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Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China By Alison M. Groppe ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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Sinophone Malaysian Literature:

creative expression, Sinophone Malaysian writers have created a vibrant and sophisticated Chinese-language literature that provides important insights into the complexity of cultural identification for a minority population of Chinese descent in Southeast Asia. Indeed, it is precisely in the process of confronting their predicament of position that they most effectively avail themselves of the “not infertile territory” that they occupy. In Rushdie’s original essay it is clear that the rhetorical strategy of a double negative implicitly accentuates the cultural and aesthetic advantages of writing from the position of “in-betweenness” that he and writers like him inhabit. In this spirit I avail myself of Rushdie’s phrasing so as to more vividly propose that it is the complexity of its authors’ relation to Malaysia, China, and Taiwan that makes Sinophone Malaysian literature so fruitful, the territory of Sinophone Malaysians so fertile.

I would not have been able to write this book if I did not see the positive dimensions of the cultural and historical positioning of Malaysia-born, Chinese-language authors of Chinese descent as ultimately outweighing the negative ones, but the latter should be acknowledged at the outset. Most important, Chinese-language literature produced by Malaysia-born authors is doubly marginalized. Within Malaysia, because it is not written in the national language of Malay, it is currently denigrated as second-class “sectional literature.” This makes it, as has been observed, a “nationless” literature and puts it at a distinct disadvantage in an era in which literatures are conventionally categorized and assessed in national terms (Ng Kim Chew 2010; Tee 2010, 88–90). As a literature written in Chinese outside of China, the work of Malaysia-born authors inevitably occupies a peripheral position in relation to the more dominant Chinese literature produced in mainland China. Terminology and concepts for literature written in Chinese but produced in contexts outside China, such as “overseas Chinese literature” (haiwai huawen wenxue 海外華文文學) and “world/global Chinese literature” (shijie huawen wenxue 世界華文文學), end up enforcing the dominance of mainland Chinese literature (Tee 2010, 77–78). Ng Kim Chew, a Sinophone Malaysian author and scholar whose work occupies a prominent place in this study, has