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”


Understanding Structural Violence against Women through Anglophone Pakistani Women’s Fiction


Assoc Prof. Munazza Yaqoob

My paper argues that the Anglophone literary fiction by contemporary Pakistani women has active engagement with feminism as a social justice movement, which aims to eliminate social-structural differences in the society whereby women have been relegated to secondary position. Their fiction participates in the ‘politics of difference’ and goes on to highlight the differences in social roles of men and women, and discusses socio-economic conditions through which these roles are assigned. By drawing the focus of their readers on social-structural differences in their society, which hinders the power balance between two genders, they raise questions pertaining to state policies and social norms and traditions that have instigated structural violence against women in Pakistan and blocked the cultivation of interdependence across both sexes for a happy and more equitable society. By employing feminist theories focused on structural violence against women and social justice theory, which propagate ‘the politics of difference’, I analyse the selected works of Uzma Aslam Khan, Kamila Shamsie, Qaisera Shahraz and Moni Mohsin, and discuss how such works take notice of the social-structural processes positioning men and women differently in Pakistani society and relegating women to subordinated position, thus making them victims of violence.


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.


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.


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


Prof. Sami Rafiq

Aligarh Muslim University

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”


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.


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.


Responding to Popular TV Fiction: Audience Narratives, Cultural Identities and Unconscious Malay Psyche


Dr. Mohd Muzhafar Idrus, Universiti Sains Islam Antarabangsa

Prof. Dr. Datin Ruzy Suliza Hashim, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Assoc. Prof. Raihanah M.Mydin, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Malaysian popular cultural products, which includes but are not limited to film, music, comic, books, magazines, websites, and fashion have been thriving, popular, and critically acclaimed. These cultural symbols, with their staggering reception, have led to questioning of issues with which readers, viewers, listeners, or even viewers could relate. But many of these issues are sourced from hegemonic, elite voices. This presentation discusses how audience responds to some popular Malay television (TV) fiction; in many ways resisting these critics and offering some of the many counter-narratives that provide ‘windows’ into what it means to participate in social and cultural spheres. Drawing from cultural hybridity, these responses, gathered through personal narratives and interviews, are culminated into what we will call unconscious Malay psyche. By exploring some audience responses, insights into resistance, as well as changing and challenging narratives of Malay socio-cultural contexts are exposed.


Redefining Womanhood: A Study of Qaisra Shahraz’s novels


Dr. Munira T

Aligarh Muslim University

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.


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.


Jaffa, The City Where The Scent Of Orange Prevails


Dr. 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.


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.



The Shifting Trajectory of Nationalism in Edwin Thumboo’s Poetry


Nilanjana Sengupta


This paper will look at how far anti-colonialism and the consequent sense of nationalism shaped Edwin Thumboo’s poetry. It will begin with the premise that while a substantial number of his poems took on the flavor of anti-colonial ferment which was so much a part of the poet’s formative years, it is also true that it was colonial Singapore that shaped his unique poetic psyche, providing him with a whole panoply of shared, multicultural experiences which sustained him and provided him with fodder for his poetry.

Also, within the poet’s expanding sense of nationalism, the paper will explore the turning points of the trajectory as Singapore moved from learning the Queen’s English, to a sense of Asian nationalism during Japanese Occupation, subsequently to Malayan nationalism during the brief years of merger and finally veered towards taking real ownership of its Malay national anthem and an understanding of its inherent multi-ethnicity. Thus, in his first published poem Kelong (1949), there is a distinct Malay imagery at work as the poet watches the waves from the offshore wooden pier. But this changes by the time he writes Ulysses by the Merlion in the 1970s with the merlion as a unique, unifying symbol, blending myth and history, Anglo-Saxon and Asian images, the multiplicity of races in Singapore and their underpinning subcultures, the sense of hard-earned power which is synonymous with the pain of sacrifice that comes with economic success. In the same volume is the poem, May 1954, firmly rooted in a sense of history, referring to its bitter, curving tide, as an Asian awakening moves towards more acerbic anti-British sentiments. Or Vacating Bukit Timah Campus (of the more recent A Third Map) which speaks of the synchronic existence of a colonial hinterland and the reconstruction of local history in literary criticism, The heart unlocked brown seasons, hatched conversions, a sense of scrutiny. It is this fine distinction of the various strands that eventually led to the Othello and Lear, the beef noodles and Tiger beerwhich make up the multiple layers of urban living that is Singapore today (National Library, 2007, Bugis).


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.


The Concept of Religion as a Substantial Theme in American City Literature


Rogti Maroua Mab

Religion as a motif has played a fundamental role in the evolution of American literature. Indeed, it touches all portions of life to the extent that it may be hard to refer to any pursuit in the human life without having to invoke God, religion, faith and spirituality. This significance of religion in early American literature is indeed another crucial role played by religion as the puritan writers had granted a discrete target of looking at religion as the essence of every interest. Colonial literature has been characterized by puritan verses which encapsulate the puritanical habit of introspection with its principle of self-examination. This predominantly gave way to the concept of “The American dream” which grew out partially of religious belief in hard work which gave rise to American Romanticism. Indeed, Christian morality and beliefs remained prevalent in Romantic and yet Modern writing in which a contiguity of religion with nature, Christian beliefs, and the Calvinist idea of predestination played a vital role. Finally, the result that can be drawn from this paper is that the basis of the early American writers is to make the whole religion part of literature by pervading the spiritual aspect of religion with the literal elements; this made writers use the bible as a source of reference to illustrate the content in their work through puritan books and yet considering their works as a way of making the puritan ethics known between different generations.


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.



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