Creolizing Sinophone Connections in Southeast Asia: Literatures and Histories (Sino-creole Translations in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore​)

Title: 1229 | Creolizing Sinophone Connections in Southeast Asia: Literatures and Histories (Sino-creole Translations in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore​)
Area: Southeast Asia
Stream: Translation
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Nicholas Y. H. Wong, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (organizer, chair, presenter)
Anna Belogurova, Free University of Berlin, Germany (discussant)
Ravando Lie, University of Melbourne, Australia (presenter)
Jason Sze-Chieh Ng, Independent Scholar, Malaysia (presenter)
Chanon (Kenji) Praepipatmongkol, University of Michigan, United States (presenter)
Wasana Wongsurawat, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand (discussant)


This panel brings together historians and literary scholars who work on Chinese relations and contributions in what became Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore across the long twentieth century. Our aim is to get history and literature scholars to talk more precisely about keywords used in their study of minority diasporic Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, e.g., creolization, connections, and circulations. In doing so, we aim to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue on comparable terms of analysis and use of texts, sources, and media.

In this panel, we challenge certain aspects of linguistic belonging in comparative studies of culture. Complicating the meaning of "Sinophone" literatures, Sino-creole literatures and writers were at the forefront of inventing modern national literatures in several SE Asian countries. Sino-Thais, Sino-Javanese, and Sino-Filipinos were often the first authors to write in the national vernacular for their "nationalist" readers. Yet, some of these "assimilated" writers self-identified as ethnic Chinese.

Whether diaspora has an end date--a question posed in Sinophone studies--can be observed in the ebb and flow of "diaspora moments." We ask further: do Sino-creole literatures have end dates: are they written for specific audiences and have non-portable linguistic characteristics? If "low" hybrid Sino-creole literatures exist prior to the rise of "high" standardizing "national" literatures, can we discuss later writings with creole aspirations within this genealogy? What separates local and transnational processes of creolization and bilingualism? Our essays address these questions via histories of literary translation, journalism, and calligraphic art in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Panel Abstracts:
Creolizing Desire in Sino-Malay Translations: Their Colonial, Diasporic, National, and International Contexts
Recently, Chong Fah Hing coined the term fanyi Mahua ("translational Chinese-Malaysian") to refer to Chinese translations of Malay literature. To promote local Sino-Malay poetic exchanges, which he dates back to the 1920s of colonial Malaya, Chong published his own translations of modern Malay poems(1950s--) in a bilingual Malay-Mandarin volume, Moon over Bukit Siguntang: A Collection of New Malay Poetry (2016). A year later, Chong co-edited a bilingual Malay-Mandarin collection for a different genre, Night Walk: A Collection of Short Stories from Taiwan and Malaysia (2017). Bypassing English, Chong's works target the two main language groups in Malaysia, and acknowledge Malay influences on sinophone Malaysian literatures. Yet, the target audience of the latter book, co-published by the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, is transnational and multiple, and recalls the later histories of writing as a result of student and labor migration from Southeast Asia to Taiwan. Translation is usually studied as a solution-oriented, one-way, local(izing) practice, e.g., to introduce a text and its ideas in a language that lacks them, or to raise the status of an "ethnic" (sinophone) literature within colonial and national contexts. My essay compares Sino-Malay translation projects--pursued bylexicographers, poets, artists, historians, and activists--in postwar Malaysia to similar Malay-Mandarin state and grassroots initiatives in China, Taiwan, and Indonesia around the same time. In examining the sometimes competing visions of world literature and national literature put forth by these countries via translation, I consider how creolization and bilingualism are understood and reconfigured in local and international contexts.

