House of Glass: Culture, Modernity, and the State in Southeast Asia 9789812307118

Drawing on critical theory and post-modernism, this book argues for a new strategy for writing about the social and cult

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House of Glass: Culture, Modernity, and the State in Southeast Asia
 9789812307118

Table of contents :
Contents
Preface
Contributors
Introduction
Part One: Local desire and global anxieties
1. Desperately guarding borders: media globalization, “cultural imperialism”, and the rise of “Asia”
2. Modernity and Mahathir’s rage: theorizing state discourse of mass media in Southeast Asia
3. Representing state desire and the sins of transgression
4. McNationalism in Singapore
Part Two: Identity, the state, and post-modernity
5. National identity, diasporic anxiety, and music video culture in Vietnam
6. The post-modernization of Thainess
Part Three: State power, development, and the spectre of nation-building
7. Cultural claims on the new world order: Malaysia as a voice for the Third World?
8. (De)constructing the New Order: capitalism and the cultural contours of the patrimonial state in Indonesia
9. The state and information in modern Southeast Asian history
Part Four: Representational strategies and politics of the popular
10. Representing the Singapore modern: Dick Lee, pop music, and the “New” Asia
11. Pictures at an exhibition: re-presenting the sugar industry at the Negros Museum, Philippines
12. Stars in the shadows: celebrity, media, and the state in Vietnam
13. On the expressway, and under it: representations of the middle class, the poor, and democracy in Thailand
Index

Citation preview

HOUSE

of

GLASS

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) was established as an autonomous organization in 1968. It is a regional research centre for scholars and other specialists concerned with modern Southeast Asia, particularly the many-faceted issues and challenges of stability and security, economic development, and political and social change. The Institute’s research programmes are Regional Economic Studies (RES, including ASEAN and APEC), Regional Strategic and Political Studies (RSPS), and Regional Social and Cultural Studies (RSCS). The Institute is governed by a twenty-two-member Board of Trustees comprising nominees from the Singapore Government, the National University of Singapore, the various Chambers of Commerce, and professional and civic organizations. An Executive Committee oversees day-to-day operations; it is chaired by the Director, the Institute’s chief academic and administrative officer.

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

HOUSE

of

GLASS Culture, Modernity, and the State in Southeast Asia

edited by

YAO

SOUCHOU

INSTITUTE OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN STUDIES, Singapore

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

Published by Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 30 Heng Mui Keng Terrace Pasir Panjang Singapore 119614 Internet e-mail: [email protected] World Wide Web: http://www.iseas.edu.sg/pub.html All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. © 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

The responsibility for facts and opinions in this publication rests exclusively with the editor and contributors and their interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the Institute or its supporters. ISEAS Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data House of glass : culture, modernity, and the state in Southeast Asia / edited by Yao Souchou. 1. Asia, Southeastern—Cultural policy. 2. Mass media—Political aspects—Asia, Southeastern. 3. Mass media—Social aspects—Asia, Southeastern. 4. Nationalism—Asia, Southeastern. I. Yao, Souchou. HM101 H84 2001 ISBN 981-230-074-0 (soft cover) ISBN 981-230-075-9 (hard cover)

Printed in Singapore by Seng Lee Press Pte. Ltd.

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

Contents

Preface Contributors

vii ix

Introduction Yao Souchou

1 Part One

Local desire and global anxieties

1

2

3 4

Desperately guarding borders: media globalization, “cultural imperialism” and the rise of “Asia” Ien Ang Modernity and Mahathir’s rage: theorizing state discourse of mass media in Southeast Asia Yao Souchou Representing state desire and the sins of transgression Ray Langenbach McNationalism in Singapore Lee Weng Choy

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46 70 95

Part Two

Identity, the state, and post-modernity

5

National identity, diasporic anxiety, and music video culture in Vietnam Ashley Carruthers

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6

Contents

The post-modernization of Thainess Kasian Tejapira

150

Part Three

State power, development, and the spectre of nation-building

7

8

9

Cultural claims on the new world order: Malaysia as a voice for the Third World? Loong Wong (De)constructing the New Order: capitalism and the cultural contours of the patrimonial state in Indonesia Mark T. Berger The state and information in modern Southeast Asian history T.N. Harper

173

191

213

Part Four

Representational strategies and politics of the popular

10 Representing the Singapore modern: Dick Lee, pop music, and the “New” Asia C.J.W.-L. Wee 11 Pictures at an exhibition: re-presenting the sugar industry at the Negros Museum, Philippines Marian Pastor Roces 12 Stars in the shadows: celebrity, media, and the state in Vietnam Mandy Thomas & Russell H.-K. Heng 13 On the expressway, and under it: representations of the middle class, the poor, and democracy in Thailand James Ockey Index

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Preface

The idea of this book was first explored in a two-day symposium organized at the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies, Singapore, in 1994 with financial support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The purpose of the symposium — entitled “Problematizing Culture: Media, Identity, and the State in Southeast Asia” — was to examine the nature of media representation and politics of identity in the various nation-states in the region. However, by the end of the symposium, it became clear that two key issues had emerged as the central preoccupations of the participants: the predominant role of the state in the cultural and discursive realms, and the deployment of post-modern and post-structuralist theorizing in analysing local processes. I took the idea — and the inspirations — with me when I moved to the University of Sydney in October 1996, and commissioned additional contributions from among my new colleagues. On the whole, I have tried to maintain the critical vision as formulated in the symposium. The 1997 financial meltdown in Southeast Asia forced most of us to do another round of revisions to reflect recent developments. The strength and insight of the book owe much to the contributors, and their goodwill and humour in graciously accepting my editorial suggestions and demands. I would also like to thank Chua Beng Huat, Ariel Heryanto, Michael Van Langenbach, and Sharrad Kutton for their stimulating input; and David Birch and Brian Shoesmith, who first planted in my mind the seed of a Southeast Asian Cultural Studies project. In Sydney, Mark Berger, Ien Ang, Helen Grace, and Richard Basham have been invaluable “fellow travellers”. I am most grateful to Ashley

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Carruthers and Phillip Mar for their editorial assistance and companionship, and Akaash, Neena, and Simryn for their patience. This project was funded by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, where I was a fellow from 1993 to 1996. Yao Souchou Editor

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

Contributors

Ien Ang is Professor of Cultural Studies and Director of the Institute for Cultural Research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Among her major publications are Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination (1985), Desperately Seeking the Audience (1991), Living Room Wars (1996), and On Not Speaking Chinese: Living between Asia and the West (2001). Mark T. Berger is Senior Lecturer in International History and Development Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He has published articles in a number of international journals, including Third World Quarterly, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, Latin American Perspectives, Journal of Latin American Studies, and Alternatives: Social Transformation and Humane Governance. His research interests include the history of colonialism, nationalism, decolonization, the Cold War, and the history of U.S. foreign policy with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific, and Latin America. Ashley Carruthers is Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies, National University of Singapore. His thesis “Exile and Return: Deterritorialising National Imaginaries in Vietnam and the Disapora” examines the transformation of national imaginaries in Vietnam and the diaspora in the post–Cold War context. He has published in journals such as the Australian Journal of Anthropology, Media International Australia, and the Australian Journal of Communication.

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Contributors

T.N. Harper is Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and Lecturer in History. He is the author of The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya (1998). His research interest is in the post-colonial history of Southeast Asia, and his publications have appreared in journals including Modern Asian Studies, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, and Southeast Asian Affairs. He is currently completing a general history of the British Empire. Russell H.-K. Heng is presently Senior Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. Russell received his Ph.D. degree from the Australian National University in 2000. His research was on the relationship between media and the state in Vietnam. Prior to his research career, he was a practising journalist in Singapore. Kasian Tejapira is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. His recent publications include “Imagined Uncommunity: The Lookjin Middle Class and Thai Official Nationalism”, in Essential Outsiders: Chinese and Jews in the Modern Transformation of Southeast Asia and Central Europe (1997), and “Signification of Democracy”, in Thammasat Review (1996). He is also a noted newspaper columnist and was formerly a radical activist and guerrilla fighter in the jungle of northeast Thailand. Ray Langenbach has lived and worked in Southeast Asia since 1988. He headed the Sculpture Department at Universiti Sains Malaysia (1988–92), and taught Art Theory and Digital Imaging at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (1993–96). A conceptual artist, he has performed and exhibited installations and videos in museums and galleries in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States. His various writings on art and culture have been published in the journals Afterimage, Art in Asia Pacific, Artlink, Asian Art News, Commentary, Dialogue, Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, and World Art. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Cultural Histories and Futures, University of Western Sydney, Australia.

