Editorial introduction: “Malaya” reconstructed in contemporary discourse
NGOI Guat Peng (Translated by SHOW Ying Xin)
In August 2014, Inter-Asia School’s “Modern Asian Thought” project (Singapore and Malaysia office) held an international conference in Kuala Lumpur, titled “Revisiting Malaya: Political and Historical Thoughts.” The presenters were mainly scholars from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, while the discussants and roundtable panelists were mainly intellectuals from Taiwan, Japan, Okinawa and Hong Kong. Such a constellation interestingly positions a Southeast Asia-based discussion core on the one hand, and turns the East Asian intellectual experience and praxis into cross-reference, on the other. By enabling these dialogues and exchanges, it is hopeful that the historical perception on the “Malayan consciousness” can be retrieved, and the correlative problematiques of Malaya and Southeast Asia, as well as of Asia, can then be further examined.
As the convener of this conference, I had to think: Why “Malaya”? What does it mean to “revisit”? The first question entails two implications. One points to the question of why “Malaya” but not “Malaysia”? The other makes inquiries about the concept of “Malaya.” For the former, we can understand that revisiting “Malaya” is historically different from revisiting “Malaya” and “Malaysia.” “Malaya” is a historical space in which the ideologies of anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-Japanese invasion and independent-pursuit coexisted. During that time, different political and cultural thoughts, as well as the imagination of nation-building, began to surface in Malay Archipelago and brought forward the contestation of the boundaries of “community.” For instance, the proposals of Nusantara (Archipelago), Alam Melayu (Malay World), Melayu Raya (Greater Malay), Indonesia Raya (Greater Indonesia), Maphilindo (The Greater Malayan Confederation--Malaya, the Philippines, and Indonesia) and so on, had indicated the clashes of ideologies. And yet for “Malaysia,” a concept of political merger, was more likely appeared as a post-independent cogitated trade-off for manifold power and resources. By taking the influence of Cold War into consideration, some scholars even see the establishment of “Malaysia” as a result of anti-communism. Accordingly, to lay our focus on “Malaya” is to, hopefully, sort out the clashes of the trends of thoughts and their competitive relationship before and after the independence, and also to unfold the mapping of people’s ideas towards the imaginative “future state.” By means of this revisiting process that spans over a lengthy period of time, we could understand the historical problems in Singapore and Malay(si)a configured by the independent struggles, and how the Malaya problems impacted the subsequent issues of the merger of Malaysia.
Ngoi Guat Peng [魏月萍] is Assistant Professor at the Division of Chinese, School of Humanities of Social Sciences of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She received her PhD degree from the School of Arts and Social Sciences at National University of Singapore. She is currently a researcher of the Inter-Asia School, and her research interest includes Chinese Intellectual History, Neo-Confucianism, and Religion Syncretism. She is also concerned about the knowledge production in Malaysian history, the literature and culture. Her recent publications are “I am not at Home: The Possibility of Building a Sinophone Malaysian Literary Citizenship,” “Youth, Revolution and History: He Jin’s Novel and Singapore Leftist Chinese Literary” and “Ethnic Politics and Religious Violence: The Dilemma of Religious Multiculturalism Discourse Practice in Malaysia.”
Show Ying Xin [蘇穎欣] is PhD Candidate at the School of Humanities of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She received her BA in Foreign Languages and Literature from National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan. Her areas of interest include Modern Chinese and Sinophone literature, Anglophone literature, cultural criticisms, Asian thoughts and Southeast Asian studies.