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Awit and "syair" : alternative subjectivities and multiple modernities in nineteenth century insular southeast asia

Click to view the dissertation via Digital dissertation consortium
Author Benitez, J. Francisco B
ISBN/ISSN 0496012045
Broad Subject Literature
Summary Awit and Syair examines the anonymous Tagalog awit Don Juan Tenoso and Lie Kim Hok's low Malay Peranakan Chinese Syair Siti Akbari---two metrical romances that were printed and circulated in the nineteenth century---and looks at their constructions of subjectivity as figurations for possible alternative subjectivities and multiple modernities in Southeast Asia. It situates the texts in the context of changes in Spanish, Dutch and U.S. imperial regimes and juxtaposes them to nationalist constructions of subjectivity. Written in popular literary forms of the nineteenth century, these texts allow an examination of subjectivity and modernity from the margins of nationalist and theoretical discourses that take European realist narrative forms as markers of literary modernity. These metrical romances formally resolve real contradictions: articulating subjectivities, regulating desire, and bearing traces of anxiety over the fraying of order, authority and social reproduction under colonial modernity.

The figural readings of Awit and Syair offer a perspective on changes in the legibility of texts and keep distinct different temporal contexts of reading. Two forms of subjectivity are suggested. One is a 'local' or municipal subjectivity based on the concern of the principalia about vassalage conceived as hierarchized reciprocity and an ethical openness to the Other. The other is a mobile and transregional gender/border-crossing subjectivity that presupposes avenues for entrances and exits and questions the primacy of the capitalist market as a universal regulatory principle. Both forms insist on the importance of material conditions and social networks. Neither valorizes monadic subjectivity at the expense of hierarchy and social cohesion. The narrative closure of both texts, however, forecloses the radical potential of these alternative subjectivities. Yet these two popular and marginalized texts, predicated on the nineteenth century imperial world system as a condition ofpossibility, simultaneously challenge the one dimensional seriality of nationalism and even the 'citizen-subject' narrowly conceived by the nation-state.

Language English
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