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

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Lee Weng Choy is an art critic based in Singapore. He has written for various art journals, books, and catalogues, including ART AsiaPacific, Contemporary Visual Art, Sculpture, Nine Lives: 10 Years of Singapore Theatre, Singapore: Views on the Urban Landscape, The Third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane), and Flight Patterns (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles). Lee has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. in English Literature from Mills College, California. He is presently an Artistic Co-Director at The Substation arts centre in Singapore. Jim Ockey is Senior Lecturer at Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand. He has written numerous articles on aspects of Thai politics, including political parties, leadership, congested communities, crime and politics, and “the middle class”. Marian Pastor Roces is a critic and independent curator working in Manila, Philippines. Her numerous articles on art criticism have appeared in Art+Text, Visual Art and Culture, CoNNect, and other places. Her recent exhibition project is “Sheer Realities: Power and Clothing in 19th Century Philippines” held at the Asia Society, New York. Mandy Thomas is a social anthropologist and ARC post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Cultural Reseach, University of Western Sydney, Australia. Her research interests are diasporic identity, popular culture, and cultural politics in Vietnam. Her recent publications include the book Dreams in the Shadows: Vietnamese-Australian Lives in Transition (1999), and “Fantasia: Transnational Flows and Asian Popular Culture in Australia” in Alter/Asians: Asian-Australian Identities in Art, Media and Popular Culture (2000). C.J.W.-L. Wee teaches English literature at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His major research interests are national identity, cultural politics, and the discourse of Asian modernity in Singapore. His publications include articles in Public Culture, positions: east asia cultures critique, and SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia.

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

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Contributors

Loong Wong lectures in the School of Business, University of Newcastle. Previously he taught at Monash and Deakin universities in Australia and also in Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. He has published widely on the issues of post-colonial states and maintains an interest in food, music, the Internet, international relations (including international businesses), social movements, environmental politics, and business practices. His publications have appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Interdisciplinary Peace Research, Critical Sociology, among others. Yao Souchou is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney, Australia, and was a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, from 1993 to 1996. His research interests are the cultural politics of Southeast Asia and identity formation of the Chinese diaspora. He has carried out field-work in Hong Kong, Sarawak, East Malaysia, and Singapore. His publications include articles in Parallex, Journal of Asian Communications, Journal of Cultural Critique, and Australian Journal of Anthropology. His book Confucian Capitalism: Discourse, Practice and the Myth of Chinese Enterprise is to be published by Curzon Press, London (2001).

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

Introduction YAO SOUCHOU

My life was as straight as a piece of wire pulled taut, without twists and turns. … And now it was not just bent, but tangled. And I could not see how I could unravel the tangle. Every day I feel my throat in the tighter and tighter grip of an outside power … I would now have to be on the lookout, like looking for a needle in a pile of paddy stalks. The needle must be found, even the paddy stalks have to be destroyed. All this even though it was a small piece of pure steel, without the rust of evil, except for that speck of idealism, that history of love of people and country, that seed of patriotism and nationalism whose final flowering could not yet be clearly seen. And that you are careful that you are not pricked by that needle yourself. For the government and I as its instrument, must, however, look upon such idealism as criminal. (Toer 1992, pp. 50–53)

Thus begins Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s magisterial meditation on the fate of one living under the spell of the colonial state in his House of Glass (1992). The time was 1912; the place, Netherlands East Indies. The narrator Jacques Pangemanann is a former Commissioner of Police. Educated in Lyon, France, he is indeed like Conrad’s Kurtz, a flower of European civilization. But what confronts his heart of darkness is an enterprise far more insidious than those of economic plunder and military conquest by colonialism. He has been asked by the

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

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Dutch colonial authorities to investigate the “textual activities” of the anti-colonial radicals: My new assignment was to study the writings of the Natives that were being published in the newspapers and magazines. Analyse them. Interview the authors. Compare them. And make some conclusions about their calibre, the direction of their thinking and their attitude towards the Government of the Netherlands Indies. (Toer 1992, p. 52)

These “texts” are not merely trails which Pangemanann follows assiduously to monitor the growth of anti-colonial activities. As he carries out his master’s deed, such “texts” offer the oppressive possibility of betrayal. In the hands of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, texts and textual production are to have a crucial existential significance. As it gives central voice to Pangemanann, House of Glass charts his complex desire as he confronts the seduction of — and his inner contempt for — his own authority and a secret admiration for his nemesis, the Islamic revolutionary Minke. Betrayal and secrecy, however, are not the only fate of text. As a radical and a writer, Pramoedya cannot help but invest a crucial emancipatory potential in text and its production. What gives House of Glass its ambivalence are the circumstances in which the work was written: on the prison island of Buru in eastern Indonesia where Pramoedya was imprisoned without trial for fourteen years until his release in 1979. The oppressive inner world of Pangemanann becomes a spatial metaphor for the island prison. In this inner world and on the island, words are whispered in secret. The title of the novel must have been a literal rendering of the conditions of the prison: the policing and surveillance of inmates, the division of day and night, secrecy and openness, what is allowed and what is forbidden. In these horrendous conditions, textual production became for Pramoedya, a desperate act of resistance. However, if writing is a personal act of defiance in the Buru Island prison house, it is also through the contemplation of text, Pramoedya reminds us, that the narrator Pangemanann is able to accomplish his task for the colonial authorities. In this sense, the ultimate fate of text might lie precisely in its fragile promise of release. For textual production is as much about emancipation and liberation, as it is an enterprise to which the state turns to realize its hegemonic aims.

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

Introduction

3

Theory and the politics of representation

This book examines the relationship between discursive practices, modernity, and state power in Southeast Asia. For such a project, it is irresistible to begin by drawing on Pramoedya’s bitter contemplation of the ambivalence of text. If the metaphor “house of glass” has served Pramoedya in describing his paradoxical feeling about the potency and futility of writing, it also foregrounds our major analytical concern and sense of unease in this project. The contributors have, for the most part, turned their attention to the discursive and representational realms of state processes. For some, the moving away from political economy as a site of intellectual engagement has been, at the most immediate level, something to do with the excitement of reading and writing “theory” in Southeast Asia. The contributors in this volume are either located in or have worked for a long period in the region. This has been an enabling factor in our attempt to subject local state processes to the theoretical scrutiny of, mostly notably, post-modernism and post-structuralism. Of course, the idea of “writing theory” in/from Southeast Asia may already raise a difficult question: one about its feasibility in a social-cultural context in which the “traditional”, colonial, and pre-colonial pasts still demand reckoning. In the first planning workshop for this volume, held at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, in November 1994, the feasibility of a Southeast Asian Cultural Studies was brought up in the discussion. We could not but note the irony of the fact that our discursive engagement, with all its nuances of post-colonial resistance, still draws on theoretical formulations developed in the “West” — out of the post-1968 crisis of French Marxism, out of the Western disillusionment with the Enlightenment and Hegelian dialectics (Young 1990, chap. 1). How can such theorizing be deployed in Southeast Asia, with its different histories, its different locations in the structure of global capitalism? The question is — we have all read Aijaz Ahmad’s classic In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures (1992) — difficult to resolve. Nonetheless, one thing seems certain: that in Southeast Asia, as elsewhere, knowledge of theory and the ability to write it are unevenly distributed, even among university academics. Writing theory — Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan — in Southeast Asia is one of the markers of academic

