Publishing about Asia in Academic Journals and Book Series (Roundtable)

) Chai Siaw Ling, University of Malaya

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3) Chai Siaw Ling, University of Malaya
The Complexity of Identity: Sarawak Chinese Literature in Malaysian Chinese Literature

Sarawak, a state of East Malaysia, is different from the Peninsular Malaysia in term of its demography. In Sarawak, Ibans comprise one third of the total population, followed by ethnic Chinese, and Malays the third largest group. However, the Malays account for over half of the population in the Peninsula and are legally defined as Muslim. The current public discourse suggests that ethnic-relations is relatively more harmonious in Sarawak than that in the Peninsula. In Sarawak, the interaction between Iban and Chinese has been a popular subject for local Chinese writers whereas the Malay-Chinese relationship has not drawn much enthusiasm of the Peninsula-based writers This paper thus contends that the distinctive social context of Sarawak has left a mark on the identity of Chinese in Sarawak, which has distinguished them from the Peninsular writers. This paper examines the relationship between “locality” and “Chineseness” and how they relate “nationality”. It argues that the complexity of identity has caused the feelings of anxiety among Sarawakian writers and compelled them to embark on a reflection process. This paper invokes the concept of “Sinophone”, developed by David Wang and Shu-mei Shih, to analyze the elements of “counter-hegemony” and “decentralized” in Sarawak Chinese literature and associate them with Chinese identities.

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