The ‘Global Malaysian Novel’: Asian Form or Global Commodity?

Mr Brandon Liew1

1University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

Using the ‘Global Malaysian Novel’ as a focal point, my paper demonstrates how emerging cultural artefacts in Southeast Asia are embedded in increasingly transnational networks of production and reception. This shift problematizes traditional postmodern and postcolonial modes of analysis that have not yet transcended the nation as a frame of reference. When ‘Global Malaysian Novels’ like Tan Twan Eng’s The Gift of Rain and Tash Aw’s Harmony Silk Factory are being written, marketed and sold outside Malaysian borders, to what extent do they retain their capacity to represent a local Asian identity? While a critique of their complicity in Global Literary Markets centered in the U.K. and U.S. is often reduced to an ad hominem attack, there remains much to be said about the effects of their increasingly transnational material productions upon their more formally understood aesthetic and literary qualities. As such, I explore the discursive effects of transnational productions in Southeast Asia, how literary scholars have approached contemporary Asian literatures and attempted to situate them within realms of the national, within postcolonial Southeast Asia and within wider World Literature frameworks. In particular, I chart not only the historical production of literary texts written in English in Southeast Asia since 1945, but the current discourse of English Literary studies in the region.


Brandon K. Liew is a doctoral candidate from the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He has a background in Literary Criticism and Creative Writing, with a focus on contemporary Southeast Asia. Brandon’s current research interests include Malaysian Literary Criticism and emerging cultural productions across the Asia-Pacific.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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