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cosmopolitanism, which is for us at once empowering and self1 marginalizing. If “doing cultural studies” in the local context indeed has a different resonance from similar activities in the West, our major interest goes beyond that which comes from engaging in new innovative interpretive practices. It also lies in the subversive potential of deconstruction, which puts the ideological orthodoxy of the state under a new and less alluring light. That the state in Southeast Asia has invested much energy in selfrepresentation and in the active production of its discourses is a fact that underlines the common concerns of the contributors to this volume. It is conventional theoretical wisdom that the discursive realm is never purely “representational”, but has emerged from and consolidated into real power by legislative framing and legal enforcement. Our position is one that views texts and representational events as inseparable from the conditions of their production and reception in a particular historical juncture. Discursive practices form a part of the complex processes of the making of culture. If cultural meaning is, in the final analysis, political meaning, then struggle in the field of text becomes highly significant. The struggle for the certainty of meaning is the struggle for the right to evaluate the past and present, and the right to remember things that we, as subjects of nation-state, are obliged to forget (Renan 1990). In this sense, cultural politics in Southeast Asia and elsewhere is about the all-important prerogative to imagine differently, and to “envision” an alternative political future, a prerogative for which lives and limbs have been lost, and personal and civil liberties curtailed. Two faces of state power I. Globalization, capitalist development, and the nation-state

In Southeast Asia the nation-state is, except for Thailand, a fairly recent phenomenon, existing only since World War II. As McVey notes, “only recently have Southeast Asians grown to adulthood entirely within the ambience of the national state, though among those of family, kindred, and religion” (McVey 1984, p. 3). In spite of their recent histories, nation-states in Southeast Asia — of both the socialist and liberal democratic kinds — are endowed with awesome coercive power to impose

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

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their iron will on their societies. In this context, state power is not merely an abstract entity but a sharp reality which permeates everyday experiences. From the time we pick up the morning paper, the moment we turn on the radio or television, the state is there with its busy pronouncements of another achievement of economic and national development, of another victorious crushing of political dissent which threatens national security or misleads the public about the doing of the govern2 ment. Thus, those of us in Southeast Asia may be forgiven for overstating, out of experience and habit, the totalizing and systematic quality of the state and its power. In so doing, we are not unmindful of the warning of Guha (1989, p. 283), who speaks of the “spurious hegemony” of the (colonial) state as a “fabrication”. It is bourgeois nostalgia, Guha has argued, which grants state power a coherent and transcendental attribute, giving it an “abstract force” and invulnerability in the ordering of daily life (see also Stoler 1992). Be that as it may, it is surely equally “spurious” to think of state power as fragmentary and always precariously exposed to subversion and resistance by the subaltern. If neither “spurious hegemony” nor “fragmentation” captures all the fluid qualities of the state and the different modalities of power under its command, what is needed is an approach that captures the tangible and yet fluid processes of state power as we experience them in Southeast Asia. It is an approach premised on the possibilities of state power in a social totality without being subsumed under it, or separating them from specific historical conditions.3 State power, I argue, is characterized by a comprehensive structure of hegemonic design, just as it is frequently marked by significant structural weakness and ideological crisis. In this book, some contributors are inclined to focus on representation as a moment in the articulation of state power and desire, while others direct their analyses to the intricate interlocking of power and ideological uncertainty. Nonetheless, the differences belie a unifying vision which denies an absolute demarcation of the “mask” and the practices of power (Abraham 1988). It is a vision which sees the state as always marked by the dialectical qualities of strength and vulnerability, domination and dependence, qualities brought into even sharper relief in the context of globalization. In the Southeast Asian context, such a conception of the state is

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necessary to take account of the remarkable — and at times tragic — historical experiences that the region has undergone since national independence. In the first place, a singular focus on the brutal absolutism of the state is a matter of doing justice to history, of accounting for what is happening at the local societies. We recall here that two state-sponsored programmes of killing of genocidal proportion after World War II took place in Southeast Asia: in Indonesia and in Cambodia. Presently, from Vietnam to Myanmar, from Singapore to Indonesia, beyond their different political systems, official ideologies, and stages of economic development, state power has a fundamental presence perhaps not witnessed in the liberal regimes, East and West. Ray Langenbach’s chapter on Singapore, Mark Berger’s chapter on Indonesia, and Loong Wong’s chapter on Malaysia point precisely to the complex ideological and legislative framework, and effective enforcement, which support and ensure the state’s continuance. These chapters contribute to the discussion of the massive capability of the state in Southeast Asia and its permeation of the social, economic, and cultural life in the region. They certainly complement, for example, Michael Leifer’s monumental Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Southeast Asia (1995), which points out, somewhat mildly, that “resistance to democratization is a common feature of many states in the region justified in the name of economic development and social and political order” (p. 1). However, if state absolutism is often underlined by structural and ideological uncertainty, it is the conditions of globalization and transnationalization which offer the best argument for such a viewpoint. In his studies of the “post nation-state”, Ohmae (1991) predicts the erosion of state power in the face of the onslaught of economic internationalization and informational and cultural flows across national boundaries. According to this kind of thesis, as Linda Weiss summarizes, “states are now virtually powerless to make real policy choices; transnational markets and footloose corporations have so narrowly constrained policy options that more and more states are being forced to adopt similar fiscal, economic and social policy regimes” (Weiss 1997, p. 3). The sheer volume of the transnational and transregional traffic of people, products, cultures, and capital is undeniable even in Southeast Asia. However, the overall process can be subject to different ideological

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

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readings. For Ohmae (1991), Reich (1991), and Horsman and Marshall (1994) among others, transnationalization is the sign of the global convergence of neo-liberalism and market economy in which locational and institutional — and thus, national — restrictions are no longer important. The demise of the nation-state, in short, announces the triumph of global capitalism. Others, on the other hand, are likely to see diminishing state power under globalization as providing conditions for democratization and liberal reform. This tempting vision, espoused particularly by radical democrats, attributes a political vanguardism to the rising middle class — the nouveau riches of transnational capitalism — who are “rational, individualistic, democratic, secular and concerned with human rights, the environment and the law” (Robison and Goodman 1996, p. 2). “Democratization” in Southeast Asia, it is argued, will be brought about by the political demands of a middle class that puts pressure on the state to achieve its agendas (Anek 1997). The response to the effects of globalization and transnational capitalism typifies the ambivalent nature of state processes in present-day Southeast Asia. However, the fact remains that globalization is not likely to bring about the weakening of state power in any straightforward way. To be sure, the impact of the rising middle class on liberal democratic reform has been unpredictable and varied. If the affluent mob mua thue — the mobile phone mob — of the bloody demonstration of May 1992 brought down the Thai military government, and if students of various backgrounds had forced the resignation of President Soeharto in Indonesia, it is notable that the middle classes in other countries are seemingly directing their energy into massive consumption and/or frequently, 4 religious fundamentalism. For liberal democrats, the rising middle class holds the only hope of challenging the awesome power of the state in Southeast Asia. Working from the fondly held orthodox model of the role of the middle class in transforming European society since the French Revolution, Western liberals are likely to suffer impatience at the discovery that “the new rich in Asia appear as likely to embrace authoritarian rule, xenophobic nationalism, religious fundamentalism and dirigisme as to support democracy, internationalism, secularism and free market” (Robison and Goodman 1996, p. 3). Other neglected issues in the “post nation-state” argument have been

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the variety of state responses and, more importantly, the different capacities of the state in responding to the forces of transnationalization. To quote Linda Weiss again: … evidence in Japan and the East Asian NIC’s [newly industrialized countries] indicates that strong states — that is, those with fairly firm control over socio-economic goal setting and robust domestic linkages — are often facilitating the changes identified as “globalization”. Thus, rather than counterposing nation-state and global market as antinomies, in certain important respects we find that “globalization” is often the by-product of states promoting the internationalization strategies of their corporations, and sometimes in the process “internationalizing” state capacity. (Weiss 1997, p. 4)

In other words, state power and globalizing trends are not simply opposites in a zero-sum game of influences. In both the domestic sphere and the international arena, states like Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia have indeed enhanced their positions in the context of rapid capitalist development over the last two decades. The “post nation-state” argument becomes highly circumspect when we are reminded that not only are these states deeply committed to free market ideology and policies, but also that their economic fortunes have significantly depended on the inflow of foreign — largely Western and Japanese — capital and the global export markets. Turning to the post-1997 economic crisis, it is a good reminder that easy credit and the lack of rational investment guidelines, rather than “greedy fund managers”, have been the primary reasons for the current problems in Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Domestic processes associated with intense speculative activities and frenzied over-investment in the property sector are more likely explanations than unruly global movements of currency speculation. Ironically, what makes such movements possible has been the configuration of state power itself. In Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, or Bangkok, political leaders selectively grant commercial privileges to their close associates and loyal supporters, for whom “political connections” are crucial social capital for acquiring generous credit from financial institutions both at home and abroad. Even in the present situation of economic downturn, international financial bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been unable to uniformly impose their demand for economic reform and budgetary restraint on the recipient countries. If Indonesia and Thai-

