[Public Lecture Series | Budaya] Inking The Malay Literary World: Singapore’s Role in Disseminating Literacy

By Jan van der Putten – University of Hamburg

Singapore’s role as printing hub of the Malay world has been described and analysed by scholars such as Ian Proudfoot, Annabel Teh Gallop, Ahmat Adam, Lim Peng Han and a number of others. These specialists have specifically focused on the 19th century when Singapore served as a centre for the production of religious and educational materials distributed to many other parts of the Malay world. The first decades of the 20th century are predominantly viewed as forming a break in, and sometimes even as end of, a thriving Malay print industry as many local lithographic presses went out of business and foreign publishers dominated the market.

Overbeck’s by now famous statement from this era that Die Malaiische Literatur ist tot (Malay literature is dead) has been convincingly invalidated by scholars such as Amin Sweeney and Will Derks, arguing that he mistook a change of medium for the demise of an art form. Publishers of various backgrounds continued to develop their readership among communities within the colonial-cosmopolitan society. One of the changes in the 20th century was the reception and role of language: from a contact language between the various communities it became a tool of identification and claim for political self-determination during the decades that followed.

Once again local Malay printing industry thrived, with a break during the Japanese occupation, until Malaya’s independence after which the relations between the decolonized nations became tensed and fraught with issues. In this talk, Prof. Jan van der Putten will give a broad overview of previous research and emphasise on the continuities rather than breaks. He will be selecting a few themes such as commercial-cultural entrepreneurship, piracy and political agency which will be concluded by sketching a few possibilities to develop further research.

About Speaker

Jan van der Putten is Professor Austronesistik in the Department of Languages and Literatures of Southeast Asia (Asien-Afrika-Institut) at the University of Hamburg where he teaches on Southeast Asian literatures and cultures. Traditional Malay writings is one of his main research areas but he also ventures in other types and periods of Malay traditions. In his research he explores the meaning of traditional and popular Malay texts and how these texts are disseminated among peoples and exchanged between cultures. Some recent publications are: ‘Dirty Dancing' and Malay anxieties: the changing context of Malay Ronggeng in the first half of the twentieth century; ‘Bangsawan. The coming of a popular Malay theatrical form’, and ‘Burlesquing Muharram Processions into Carnivalesque Boria’.
  • The event description was updated. Diff#184095 2016-08-04 04:31:10
Fri Aug 12, 2016
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM SGT
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Asian Civilisations Museum
General Admission FULL
Venue Address
1 Empress Pl, Singapore 179555 Singapore
Malay Heritage Centre | Taman Warisan Melayu