Revisiting Malaya: Uncovering Historical and Political Thoughts in Nusantara seeks to explicitly address the problems inherited from colonisation, taking regional Cold War divisions and historical links and fractures into consideration. By considering a wide range of topics presented by speakers at two landmark conferences, from the propaganda efforts of the Malayan Film Unit to the visionary writings of visionaries and revolutionaries, ranging from Usman Awang to Tan Malaka, this book uses ‘Malaya as method’ to better understand historical and contemporary realities.
The concept of ‘Malaya’ continues to exert a powerful draw on our imagination, steeped in exotism and Orientalist reductions. Even decades after the end of the colonial period, it casts a long shadow over modern-day Malaysia and the rest of maritime Southeast Asia. How can we understand this constantly transforming subjectivity? Most importantly, how do we recognise the continuation of problems inherited from colonisation, and overcome these distorted discourses?
The editors of Revisiting Malaya: Uncovering Historical and Political Thoughts in Nusantara, though not necessarily most of its contributors, seek to elaborate a novel approach, namely that of “Malaya as method”, inspired by Chen Kuan-Hsing’s “Asia as method“. It identifies itself with post-colonial thought, which many see as inspired by a critique of post-modernism. At the risk of over-simplification, postcolonialism offers critiques of modernism, especially colonialism, and by implication, imperialism, while Chen’s method rejects much extant scholarship on Asia.
Nevertheless, this volume is an important contribution to the literature, not only because of the originality of the individual chapters but also for providing important critiques of their respective subject matters, especially by demanding critical interrogation of extant scholarship on their subjects. By thoughtfully convening the two conferences and their editorial efforts, the editors have served all of us interested in the future of the nation, and the contribution of scholarship to this challenge. Ably compiled in this volume, it collectively represents a challenge to much extant mainstream scholarship.