© 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

Introduction

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land have conceded substantially to IMF pressure, Malaysia has rejected altogether the IMF rescue package in order to avoid restructuring longstanding national political framework and ideological priorities. In this complex scenario, it is only the analytically foolhardy who would unequivocally predict the withering of state power under international pressure and global economic forces. II. Modernity and the culture of national crisis

The relationship between transnationalization and state power is obviously more diffuse than what the proponents of globalization would have us believe. Speaking of Southeast Asia, the most tenable conclusion is that globalization has overdetermined both the state’s consolidation of power and its structural and cultural vulnerability. Transnationalization and regionalization remain a crucial consideration simply because they have been the major features of state economic policies which saw a significant change from import-substitution to export-orientation. Predictably perhaps, it is those rapidly developing economies — Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and post–doi moi Vietnam — that have more actively facilitated the overall processes of “opening up”. In this context, if nation-states like Malaysia and Singapore have most substantially benefited from global and regional markets and foreign capital inflow, they are also the most exposed to external economic and cultural forces. Transnationalization is thus a double-edged sword with regard to the rewards and costs it brings to the local economy and society. This is the rule of the game of transnationalization, as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and perhaps Singapore had discovered in their struggle to lift themselves out of the economic crisis. On the issue of cultural impact, it is important to highlight a singular fact, which is that, besides seeking a greater role in global capitalism in the international division of labour, the state is also concerned with the need to find its place in the modern world. The need is primarily about satisfying a social and cultural desire for the aura — and symbolic capital — of capitalist modernity. In late nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe, capitalist modernity constituted a maelstrom of fervent and yet ambivalent experiences, traceable to a myriad of factors, including:

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Yao Souchou the industrialization of production, which transforms scientific knowledge into technology, creating new human environments and destroys old ones, speeds up the whole tempo of life, generates new form of corporate power …; systems of mass communication, dynamic in their development, enveloping and binding together the more diverse people and societies; increasingly powerful nation states, bureaucratically structured and operated, constantly striving to expand their powers; … finally, bearing and driving all these institutions along an ever expanding, drastically fluctuating capitalist world market. (Berman 1988, p. 16)

Clearly, there has been something of this whirlwind of changes in Southeast Asia over recent decades, particularly since the 1980s. Like Berman’s rendering of the life of European modernity, what took place at the height of the “Asian economic miracle” can be similarly described in terms of a general experience, a pervasive cultural mood of confidence and progressivism which infected most people, especially the professional middle classes. For the men and women among the industrial workers — many of them foreigners or rural migrants — the abstractive “Asian economic miracle” would be more simply the ability to find work and the enjoyment of consumer goods and other services previously not affordable to them and their families. If the rewards of development remain unevenly distributed among the poor and disenfranchized, the culture of Asian modernity is dramatically resolute in other realms: in the architectural wonder of the Petronas Twin Towers — currently the tallest building in the world — in Kuala Lumpur, or in Indonesia’s helicopter manufacturing project under the then Minister of Science and Technology Dr Habibi, to give two examples. Projects like these exude a magic of high modernity so dramatically described by Berman, yet going much beyond. What they express is a mixture of narcissistic “Asian pride” and an anxious desire to “match” Western achievements; thus the sheer speed, density, and dramatic spectral quality of these urban construction and industrial projects. The engagement with the Western Other, as the chapters by Ien Ang, Yao Souchou, and Lee Weng Choy demonstrate, “incites” much of the discursive and representational energy of the state in Southeast Asia in an increasing pace of global exchanges. However, for Berman, the experience of Western modernity propelled by industrial capitalism has not been all optimism and progres-

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sivism. In the dramatic changes where nothing seems to stand still and even the most profoundly sacred and traditional “melts into air”, the culture of modernity simply “loses its capacity to organize and give meaning to people’s lives” (Berman 1988, p. 17). Out of these sea changes, highly rationalized and routinized bureaucracy emerged as powerful instrument of the state. State bureaucracy is as much a means of management of social life as an institutional order for negotiating the promises and nightmare of modern utopianism. Bureaucratic rationalization, as Bauman (1989) has so brilliantly argued, is the impeccable logic of modernity, one which was to find its final realization in the efficiency of the Jewish holocausts in Nazi Germany. In Southeast Asia, the ambivalence — and terrifying logic — of modernity is no less relevant an issue, I am sure. Pol Pot’s genocidal policy to clean the new socialist state of any traces of its past, to restart the history of the new Maoist state from Year Zero, has all the features of bureaucratic routinization and state utopianism. What took place in Pol Pot’s Kampuchea is an extreme aberration of the massive exercise of state power. For less spectacular examples of the fetishization of state, we turn to the liberal regimes in the region. And there, the valorization of state power is articulated in the more innocuous terms of “political stability”, “internal security”, and “regional peace”. In Southeast Asia, these terms have always had a sense of self-evident truth about them, and there are important historical reasons for this, as we shall see. While the terrifying scenario of societal chaos may belong to the common social imaginary, it is also repeatedly featured in the official pronouncements of the state. Ideologically, the preservation of “societal peace” has been singularly emphasized by the state as the primary political objective for providing conditions for the achievement of individual happiness and national prosperity. And the state’s magic in the delivery of personal and national happiness cannot be realized without a significant degree of fantasy. The spectre of political chaos and regional instability

The “reality” of national crisis in Southeast Asia is a classic example of what Zizek has called the “the fetishistic supplement” of the Real (Zizek

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1994, p. 20). For Zizek, the social and emotional appeal of any ideology does not lie in its mystificatory falsehood, but rather in the very dialectics between the “spiritual element of corporeality” and the “corporeal element of spirituality” (ibid., p. 21). The futility of the ontological distinction between the (historical) real and (ideological) illusion goes to the heart of what I have called — in relation to the Singapore state — the ideological model of perpetual crisis (Yao 2000). The spectral supplement of “the real” is crucial in understanding the other face of the dialectics of state power in Southeast Asia: its vulnerability and perceived danger of collapse. The “substance” of this self-imaginary is the fear which has haunted the region ever since the days of struggle for national independence. Hall has described Southeast Asia as a region characterized by “a chaos of races and languages” (Hall 1985, p. 5). Historically, Southeast Asia lay in the strategic sea route for the southern movement of peoples, trade, and religions from the two major civilizations of the northern land mass of India and China and, a thousand years later, for the diffusion of Islam along the route pioneered by Muslim spice traders (Withington and Fisher 1963). European designs on the region began with the need in developing a base for trade links with China, but from the eighteenth century onwards, the great agricultural, mining, and entrepôt potential of Southeast Asia also became major interests of European colonial powers. Colonialism — with its policies of economic extraction and “divide and rule” — created the pre-conditions for a troubled process of decolonization after World War II — particularly in French Indochina and Dutch Indonesia, which experienced civil war and armed separatism, respectively. When Mao came to power in China in 1949, the Western fear of the eventual spread of communism southwards produced probably the most salient and dramatic attempt to contain a perceived political contagion of the region in the Cold War era — the result being the Vietnam war and its spillover into Laos and of course Cambodia, with devastating consequences. The other fear which haunts many Southeast Asian states is ethnic conflict. In the region, no less than thirty-two ethnolinguistic groups can be found, and each state contains at least four major ethnic communities. And

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superimposed on this mosaic of ethnicity is the fact that Southeast Asia is the host to all the world’s major belief systems, that is, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Communism. (Sukhumbhand and Chai-Anan 1984, p. 30)