Re-sinicizing Tales: Sin Po's cultural Vision for the Creolized Chinese of Indonesia
When Sin Po was established in Batavia on October 1, 1910, the two creators, Lauw Giok Lan and Yoe Sin Gie, publicized the newspaper's aim as presenting something worthwhile reading to Malay speaking readers in the Dutch East Indies. They felt that Chinese peranakan media failed to represent Chinese peranakan’s aspirations, particularly in asserting a peranakan voice in Batavia. They criticized how Chinese society in the Indies began to lose their roots as ‘Chinese.’ This paper examines Sin Po's cultural pedagogy and role in facilitating creole Chinese nationalism in Indonesia. How did Sin Po, the most influential peranakan newspaper in the Indies, cultivate and nurture the spirit of Chinese nationalism among the Chinese society in the country? From the first edition, Chinese folklores (such as Sam Kok, Hua Mu Lan) became essential and inseparable components of the paper. Moreover, through its printing press, Sin Po also published various books and novels about Chinese culture and history written in Malay.On February 12, 1921, Sin Po published Sin Po Chineesche Editie (Sin Po Chinese Edition), and it became the first newspaper in Batavia to use Mandarin characters. Its primary purpose was to inform Chinese totok about latest developments in the Dutch East Indies, as well as what was happening inChina. Sin Po was banned in October 1965 after indiscriminately branded as pro-communist. Directors, editors, and journalists were interrogated, arrested, and detained on Buru Island, marking the end of Sin Po and other Chinese peranakan newspapers.

Specter of Acoustic Internationalism: Voice of Malayan Revolution in China, 1969-1981
After twelve years of operation in a village in Hunan Province, China, “Voice of Malayan Revolution (Suara Revolusi Malaya),” the clandestine radio station of the Malayan Communist Party in exile, was closed down on June 30, 1981. Its termination was ordered by Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who pushedfor the neoliberal “economic reform and open up” policy under the pressure of Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, who requested that “China stop supporting communist armed struggles in Southeast Asia.” While it was still active, “Voice of Malayan Revolution” was broadcast widely in four languages: Mandarin, Malay, English, and Tamil. Various Chinese dialects were also added, for instance Hokkien, Hakka, and Teochew. The station’s multilingual programs were translated, edited and aired by a staff of 100 members, multi-ethnic Malayan revolutionaries including Chinese, Malay and Indians, who collaborated with Chinese technicians. VMR broadcasts not only invigorated guerrilla fighters in the jungle, but also appealed to innumerable communities in Southeast Asia and idealistic youths in mainland China. Taking VMR as an example, this paper examines how radio as an auditory technology and a media for “disembodied voices” facilitated an “acoustic revolutionary internationalism” that defied linguistic, ethnic and national boundaries and established intimate emotional and intellectual connections with spatially distant and dispersed listeners. Furthermore, it explores the ways in which the history and practices of VMR epitomize key shifts in geopolitical and historical relations between China, Southeast Asian nations, and old and new colonial powers during and after the Cold War period.

Disfluency and the Concrete Poetry of Chang Saetang
The concrete poetry of Chang Saetang (1924-1990) features fitful calligraphic strokes that oscillate between registering as purely visual forms and gaining legibility as repetitions of simple, largely monosyllabic, Thai words. While many today celebrate his works as important landmarks in Thai literature, contemporary critics—operating at the height of anti-Communist sentiment during the 1970s—were less enthused by this heretical figure, a son of poor Chinese immigrants who deigned to assert his ethnic identity. The “stuttering poet” they called him, pointing to his limited vocabulary and lack of adherence to conventional metrical and rhyming schemes as indications of linguistic incapacity, an observation that seemingly confirmed by his accented Thai speech. Chang’s works were also poorly received among Chinese-speaking audiences, who faulted his self-taught calligraphic technique, considering his creations “nonsense.” Chang’s disfluency, in short, rendered him a misfit, uncomfortably situated in relation to lineages of both Thai and Chinese history. The issues around Chang’s works, such as the perceived foreignness of the voice of diasporic and immigrant artists​, remain significant today. What is a disfluent work of art? How does one judge it? What does it mean to understand disfluency—and its implied failure (or refusal) of mastery—as a mode of expression? My paper explores these questions through Chang’s artistic production in the 1970s, which show how disfluency draws attention to the procedural nature of viewing/reading/listening. In this way, disfluency may become a strategic means of deferring the production of coherent conceptual meaning, instead attuning us to the affective structure of encounters with foreignness.

This panel is on Thursday - Session 05 - Room 4

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