analysis, the different places visited by the poet as a flâneur, has developed the values of humanity including understanding, generosity and love. Thus, Faridah’s works highlight the role of flâneur, despite what is believed to be a meaningless wandering, finds meaningful experiences based on their surroundings.


Class Struggle and Class Consciousness in Adiga’s The White Tiger


Hardev Kaur

Diren Ashok Khandhar

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008) is a fictional narration of the chief protagonist, Balram Halwai’s journey from absolute poverty as a village dweller to financial superiority  despite the exploitation of class, caste-ism and absence of morality that he went through during the post-colonial period of India. His keen interest in educating himself merely by eavesdropping to conversations of the rich and elite added with the oppression and inequality faced, led him to be conscious of his class and take revenge on the bourgeoisie. This research paper aspires to validate the authenticity and relevance of the Marxist ideas exposing various divisions and crevices within Indian societal structure. The huge rich-poor divide which creates the bourgeoisie-proletariat fraction in most Indian cities indeed is the main reason why there is an active class struggle amongst the underclass. The main focus of this study is to elucidate how Karl Marx and Frederick Engels’s concepts of class struggle and Georg Lukacs’ class consciousness are pertinent in the lives of the proletariats in order for them to create a classless society so that equality and freedom can be enjoyed by all. A close reading on Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger in the light of Marxist theory will provide insights on the challenges of class struggle and also how a classless society can be achieved only when one is more conscious about his or her class and seeks upward mobility. The findings of this research will hopefully enrich the scholarship on the selected text as well as contribute to further readings related to the selected conceptual framework of class struggle and class consciousness.


Staging in the City: Freedom of Artistic Expression in Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof’s Halfway Road, Penang (1982) and Chin San Sooi’s Refugee: Images (1980)


Yau Sim Mei (Universiti Malaya)[1]

Faatimah Salmyyah Raheem (Universiti Malaya)[2]

Freedom of expression worldwide has been on the decline, regulated by strategies such as censorship, legislations, punitive measures and coercion from pressure groups. Often the areas in which freedom of expression are curtailed have to do with political, racial, religious, economic, and cultural interests. Freedom of expression in Malaysia, particularly the artistic expression is also heavily regulated through censorship exercises such as censorship laws, licensing procedures, and more significantly as a consequence of the above, self-censorship.

This study looks into the challenges of censorship in the staging of English language plays in Kuala Lumpur and Georgetown, and how cognitive biases influence decision making and the extent to which content is censored and / or self-censored. The plays selected for this study are Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof’s Halfway Road, Penang (1982) and Chin San Sooi’s Refugee: Images (1980) which address themes concerning issues such as race, religion and politics. Halfway Road, Penang was refused a public performance permit in 1971 because the play was deemed to be too “sensitive”. The performance of Phoenix 61’s production of Refugee: Images in 1980 was staged to a private audience after being denied a public performance license by the authorities. This paper also enquires into the controversies that the plays are said to have invoked, and examine if the censorship arguments are still valid today 35 years later.


City, Religiosity and Spirituality in the Eyes of Islam


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.


Transience in the City: Mookie Katigbak’s The Proxy Eros


Kestle Khea Medrano Belderol, Philippines

Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta is a Filipino poet who received her MFA from the New School University in New York City. Her first poetry collection, The Proxy Eros – which won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial award for poetry in English – deals with human relationships in an ever-changing urban landscape. This paper examines, through city-centered imagery, selected poems from the collection which explore the theme of transience; it specifically examines a transcience rooted in the socioeconomic situation of the persona and the space in which the persona operates. The persona moves “from one exhaustion to another” (34) because economic stability cannot be found in Manila, a manifestation of the phenomenon of labor migration in the age of globalization.Moreover, home in the collection is connected to nostalgia: it is always linked to a past unmediated by the experience of modernity and globalisation.The paper also argues that the collection portrays the reality of Filipinos, such as vendors with makeshift stalls selling “Candied nuts by the glare of gas lights/ And the derelict hit-or-miss of prayers,”(4) as an image that shows transience as an unavoidable facet of existence in the third-world. This is symptomatic of the unstable national economy, which conditions the individuals’ mode of existence as confined and directed to material means of survival. The paper concludes that the city in The Proxy Eros is a space of survival – a space whose dictum for subsistence is the capacity to adjust to this constant flux of life. In This city, the means to locate oneself always eludes the individual; transience is permanence.


