Reconceptualizing the Postcolonial Cold War in Southeast Asia: The Works of Pramoedya Ananta Toer and F. Sionil Jose

Mr Sandeep Singh1

1UNSW Canberra at ADFA, Campbell, Australia

A Southeast Asian studies dimension is warranted in examining the relation between literary production, political power, social change and a sense of displacement and exile in the second half of the twentieth century; situating the literary at the centre of the postcolonial Cold War offers new ways to conceptually render the period. This is warranted because writing through the postcolonial Cold War period traces developments in unique ways outside the ambit of the western hemisphere. I offer the argument that examining selected works of Southeast Asian writing form a compelling and important transnational, but at the same time regional, impetus to understand literary voices as ways of rereading the postcolonial Cold War in Asia. Examining the work of two novelists in Indonesia and the Philippines, Pramoedya Ananta Toer and F.Sionil Jose, attention can be drawn to some critical issues of narrating ‘against’ the thrust of the nation state in the latter half of the twentieth century. Examining the Buru Quartet and Rosales Saga respectively, these series of works by both authors attend to issues of nation and colony, the postcolonial experience, and the engagement of their authors with the Cold War context of the time.


Sandeep Singh is a PhD Candidate in English with an interdisciplinary focus at UNSW Canberra. His Honours and Masters degrees were in History at the National University of Singapore. His work is concerned with the postcolonial Cold War through works by authors in Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia. His prior research experience has been as an undergraduate and graduate researcher on the project Empire in Asia: A New Global History, where he has also published numerous reviews. Sandeep’s Masters research focused on thinking about the Cold War in Southeast Asia from the perspective of Australia’s role in the region through the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. He is also part of a current group of scholars investigating Cold War lives and literatures in the Asia Pacific, and is a member of the UNSW Canberra Conflict and Society Research Group. His experience teaching both at the Masters and PhD level in Singapore and Australia has garnered strong student feedback, and at NUS he won three awards as a graduate tutor. Sandeep is interested in the intersection of the literary with the experience of the Cold War in 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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