One of the major problems here is that many of the ethnolinguistic groups, particularly the “hilltribes” in northern Thailand and Myanmar live in areas that extend beyond national boundaries as they stand. Their failure to negotiate recognition of their ethnic aspirations within the nation-state often lead to armed-separatist movements which are extended to the immediate neighbouring state(s). The Karen and Kachin liberation movements, and Islamic separatism in southern Thailand, for instance, are built upon the need for ethnic-national independence aided by friendly states and ethnic communities along the borders. Inter-state conflict of this nature has been much reduced in recent years through regional bodies such as ASEAN, which always has, among its agendas, military and security co-operation among member states. Within the nation-states themselves, there has been the equally worrisome problem of communal conflict. Much has been written about the colonial policy which created major cleavages among ethnic communities along economic, cultural-religious, and social lines. It is sufficient here to say that these cleavages were a crucial instrument of “divide and rule”, in which specialization of labour and distinctions between immigrant and “native communities” were built upon real and imaginary social-cultural differences. The import of Chinese and Indian labourers and other immigrants, and subsequent questions about their status in newly independent nations, have proven to be an entangled political issue. While the nation-states inherited from European colonialism a political system that legally guarantees equal citizen rights to all, few governments in Southeast Asia are able to carry this principle to the full. Practically all Southeast Asian states “ethnicize” their governance in one form or another: from the implicit and often informal policy preferences for one ethnic group to the more extreme structural discrimination based on legislatively defined “racial categories”. The tragic irony of all this is that the ethnicization of political power and social and economic policies has always been justified by the state as

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necessary for creating lasting “ethnic peace”. Whatever the administrative logic, it is clear that the continuing fetishization of the colonial categories of “race” helps to consolidate the class and social-spatial divides of communities. Rather than being an instrument for achieving ethnic harmony, ethnic policy sustains the seeds of communal tension. This is so especially when the state is prepared to tacitly support if not openly unleash, for its political ends, the outrage of the major community against what they see as the sources of their social deprivation and 5 economic backwardness. The 13 May 1969 riots in Kuala Lumpur and the attack on ethnic Chinese and their properties in Medan and Jakarta immediately following Soeharto’s downfall are just two painfully relevant examples. Asian modernity and its betrayal

The nature of the ethnic policies in Southeast Asia thus helps to bring forth a major point. It is that the legendary regional conflict and societal instability in Southeast Asia are products of a dramatic mixture of history, geo-political rivalry, and the state’s own political strategy and ideological imaginary. If the spectre of national collapse and regional disintegration has been the “socially real” that justifies the terrifying posturing of the state, such a scenario of doom is also a major discursive invention. By turning the absolute dominance of the state on its head, the continuous valorization of the idea of “nation under threat” allows the state to seek and prosecute real and illusionary subversives, ethnic and religious extremists and, more frequently, opposition parties and progressive non-government organizations (NGOs). The notion of “nation under threat”, selectively drawing from the tumultuous events over the last half a century following World War II, creates a unifying history, a “single ideological base time” (Althusser 1969, p. 105). In this discursive totality, different histories and different specificities of national struggle are transformed into a singular and self-serving narrative about a nation’s triumphant achievements and its coming of age. The narrative is being rewritten by the reality of the 1997 economic meltdown and its after-effects facing many of the newly industrialized economies (NIEs) in Southeast Asia. Here it is possible to make the point that a pronouncement like Mahathir’s much publicized accusa-

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tion of the international conspiracy of a “Jewish fund manager” wrecking local economies has all the marks of national sensitivity over uncontrollable external forces (South China Morning Post, 5 November 1997). If globalization explains all sources and degrees of national pain, then state discourses must be staged in a way that helps to manage problems and anxieties in an age of global exchanges. If in the first decades after independence it was armed separatism and big power rivalry that plagued nation-states in Southeast Asia, now it is cultural flow and the secular trends associated with post-modernity that present an issue of concern (see the chapter by Yao). Right from the beginning, however, local responses to transnationalization have been primarily concerned with the economic (Deyo 1987; Stubbs 1994). They are about finding a greater role for the national economy in the system of global capitalism. Such an objective has meant the provision of economic and labour policies which facilitate capital’s pursuit of low costs of production, mass market, and investment returns. It is, in short, the active courting of transnational capital and its rewards which explains many state practices. Nevertheless, the serving of global capital is not to suggest a surrender of national interests and cultural agendas. Indeed what has emerged, particularly in rapidly developing Singapore and Malaysia, is the (re)drawing of local and regional agendas on the wider canvas of globalization. The underlying assumption has been, as put forward so powerfully by Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir and Singapore’s Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, that industrial modernity is no longer the exclusive domain of Western achievement, a special purview of Western history. What political leaders like Dr Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew propose is the vision of an alternative modernity, an Asian modernity no less, as Wee (1996; also in this volume) has argued. The notion of an Asian modernity is always an ambiguous mixture of local needs and global ambitions, national/communal aspirations and a desire for their transcendence. Complex and varied discursive efforts have gone into the making of such a modernity, a theme which underlines the preoccupation of many of the writers in this volume. What such an enterprise suggests is the attempt by the state — and some sections of civil society — to maintain the social and moral integrity of Asian

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national communities while they actively seek the fruits of global capitalism and find a place in the modern world. For the nation-state, the pursuit of Asian modernity thus implies several things: economic development, the consumption of Western goods and services with a cosmopolitan aura, and seeking a greater profile on the international stage, among others. However, this modernity too (going back to Berman’s argument outlined earlier) will carry its own betrayal. For what nationstates in Southeast Asia have been made to realize is the fact that the fruits of global capitalism will always have their social, cultural, and financial costs. It is near impossible to execute the agile double move of harvesting the benefit while selectively shutting out culturally and politically undesirable influences. Against such a complex background, what we witness in many Southeast Asian states has been the evocation of another round of “anti-West cultural imperialism” rhetoric, the common ideological diet of the Third World in the 1960s, as Ien Ang’s chapter shows. Articulating now different sources of tension, the new “anti-West” discourse highlights the moral dangers of a range of “Western” products and values, from Playboy magazine to the Internet, individualism to consumerism, urban crime to sexual promiscuity. These are invested with an awesome power of corruption which, if not effectively controlled, would bring Asian communities to their knees. It is hard not to recognize the multiple significance and conflicting desires in this round of “anti-West” struggle. And it is post-modern and post-structuralist theorizing which enable us in this project to work through some of the ambiguities and impulses of the state-discursive activities we describe. Of course, the point is that in the conditions of post-modernity and transnationalization the foundational premises of “cultural imperialism” are not no longer tenable — if they were in the past. The perceived virulent influences of global exchanges come precisely from the fact of rapid and multi-directional flows of information, products, values, and peoples, such that the traditional assumptions about the unilineal hegemonic flow from the West to the East and the passivity of “Asia” as victim of the West become too simplistic to be readily acceptable without question. However, the analytical spirit here is not to give in to the easy temptation of writing out the continuing Western dominance in many spheres of cultural and economic life, and simulta-

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neously projecting a romantic vision of “Asian resistance”. Rather, it is to engage with the crucial problematic of state discourses which all too often cast “Asia” against “the West”, “Asian victimization” against “Western perpetration”, “Asian moral authenticity” against “Western decadence”, and so on. The so-called Asian Values debate in recent years offers a perfect example of the state enterprise of inscribing a notion of “Asian particularism”. Leaving aside its philosophic underpinnings, the discourse of Asian Values is a Janus-faced effort in the attempt to negotiate the complex fluidity of post-modernity and globalization. In the first place, it is about the rewriting of Western liberal priorities — democracy, human rights, social justice, and the environment — with a unique “Asian point of view” (Bartley and others 1993; Mahbubani 1995a, 1995b). The ideological effect is to present these priorities as those from another history, another place, priorities not necessarily relevant to an “Asia” keen to strike out its own path of social and economic development. At the same time, the Asian Values discourse is as much one of political instrumentality as a voice of desire. Lodged in the dialectics of power, the discourse silently recalls the other side of the state’s absolutism and domination: its panic in a globalized world and longing for the fruits of economic development which only Western, including Japanese, foreign capital can bring. In the final analysis, the notion of “Asian uniqueness” may be primarily about the pursuit of certainty, and the (re)claiming of moral authenticity based on tradition and communal solidarity, in the condition of post-modernity. In the face of all this, it is useful to remember that the Asian Values discourse is no mere shadow of state power in the realm of representation. As the contributors in this volume make clear, discursive enterprises in this and other instances are carried out against the state’s might and the symbolic violence which conceals and euphemizes the severity of its actions. The discursive and representational energy of the state, its legislative instruments, and legitimate means of physical violence are enmeshed in, and emerge from, the same cultural and structural framework. If the Asian Values discourse has all the credentials of anticolonialism, of the struggle against the domination of Western agencies ranging from the media to the IMF, one point is worth stressing. It is