The Evolution of Sub- Cultures Among Malaysian Youths


Sheena Vajaindran

International University of Malaya-Wales 

This research investigates the role of media on the sub-cultures in Malaysia and the effects of this culture in youths especially university in Kuala Lumpur. Subculture is defined as an attribute, which the youth possess as a result of joining a specific deviant group or engaging in a trend through media influence. In today’s world sub-culture plays a big role in developing categories or clusters of culture groups that forms individual characteristics. The researcher looked into how students and teenagers interact with various media channels and how this media has influenced them through the content such as visual communication – communicating through text, graphic, literary text, music and motion pictures. An observation and semi – structured interview were conducted to investigate the sub – culture among students from higher learning institutions. The observation reveals the relationship between youth, music, style and identity. Musical tastes and stylistic preferences of youth, rather than being tied to issue of social class, as subcultures maintains, are in fact examples of the late modern lifestyles in which notions of identity are constructed rather than given.


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


Dr. 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


Dr. 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.


Multicultural Literary Spaces and Places in Australian Cities: Contemporary Ukrainian Writing


Dr. Sonia Mycak

This year, Ukrainian-Australians are celebrating 70 years of Ukrainian settlement in Australia. From 1947, when the first of 21,000 Ukrainians arrived on Australia’s shores as post-war refugees, Australian-Ukrainian cultural production has been a structured activity enacted within urban communities interconnected by social institutions and infrastructure.

Australian-Ukrainian literary production, too, has been a highly networked activity, involving writers’ associations and readers’ clubs, recitals and festivals, competitions, and the production of periodicals and books. The network of literary institutions and agents of material and symbolic production, distribution and reception has largely been city-based, as Ukrainian immigrants settled in major cities and regional centres around Australia.

I propose to explore the Ukrainian-Australian literary field insofar as it created multilingual and multicultural literary spaces and places in Australian cities. I will look at Ukrainian-Australian writing from its inception in the late 1940s, to the most recent forms of literary activity, some of which are now web-based.


Cities and Others: The Journey of Elias Al-Musili to Europe and Spanish America.


Dr. Mahmoud Abdel-Hamid

Taibah University               

Although Elias Al-Mûsili is not a European, he is a Christian whose reference is always to papal Catholicism and who is always a guest on the Christian Churches. He identifies with the Spanish conquest of America as an act of providence that God opened a new vista for Catholicism to teach the protestants

In this paper I shall argue that the contact zone as a notion presupposes a fluid state where people interact. In early modern times cities in western countries and colonies came to reflect a sense of strict identity that sought purity and that consequently defined how it saw others. Spaces were either consecrated and Christian and therefore protected or inhabited by native Indians and consequently dangerous and fearful. The holy space is created “ on a spot marked out as a holy by a vision, a miracle or a martyr’s death. The miracle being commemorated could be a miracle of conquest and conversion” (Religious Refugees, 271). The others in Spanish America which Elias al-Mûsili visited in a long journey were the Indians. The religious identity of the other was very important for Muslili who called native Indians ‘infidels’. He was most of the time a guest at the houses of inquisitors,  governors and churches. He apparently identified with the Spanish. Infidels is used by Muslili not only to emphasize his religious difference.

