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IAS Working Paper on Performative Mimicry and Postcolonial Exoticism in Literature

The Institute of Asian Studies at Universiti Brunei Darussalam is pleased to announce the publication of IAS Working Paper No 54: Performative mimicry and postcolonial exoticism: A re-politicising of the female body in the work of Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and Amir Falique by Mahfuzah Abd Wahab. Please see below for details.

Abstract: 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 post-colonies mimic the expectations of the ex-colonizers) 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 post-colonies.

Author: 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.

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