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that the state’s rewriting of liberal values also undermines the very foundational ideas that had been the basis of anti-colonialism and the struggle of national independence. This must have been the bitter realization of political dissidents like Pramoedya. For if economic growth and personal prosperity can only be achieved at the expense of democratic ideals, then both the political vision of the state and the means by which it is achieved have to be subject to public debate and analytical scrutiny. The failure of the nation-state in Indonesia, for someone like Pramoedya, may lie in its inability to live up to the Western liberal ideals in providing a legal and ideological framework that delivers a minimum guarantee of personal freedom and democratic rights against violation by the state. Conclusion

The “cultural resurgence” in Southeast Asia, I have argued, is primarily a state project that celebrates the moral and utilitarian qualities of the “Asian tradition” of which the contemporary states and their peoples are the proud inheritors. But such a cultural-ideological enterprise cannot be seen purely from the view of cynical manipulation by the state, or that of the mystificatory effects on the individual subject. The consideration of cultural and structural domination must also take account of the active participation and tacit complicity of political subjects. Perhaps for this reason, the contributors to this book have refused to turn to a form of Occidentalism which constructs highly elaborated contours of the “West” in order to describe all that is taking place in Asia. If the dramatic events in the region over the last decade or so can be recast against the wider canvas of globalization and post-modernity, they also engage local energies, just as they are “produced” by local demands and priorities. The local and the global, as the cliché of post-modernism goes, are not polarized differences which privilege one against the other. What these chapters have in common is a commitment to a critical engagement with the seamless narratives of the state regarding its central ideological visions and representational strategies. The contributors represent diverse disciplinary backgrounds — cultural studies, anthropology, political science, sociology, art criticism, and literary studies. The chapters that follow will attempt to deconstruct the many proc-

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esses and events, the criticality of which has been rewritten and “normalized” by the state and the public media. Ien Ang’s chapter examines the analytical ambiguities of the “cultural imperialism” argument as deployed by Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir and his then deputy Anwar Ibrahim. By focusing on the entry of satellite television, Ang suggests that the pan-Asianism expressed by the state discourse in Malaysia should be seen as an active response to the “deconstructive effects of global capitalism”. Globalization is also a preoccupation of Yao Souchou’s discussion in Chapter 2. Clearly informed by post-structuralist theorizing, Yao deconstructs Dr Mahathir’s aggressive posture against the West by showing the increasing difficulty of maintaining systematic and polarized differences between Asia and the West in the context of globalization. The chapters by Ray Langenbach and Lee Weng Choy turn to examine specific modalities of state desire in Singapore. A performance artist, Langenbach charts the reification of the state by examining its valorization of biologically and economically productive sexuality. The dialectics of this process, he argues, is articulated in the representation of marginalized Others: women, artists, and so forth. Lee deals similarly with the state’s desire in the imagining of an Other — in his case, the United States — which can help to constitute Singapore’s arrival in the world of capitalist modernity. The problematic of post-modernity and globalization is examined by Kasian Tejapira and Ashley Carruthers with reference to, respectively, the processes of identity formation in Thailand, and among Vietnamese in the homeland and diaspora. Kasian Tejapira’s chapter deconstructs the “desolate semiotics” of the notion of Thainess as defined by the state. The cultural flows in contemporary globalized conditions are crucial to Ashley Carruthers’ analysis. Focusing on the phenomenon of music video culture, he shows the uncertain consequences that ensue when exiled Vietnamese and the state are brought into an uneasy intimacy as a result of globalization and doi moi (economic and cultural liberalization) in Vietnam. The next three chapters deal with state power and nation-building, giving special attention to the issue of the role of culture. Loong Wong’s chapter examines the vocal militancy of Malaysia in the global arena. He argues that this militancy in the articulation of the post-colonial concerns of human rights, sovereignty, and culture has to be seen within

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the new social space created by the reconfiguration of post–Cold War geo-politics. In Mark Berger’s analysis, we see how the patrimonial state in Indonesia has over the past decades experienced both the consolidation of its power and periodic crises arising as a result of both internal and external forces, and how the continuous reinvention and re-entrenchment of Pancasila has been crucial in managing the overall processes. T.N. Harper, a historian, focuses on state censorship by the colonial regimes in Southeast Asia in the year immediately following World War II. The political use of communications technology, Harper argues, is an important legacy of the media policies of the post-colonial states in the project of nation-building. That the entangled relationship of state power and national politics requires a particular representational strategy is clearly expressed in the final four chapters. Wee is concerned with the enunciation of a specific sense of “Asian modernity” in Singapore by the pop singer Dick Lee. Marian Pasor Roces, an art critic and curator working in the Philippines, tracks the ambiguity in her project: an exhibition of the sugar industry in the Negros Museum. The chapter by Mandy Thomas and Russell Heng deals with a new representational object in the new media culture in Vietnam: pop celebrity. The eager reception of the media icon, they suggest, constitutes not so much a challenge to state power as a shift in the ideological landscape — one over which the state can no longer maintain its dominance. Lastly, James Ockey, a political scientist, examines the conventional interpretation of the major role of the middle class in the democracy movement in Thailand, such as the May 1992 demonstration. He contests such a view by turning to look at a protest organized by working-class residents against the construction of an expressway over their community. Overall, the chapters articulate the different intellectual-disciplinary positions of the writers. Nonetheless, what unites their efforts has been a shared sensitivity to the historical and regional specificities of the processes they have described. They highlight the complex recasting of “old” political concerns and ideological anxieties in the heady conditions of globalization and capitalist development. In these conditions, the contour of state power is inscribed by the consolidation of its hegemonic hold in many spheres of social life. However, this is not the only reality of the state in Southeast Asia. What is so aptly captured by Pramoedya’s

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powerful metaphor — House of Glass — is precisely the central irony that in the midst of its aggressive posture, the state experiences a crucial ambivalence and vulnerability as a result of the very conditions that contribute to its potency, wealth, and political legitimacy. The current economic crisis in Southeast Asia merely affirms the uncertain rewards of transnationalization to which the state has — perhaps against its will — staked all its commitments. It is in this geography of longing and resentment, strength and vulnerability, global transactions and local priorities that we have attempted to re-examine the nature of power and desire of the state in Southeast Asia. NOTES 1. We might think of “writing theory” as complicit with Western modernity which has “universal geographical significance” (Appiah 1997, p. 427). Dirlik (1997) also expresses scepticism in the feasibility of the project of post-colonial critique. 2. Relative freedom of the press is found in Thailand and the Philippines; see Lent (1971, 1989). 3. For a most succinct formulation of this position, see Coronil (1997) and Garon (1997). 4. In Malaysia, for instance, Islamic fundamentalism remains an essentially urbanbased movement; see Shamsul (1989). 5. For a most succinct analysis of such a situation in Malaysia, see Munro-Kua (1996). REFERENCES Abraham, Philip. “Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State”. Journal of Historical Sociology 1, no. 1 (1988): 56–89. Aijaz Ahmad. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. London and New York: Verso, 1992. Althusser, Louis. For Marx. Translated by Ben Brewster. London: Allen Lane, 1969. Anek Laothamatas, ed. Democratization in Southeast and East Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1997. Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “Is the ‘Post’ in ‘Postcolonial’ the ‘Post’ in ‘Postmodern’?” In Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives, edited by Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti, and Ella Shohat. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

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Berman, Marshall. All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. NT: Viking Penguin, 1988. Bartley, Robert, Chan Heng Chee, Samuel P. Huntington, and Shijuro Ogata. Democracy and Capitalism: Asian and American Perspectives. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1993. Bauman, Zygmunt. Modernity and the Holocaust. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989. Coronil, Fernando. The Magical State: Nature, Money, and Modernity in Venezuela. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Deyo, Frederic C., ed. The Political Economy of the New Asian Industrialism. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987. Dirlik, Arif. “The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism”. In Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives, edited by Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti, and Ella Shohat. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Garon, Sheldon. Molding Japanese Minds: The State in Everyday Life. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997. Guha, R. “Dominance Without Hegemony and Its Historiography”. In Subaltern Studies, no. 6, edited by R. Guha, pp. 210–309. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989. Hall, Kenneth R. Maritime Trade and State Development in Early Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985. Horsman, Mathew and Andrew Marshall. After the Nation-State: Citizens, Tribalism and the New World. London: HarperCollins, 1994. Leifer, Michael. Dictionary of the Modern Politics of South-East Asia. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. Lent, John. “Mass Communication in Asia and the Pacific: Recent Trends and Development”. Media Asia 16, no. 1 (1989): 16–24. Lent, John, ed. The Asian Newspapers’ Reluctant Revolution. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1971. Mahbubani, Kishore. “Why Asia’s Balkans Are at Peace”. New Perspectives Quarterly 12, no. 1 (1995a): 51–53. . “The Pacific Way”. Foreign Affairs 74, no. 1 (1995b): 100–11. McVey, Ruth. “The Nation-State in Southeast Asia”. In Armed Separatism in Southeast Asia, edited by Lim Joo-Jock and Vani S. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984. Munro-Kua, Anne. Authoritarian Populism in Malaysia. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996. Omae, Kenichi. The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy. London: Fontana, 1991.