How far does he identify with Spanish versus others “the Infidel Indians” is clear from the statement that comes at the beginning of his travelogue. He sees the” colonization of the Americas as a vindication of universal Catholicism under the Pope. Al-Mûsili states, “When the aforementioned groups [protestants breaking with the papacy] separated from the fold of the holy church, the Lord Jesus decided to admit other people in their stead, who were of different races and customs, speaking in foreign languages and tongues living in valleys and mountains following the wild ways with no difference between them and beasts. Tortured and misled by Satan, ignorant of the true God, dome of them worshipped stones, others worshipped ….. (Brackets mine, Tr. Matar p. 50)


Spiritual Anxiety and the City in K.S Maniam’s Between Lives


Dr. Mohammad Ewan Awang

The city is fraught with paradoxes. On the one hand, cities are imagined as sites of possibilities, where mobility is the key feature, identity can be reconfigured, and subjectivity is embraced. On the other hand, cities are often perceived as sites of homelessness, causing cultural entropy and homogenizing city dwellers into materialistic, superficial and alienated people. These contradictions are discussed by K.S Maniam in almost all of his works, particularly in his novel Between Lives (2001). This paper examines Maniam’s literary vision of the city as a metaphor of spiritual anxiety. Maniam seems to imply that the city is unconducive to foster spiritual growth. The city with its systematic design compartmentalizes the zones for living, working, and leisure which consequently fragments the rituals of daily life. Between Lives illustrates the debilitative effects of such divisions to its modern characters in finding a more seamless experience of the sacred. As a result, they face a continuous sense of anxiety and displacement despite their material and physical progress in the city. Through this novel, Maniam, like many other Malaysian authors, suggests that the city is still predominantly a secular space, encumbering the discovery and the flourishing of spiritual self.


Home and Place in Selected Indonesian Diaspora Literature


Retno Wulandari

The terms ‘home’ and ‘place’ signify more than a dwelling-place and a specific area or region of the world respectively as both contain social and cultural meanings . Both function as spaces where selves as well as identities are constructed and social interaction takes place. This paper aims to discuss the metaphor of home and the idea of place in the works of Indonesian writers, specifically Iwan Setyawan’s 9 Summers 10 Autumns and Ibuk, (Mother,), and Ade Irma Elvira’s Merangkul Beruang Merah (Hugging the Red Bear). Approaching the works through the postcolonial theory, this paper shows that for the Indonesian diasporic people, home metaphorically corresponds with ideas on memory, identity, domesticity, and food. Some places that become focal points in the novels also bring to mind Agnew’s “sense of place” and Hoelscher’s notion of social construction. Since the concepts of both home and place are never static, this paper argues that there are always dialectical processes at work in the construction of their meanings in the aforementioned novels.


Viewing and Reviewing Kuala Lumpur from Romantic to Postmodern Lenses:  An Analysis of 5 poems on Kuala Lumpur


Dr. Aimillia Mohd Ramli

 While cities around the world are being “read” in literary studies as cosmopolitan and contested terrains, Kuala Lumpur seems to have escaped a similar fate. There are a good many reasons for this but the one that has stood out time and again is that this city, the capital city of Malaysia, has been persistently represented in Malaysian literature through a narrow Romantic lens that tend to negatively depict modern metropolitan life in favour of the benign influence of the countryside. Yet, in the last ten years and in a number of creative writings on Kuala Lumpur, this trend has started to change as there is a growing acceptance of the city as a postmodern hub of social and cultural diversities. This paper is a study of this transformation in 5 selected poems that were published from 1960s up to 2017.


Terror in the City: The Disruption of Social Harmony Caused by Suicide Bombings in Asia-Pacific Regions


Amalia Qistina Abdullah


Rosli Bin Talif

Cities are now becoming hubs for terrorist attacks.  Bombings and explosions, directed against innocent civilians, are the primary instruments of global terror, resulting in death, injury, fear, chaos and trauma.The steady rise of terrorism, in particular suicide bombings, in the Asia-Pacific region is alarming. Suicide bombings are unnerving due to their unpredictable nature since they are clearly intended to kill or injure anyone within the range of the explosions, the victims being mostly unsuspecting civilians. Suicide bombers prefer targeting cities with massive numbers of tourists. This paper aims to investigate the chaos caused by the victimizers and the trauma experienced by the victims in the Asia-Pacific city of Mindanao and Istanbul.


