While the myth of the exotic Oriental is a subject of rejection and subversion in conventional postcolonial studies, in contemporary studies of Southeast Asia, self-exoticism is evident at both the individual and national levels. It is deployed to achieve positional status in a globalised world. This paper investigates what Graham Huggan (2001) terms the postcolonial exotic, particularly in terms of a re-politicisation of the female body in contemporary literature concerning Southeast Asia. It also draws on Christopher B. Balme’s theory of performative metonymy (where postcolonies mimic the expectations of the ex-colonisers) to foreground the workings of Huggan’s postcolonial exotic in selected texts. The two primary texts selected for this purpose are Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s Sarong Party Girls (2016), which traces the practice of postcolonial exotic through the self-exoticising of the female body, and Amir Falique’s The Forlorn Adventure (2014) in which the presentation of Brunei can be read as an extension of the politics of the female body. Additionally, a reading of the practice of postcolonial exoticism in David Henry Hwang’s play M.Butterfly (1989) will assist in tracing the development of the postcolonial exotic from the 20th century to 21st century literature. The paper considers the applicability or otherwise of both Huggan’s and Balme’s theory in the contemporary literature-scape of Southeast Asia. It contends they have utility in understanding further the persistence of the myth of the exotic and the extent to which global consumer culture and commodification affects the politics of postcolonies.
Keywords: female body politics, feminine nation, gendered cultural commodification, performative metonymy, postcolonial exotic, Sarong Party Girls, The Forlorn Adventure, tourist gaze
Mahfuzah Abd Wahab graduated with a BA in English Literature, Universiti Brunei Darussalam in 2019 and she is currently pursuing her MA by research on Cosmopolitanism Culture and Consumption in Asia.