Imperialistic Renderings of the Malayan Subject in Hugh Clifford’s The Further Side of Silence (1916) (78702)

Session Information: Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies
Session Chair: Tejash Kumar Singh

Saturday, 25 May 2024 17:35
Session: Session 5
Room: Room 707
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

Within the British colonial administrator Hugh Clifford’s collection of short stories such as In Court and Kampung (1897) and The Further Side of Silence (1916), Clifford’s careful renderings of the Malayan landscape encompass its sweltering heat, immersive nature as he makes his way across the country, as well as his occasional realisations on the unchanged natural landscape. Within this expanse of unconquered land, Clifford’s contemplations reign in his short stories regarding the environment’s effect upon the Malayan subject: much like the languid unchanged surroundings, Clifford hypothesizes within his stories that the Malayan subject is naturally a product of his surroundings. According to Timothy Harper, Malayan bodies, when facing "external homogenizing forces" (142) resorted to “switch codes and styles" (146), instead of being defined by a singular generalised identity, a reality which Clifford recognises in his stories. Within his stories, the Malayan subjects are illustrated to be innately different from the British and Europeaners themselves, encompassing varied identities simultaneously. Lees posits that Clifford’s authorial “choice to write about a rural, exotic, archaic Malaya allowed him to ignore the colony's urban, transnational population who had claimed a British identity and learned its cultural forms and vocabulary” (97). Building upon Lees’ point, I further posit that it is through consistent bodily depictions of the Malayans in Clifford’s stories which nativize and normalise certain aspects of the Malayan subject to the European reader, while abjecting other unfavourable qualities.

Tejash Kumar Singh, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

About the Presenter(s)
Tejash's research interest recently encompass 19th century Singaporean literature, focusing on fin-de-siecle colonialism writings by authors such as Hugh Clifford on Southeast-Asian subjects, as well as the 21st century dislocated migrant body.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00