Making a Nation: City, Self, and Nation in Adibah Amin’s Novels


Dr. Siti Nuraishah Ahmad

In the 1950s, cities such as Singapore, Johor Bahru, and Kuala Lumpur were sites of intellectual and political ferment as Malaya moved towards independence from British rule. Along with the struggle for independence, notions of identity, nation and belonging were also being played out in the cities, as the various ethnic communities remained divided. The Malaysian writer Adibah Amin (1936 – ) explores these issues in two of her novels, Tempat Jatuh Lagi Dikenang (1983) and This End of the Rainbow (2006), from the point-of-view of a young, Malay, female student studying in Singapore in the early ‘50s. This paper thus examines the city in Adibah’s novels as a site where competing visions of a future post-colonial nation are laid out and debated, and how the conflicts in the novels reveal the role of discourse on ‘race’ and identity in imagining the nation.    Of particular interest is Adibah’s depiction of the university as a physical and intellectual space where young Malayans challenge colonialism and imagine a future nation whose members enjoy equal rights.


The Faith and the City: Reliving Muslim Women’s Identity in Cosmopolitan London in Aboulela’s Minaret (2005) and Yassin-Kassab’s The Road from Damascus (2009)


Dr. Suraya Sulaiman

It may sound paradoxical to discuss religious faith in a secular society where religious practices are considered private matters that should be kept from the public sphere. This paper argues that in the two novels studied in this paper, Aboulela’s Minaret (2005) and Yassin-Kassab’s The Road from Damascus (2009), religious faith becomes a tool for the female characters to negotiate their place in society and reformulate their otherwise fragmented identities. As members of the first generation of diasporic Muslims living in London, Najwa, the protagonist in Aboulela’s Minaret, and Muntaha, the leading female character in Yassin-Kassab’s The Road from Damascus, encounter experiences of cultural dislocation and identity conflicts. Their return to Islam, however, strengthens them both spiritually and mentally and allows them to redirect their lives. This paper, thus, aims to explore the ways in which the female characters in the two novels employ their religious faith to “heal” their lives and how they negotiate their place in the cosmopolitan city of London without having to sacrifice their religious identity.


Being and Belonging in Heterotopian City-Spaces:

Beth Yahp’s Search for Home in Eat First, Talk Later


Dr Sanghamitra Dalal

University Technology MARA (UiTM)

In my article I will read Beth Yahp’s richly layered travel-memoir Eat First, Talk Later: A Memoir of Food, Family and Home (2015) in order to examine whether being and belonging within a particular geographical location in an era of increasing global migration can appropriately be perceived in the idea of heterotopian spaces of otherness.

Beth Yahp was born in Malaysia of Chinese-Thai-Eurasian origin in 1964. She grew up in Petaling Jaya, migrated to Australia in 1984, lived in Paris for five years, spent a brief period of time in London and Manila, and is currently based in Sydney. As she persuades her aging parents to undertake a road trip around their former home in Malaysia in order to retrace their honeymoon period enjoyed forty-five years ago, Yahp’s simple travel-memoir meanders through a complex maze of thoughts — of families and food; nations and cities; belonging and identities. Amidst the sights and sounds of Kuala Lumpur, flavours and smells of delicious local dishes, sound and rhythm of the Malay language, Yahp journeys not only through Malaysia’s tangled colonial and postcolonial history and its complicated multi-racial and multi-cultural diplomacies, but also through the obscure stories of her parents’ lives and her own problematic memories of being and belonging in different towns and cities; in different histories and cultures.

Consequently, through my reading of Yahp’s memoir, which successfully juxtaposes several spaces within a single place by highlighting the significant simultaneity of sameness and difference, I will attempt to argue that the motif of being and belonging in particular cities can better be identified in terms of ever-shifting and alternative spatial formations.



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