Critical Perspectives on Movement, Migration, and Mobilities in Southeast Asian Literatures



Part 1

Session 9
Thu 09:00-10:30 REC A2.08

Part 2

Session 10
Thu 11:00-12:30 REC A2.08



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This proposed laboratory considers the significance of movement, migration, and various mobilities as articulated in Southeast Asian literatures and related media forms such as film. Literary and cultural scholars from SEA and elsewhere are invited to explore how writers use forms of travel and circulation like migration, tourism, pilgrimages, labor flows etc. to inform and articulate particular subjectivities and group identities. Histories of movement and unequal mobilities are usually central to territorialized and deterritorialized forms of identity, and to the related notions of indigeneity, nationalism and minority cultures. Participants may examine literary and creative engagements with involuntary modes of travel or displacement such as exile, refugee crises, or the historical formation of diasporas that result from colonialism, war, political persecution or natural disasters.

Attempts to theorize non-landbased histories and narratives that problematize the nation-state, re-directing critical attention to the sea as the space and medium for connecting diverse peoples, cultures, languages, religions are welcome. Besides the movement of people, representations of the circulation of objects (e.g books, commodities) as well as flora and fauna could offer alternative perspectives that add to a more nuanced understanding of the multiple movements which help define the SEA region as an area of contact zones and ecological exchange. Participants are also invited to re-think metaphors of mobility and the symbolic significance of movement in literature in relation to possible conceptual frames like inter-Asia, Nanyang, the Malay World, postcolonialism, decoloniality, transnationalism, transculturalism, ecocriticism, feminism, diaspora, and cosmopolitanism, to name a few.

Some possible questions for the laboratory:
• How do various forms of travel, flow, and movement as depicted in SEA literatures contribute to a sense of nationalism, transnationalism or regionalism?
• What gets translated and/or transformed in the process of movement?
• What sorts of narrative and poetic strategies do SEA writers use to express flow, stasis, connectivity, fluidity, (im)mobility?
• What affective modalities are explored by SEA writers when human characters and/ or objects and commodities move across borders and spaces? What, conversely, are the sorts of immobilities which define such movement?
• What is the relationship between movement and cultural identities in Southeast Asia? How does travel and movement affect the axes of identity like gender, race, class, and sexuality?