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Reich, Robert B. The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st-Century Capitalism. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1991. Renan, Ernest. “What Is a Nation?” In Nation and Narration, edited by Homi Bhabha. New York: Routledge, 1990. Robison, Richard and David S.G. Goodman, eds. The New Rich in Asia: Mobile Phones, McDonalds and Middle-Class Revolution. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. Shamsul A.B. “From Urban to Rural: ‘Migration’ of the Islamic Revival Phenomenon in Malaysia”. In Proceedings of the Congress on Urbanism and Islam, pp. 1–34. Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo, 1989. Stoler, A. “Rethinking Colonial Categories: European Communities and the Boundaries of Rule”. In Colonialism and Culture, edited by N.B. Dirks. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992. Stubbs, Richard. “The Political Economy of the Asia-Pacific Region”. In Political Economy and the Changing Global Order, edited by Richard Stubbs and Geoffrey R.D. Underhill. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1994. Sukhumbhand Paribatra and Chai-Anan Samudavanija. “Factors behind Armed Separatism: A Framework for Analysis”. In Armed Separatism in Southeast Asia, edited by Lim Joo-Jock and Vani S. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984. Toer, Pramoedya Ananta. House of Glass: A Novel, translated by Max Lane. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Books, 1992. Wee, C.J.W.-L. “The ‘Clash’ of Civilization? Or an Emerging East Asian Modernity”? SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asian Studies 11, no. 2 (1996): 211–30. Weiss, Linda. “Globalization and the Myth of the Powerless State”. New Left Review, September/October 1997, pp. 3–27. Withington, William A. and Margaret Fisher. Southeast Asia. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fideler, 1963. Yao Souchou. “Global Pain, Local Feelings: The Caning of Michael Faye in Singapore”. In Im Zentrum Suedost-Asien: Singapur, edited by Manfred Kieserling. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2000. Young, Robert. White Mythologies: Writing History and the West. London: Routledge, 1990. Zizek, Slavoj. “Introduction: The Spectre of Ideology”. In Mapping Ideology, edited by Slavoj Zizek. London: Verso, 1994.

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Part On e

Local desire and global anxieties

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1

Desperately guarding borders: media globalization, “cultural imperialism”, and the rise of “Asia” IEN ANG

A few years ago, when the so-called East Asian economic miracle was at its height, former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim delivered a speech in which he emphasized the challenges brought about by Asia’s entry into the world of high modernity. Significantly, he saw the greatest challenges not at the level of economics, but at the level of culture and intellectual life. Not surprisingly, the role of media and technology, especially television, loomed large in Anwar’s concerns: In recent years there has been an overwhelming, almost imperialistic diffusion of Western or Western-influenced cultural products. This has been made possible, and will be further accelerated, by the opening of the skies to satellite television networks. (Straits Times, 1 February 1994)

What Anwar refers to here is not just a challenge faced in Asia. During the 1980s a similar worry about the proliferation of transnational satellite television channels raged across Europe. The image of the threat evoked was also similar: that of the integrity of a cultural and geographical space — “our” space — being eroded by the opening up of the frontierlands of the sky to wayward global explorers such as Ted Turner (owner of CNN) and Rupert Murdoch (owner of Sky Channel and, in Asia, Star TV). The resulting electronic invasion from the sky has ex-

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posed the vulnerability of national borders (which conventionally provide the enclosure of “our” space): with satellite technology, given geographical boundaries are superceded by the vectors of transmission, which generally transcend the bounded territorial space of the, any, nationstate. The idea of a “Television without Frontiers” — the title of a 1984 European Community policy document (Commission of the European Communities 1984) — was informed precisely by the perceived necessity of reimagining a new, pan-European electronic image space beyond national borders, induced by border-eroding new communication technologies such as satellite television (Robins 1989). The European Commission argued that a “European audio-visual area” had to be developed because technological progress had made “a mockery of frontiers”, and because “the day of purely national audiences, markers and channels is gone” (quoted in Robins 1989, p. 153). In other words, the defence strategy was not one of giving up borders as such, national or otherwise, but of the drawing of a more inclusive and grandiose but also more elusive border, that around “Europe”, presumably to protect the European image space from the “cultural imperialism” of especially American, but also, as the Commission observed, Japanese and Brazilian corporations. By the mid-1990s, the skies above “Asia” had become the major area of exploration for global satellite broadcasters (Asiaweek, 19 October 1994). In Asia, however, as indicated by Anwar’s statement, the name of the “cultural imperialist” was not “American”, let alone “Japanese” or “Brazilian”, but, pure and simply, “Western”. Rupert Murdoch acquired Star TV from a Hong Kong company in 1993. Soon after the sale the Chinese government banned unlicensed satellite dishes. Other governments in the region also expressed concern that an outsider — that is, a Westerner — had gained control over such an important channel of satellite television channel aimed at “Asia”. One of the most outspoken protesters against Murdoch’s acquisition of Star TV was Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr Mahathir, in whose speeches the idea of “Western cultural imperialism” has been a recurrent, prominent theme (see Yao, in this volume). “Today they broadcast slanted news,” he complained. “Tomorrow they will broadcast raw pornography to corrupt our children and destroy our culture.” (Asiaweek, 19 October 1994) It should be

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clear that “they”, in Mahathir’s discourse, is “the West”. The slippage from “American” to “Western” cultural imperialism in contemporary concerns about satellite television in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Indonesia signals a long-standing stance of post- or anti-colonial anti-Westernism. The discourse of cultural imperialism has dominated critical perspectives on transnational cultural relations in the last few decades, especially with respect to the overwhelming dominance of Western (mostly American) media in the rest of the world (Tomlinson 1991). As an idea, “cultural imperialism” actively echoes the brutal history of conquest and domination which so unsettled and disrupted non-Western societies in the process of European colonial and imperial expansion. Edward Said defines “imperialism” as “the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan centre ruling a distant territory”, to be distinguished from “colonialism”, which, observes Said, is almost always a consequence of imperialism through “the implanting of settlements on distant territory” (Said 1993, p. 8). According to John Tomlinson, the concept of “cultural imperialism” emerged in the 1960s, in a recently decolonized world in which newly independent nation-states in the so-called Third World were struggling to claim their national autonomy (Tomlinson 1991, p. 2). In this sense, the idea of “cultural imperialism” indicated a colonization by other means in a formally post-imperial world. In radical intellectual discourse, then, speaking about cultural imperialism generally evokes a clearly unequal power relationship between a culturally dominant “West” and a culturally subordinate “Rest” (sometimes also called, in a different geo-ideological topography, “North” and “South”), where colonization takes place through symbolic forms of settlement — through the forced implanting of information, ideas, and images — rather than a physical one. Such theories generally presume the invasion and takeover of all “other” cultures, mostly the “Third World”, by an all-powerful, all-consuming culture — that is, “Western” culture (although, as we have seen, in Europe the enemy is called “American” and the feared process is one of “Americanization”). In this way, “cultural imperialism” is seen as a necessary vehicle for the universalization or globalization of capitalist modernity, which in turn is mechanistically equated with a wholesale “Westernization” of the world.

