Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China

by Alison M. Groppe


*This book is in the Cambria World Sinophone Series
(General editor: Victor H. Mair)

China’s recent economic growth has fed a rapid increase in the study of modern Chinese language and literature globally. In this shifting global context, authors who work on the edges of the literary empire raise important questions about the homogeneity of language, identity, and culture that is produced by the modern Chinese literary canon. Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China examines a key segment of this literature and asks, “What does it mean to be of Chinese descent and Chinese-speaking outside of China?”

This book looks specifically at how diasporic Chinese subjects make sense of their Chinese and Malaysian identities in postcolonial Malaysia. By analyzing the literary texts of several of the most influential contemporary Malaysia-born, Chinese-language authors, the author shows how the texts’ complex explorations of sentimental attachments, cultural contexts, and sources of power form the basis for a contested, fractured, unstable, and yet enduring Chinese Malaysian identity. This book traces the development of this identity from negotiations with diverse cultural sources and often conflicting affiliations with the appointed centers of cultural productions in Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, and Kuala Lumpur.

The special value of the Sinophone Malaysian literary texts that form the focus of the book is that they place political and cultural affiliations of the Chinese-origin, Chinese-speaking Malaysians under a microscope, revealing intricacies and transformations that would otherwise remain invisible.

While there have been several excellent works that deal with individual Chinese authors from Malaysia, there is to date no broadly framed and comprehensive study of the body of Chinese diasporic literature emerging from this multiethnic, polylinguistic country. This neglect is surprising given the vibrant development of Chinese Malaysian literature.

Examining this literature as a historicized body leads to the better understanding of the common, and sometimes communal, aesthetic strategies in inventing a modern Chinese identity in a context where it is incessantly challenged and hybridized. This book brings together analyses of the works of key Sinophone Malaysia-born authors and places their writings in the important context of Malaysian history and politics.

This book will be of value to scholars and students of Chinese-language literature and culture. It will also appeal to scholars and students in the fields of Chinese and Southeast Asia studies as well as those interested in postcolonial, diaspora, migration, Asian American studies, and world literature.

Watch Dr. Victor Mair , general editor of the Cambria Sinophone World Series speak about the book (starting at 2:00 mark) on behalf of the author at the AAS 2014 annual conference!


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