Indian Ocean Literature in the Shade of Bandung
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Haley, Joseph A
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“Indian Ocean Literature in the Shade of Bandung” examines novels, plays, and nonfiction by contemporary writers from the Indian Ocean rim and its diaspora who have a strong interest in the effects of neoliberal economic policies upon the postcolonial nation-state. Focusing upon the contemporary Anglophone literatures of India and Malaysia, I locate middle-class skepticism regarding the feasibility—or even desirability—of constructing a postcolonial national imaginary that would be founded upon the politics of decolonization. At the same time, I find that important contemporary writers–Tan Twan Eng, Huzir Sulaiman, Arundhati Roy, and Aravind Adiga—express a marked ambivalence toward the rapid globalization of their national homelands; they critique the growth of a transnational consumerism with political, material, and cultural ties to the west. Highlighting connections between the mediation of a literary marketplace and the cultural production of a comprador bourgeoisie, I argue, enables each of these authors to stage a double critique of neoliberalism and reactionary nationalism—the latter of which may feed upon discontent sown by neoliberal policies among the region’s most economically underdeveloped communities. Furthermore, each of these literary representations gestures toward a regional transnationalism that is oriented around the ideal geographies of the maritime Indian Ocean, which utopian inflection I trace to the Afro-Asian Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955. I therefore place this contemporary writing into conversation with that of literary precursors—including Abdullah Hussein, Anita Desai, and Salman Rushdie— who were more immediately concerned with the legacy of Third World Internationalism. In each case, I have been interested to know how works of contemporary fiction seek to capture the spirit of regional cooperation that marked Bandung, and how they employ it in the service of utopian imagination and ideology critique. Situating contemporary literature in relation to this earlier moment helps me to clarify role that Bandung continues to play in mediating a literary marketplace and local reading culture that are marked by the seductions and anxieties of global consumer culture. I conclude that these writers stage a recuperation of Bandung internationalism in an attempt to imagine a global middle-class—one that would be capable of enjoying the fruits of neoliberal economic development, while resisting the forms of political complicity that have historically marked the comprador bourgeoisie.