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Bearing this in mind, it is not surprising that talk of “cultural imperialism” is mostly enunciated in the name of the subordinate side in this relationship of power. The discourse of cultural imperialism is a discourse of protest or complaint, a discourse signalling the political or moral unacceptability of what the enunciator sees as the cultural domination exerted by a powerful Other. In this sense the discourse of cultural imperialism has first and foremost been a defensive discourse: a discourse aimed at warding off cultural intrusion by foreign powers, a discourse of the powerless to protect their cultural “autonomy”. In the West, such positions have been militantly supported and elaborated theoretically by vulgar Marxists such as Herbert Schiller (1992). Schiller, an American media theorist, sees the transnational communications corporations as the major forces of a process of sheer coercion. Schiller’s theory of cultural imperialism, which he virtually reduces to media imperialism, is based on a sweeping theory about media manipulation and ideological domination in which “the notion of ‘the system’ becomes reified and operates in a rather crude and rigid ‘functionalist’ manner” (Tomlinson 1991, p. 38). The problem with such a theory is that it is such a totalizing one — one in which there is no room for any other “truth” than the inexorable spread of a homogenizing capitalist culture, to which more and more parts of the non-Western world are succumbing — courtesy of the media which, comments Schiller, “are now many more times more powerful and penetrative than in an earlier time” (quoted in Tomlinson 1991, p. 39). To put it another way, what this theory suggests is that “culture” is totally and completely reducible to the “economy” — the “logic of capital”. But the current situation in Southeast Asia illuminates the explanatory limits and limitations of such a one-dimensional, reductionist theory. To be sure, the widespread concern with satellite television in the region does echo this preoccupation with the destructive effects of “cultural imperialism”. After all, the economic operation and exploitation of this communications technology is evidently primarily carried out by big transnational corporate players, especially “Western” ones. However, Schiller’s assumption that the modern world system is unambiguously and indisputably an imposition of Western capitalism on the rest of the world makes for a theory which cannot account for the complex specificities that accompany the globalization of capitalist modernity

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and the contradictory nature of its cultural consequences. As Marshall Sahlins has remarked: The World System is not a physics of proportionate relationships between economic “impacts” and cultural “reactions.” The specific effects of the globalmaterial forces depend on the various ways they are mediated in local cultural schemes. (1994, p. 414)

In his capacity to speak from such a local cultural scheme — a capacity warranted by his privileged position of legitimate representative of the Malaysian nation-state, Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, whom I quoted at the beginning of this chapter, revealed an awareness of the contradictions involved where he spoke about the “almost imperialistic diffusion of Western cultural products” (my emphasis). In other words, Anwar suggested that what is at stake is not quite cultural imperialism. Indeed, throughout Southeast Asia in the early 1990s there have been signs of a self-conscious determination to go beyond “cultural imperialism”: buoyed by a new self-confidence instilled by the new economic prosperity, which allowed Southeast Asians to imagine a future beyond their seemingly eternal status as nations which were always catching up with the powerful West, they have begun to develop their own global cultural aspirations. In an editorial about the coming of satellite television, the Singapore newspaper Straits Times expressed a similar desire for influence in a much more aggressive tone: Well, instead of Asians complaining about the onslaught of alien values and getting no farther than the cultural imperialism debate of an earlier age, it is better for them to get into each new act of the media play and try to reach fellow Asians in an Asian voice. (Straits Times, 6 January 1994)

Which is exactly what the Singaporean government set out to do with the establishment of Singapore International Television (SITV), a satellite television service aimed at a region stretching from northern Australia to southern China and from Papua New Guinea to the Maldives. The Straits Times hailed this initiative as “a small step” to counter the predominantly one-way traffic of transnational satellite broadcasting to sell Singaporean culture abroad. Note, for the moment, the appeal to a common “Asianness”, to which I shall return. Anwar, in fact, has expressed a much more “positive” brand of defi-

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ance against Western media hegemony than Prime Minister Dr Mahathir, who tends to articulate his distrust of Western powers in a much more 1 impulsive and uncompromisingly resentful way. Anwar’s response to the global challenge posed by satellite television is a case in point. It was a response that is neither desperate nor defensive, but full of positive self-confidence, at least in rhetoric. In Anwar’s words: It will not be too difficult for Asian countries to gain control of the communication technologies to mount a counteroffensive. But this will be meaningful only if we can offer cultural products that compete successfully for the free choice of a universal audience. This is a challenge to Asian creativity and imagination. Asia’s increasing prosperity means that it is now in a position to offer serious alternatives to the dominant global political, social and economic arrangements. (Straits Times, 1 February 1994)

Thus, when Malaysian or Singaporean government representatives speak about “cultural imperialism” today, they no longer merely voice a defensive stance, but a much more self-assertive, forward-looking stance — at least, this has been the case until the currency crisis of 1997, which has put a dent on Southeast Asian self-confidence. This voice no longer speaks from a position of relative powerlessness, but is one which is far more assured about its own worth and value. “Cultural imperialism”, presumably by definition a “Western” vice, is no longer just reprehensible because it signifies the domination of a powerful “culture” over weaker, less powerful ones, but also because the less powerful “culture” regards itself as better than and, in some respects, superior to the imperialist power. As Anwar puts it in his book The Asian Renaissance: Not only has Asia to fortify itself against the possibility of negative cultural bombardment, it has to be able to make a positive and lasting contribution to a new world civilization which is just and equitable. (Anwar Ibrahim 1996, p. 97)

As we all know, anti-Western discourse — as undergirded by the concept of “cultural imperialism” — has generally accompanied the fragile nation-building efforts of recently decolonized nation-states in Asia and Africa in the post–World War II period. Today, however, as some of these post-colonial nation-states have managed to gain some economic leverage against the very colonial masters of the past — generalized as “the West” — anti-Western rhetoric still lives on but its inflection and

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its politics has changed from an anti- or post-colonial to what could be called a neo-civilizationalist sentiment. Thus, it is notable that Anwar chose to speak from an unspecified, generic “Asian” point of view. His speaking position was not explicitly associated with a particular national position: he did not speak as a Malaysian, but as an Asian. This eclipse of specific national identification is a significant move — one that can be seen as a critical reflection of the transnational construction of “Asia” as a unitary imagined community, at least in electronic terms, in the footprints of the satellite broadcasters beaming onto the region. As Brian Shoesmith has remarked, satellite broadcasting provides “markers of the potential for a new way of thinking about Asia, both by Asians themselves and by non-Asians” (Shoesmith 1994, p. 127). In this sense, the introduction of satellite television in Asia has brought about similar responses as in Europe: the destabilization of national boundaries as marking the bounds of cultural identity and sovereignty is (partially) compensated for by the imagination of a more encompassing, regional form of cultural boundedness, “Europe” in one case, “Asia” in the other. But while the long-standing idea of “Europe” is now being promoted and materialized in policy initiatives underpinned by the institutional power of the European Commission aimed at protecting European audio-visual industries (Miller 1993), there has been no comparable pan-Asian institutional base for a similar deployment of “Asia”, although several governments, including Malaysia, are quite insistent on the need to develop a satellite industry of their own “to counter the dumping of information by irresponsible media from the West” (Straits Times, 5 April 1994). What, however, can “Asian” mean here? To answer this deceptively simple question, we need to look at the larger, global, and historical context in which these new, Asian discourses of “Asia” have emerged. Now that nation-states such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, China, and Indonesia look set for ever-increasing economic integration through the promotion of regional free trade, the problematic of “culture”, previously primarily cast within strictly national(ist) terms, is undergoing rapid transnationalization. As the globe shrinks, the status of “culture” as a global contested terrain has increased. The logic of these contesta-

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tions cannot be sufficiently understood in terms of “cultural imperialism”, but must be cast within the framework of what Stuart Hall has called “the global post-modern” (Hall 1993). The terrain of post-modern culture as a global formation, says Hall, is an extremely contradictory space and it is precisely this unruly contradictoriness that I want to emphasize. The meaning of the ubiquitous term “globalization” figures prominently in this respect. As we have seen, the dominant image in the discourse of cultural imperialism is that of a world irrevocably and unilinearly headed towards an increasingly homogenized, Westernized global culture controlled by the logic of a borderless corporate capitalism. Hall has astutely reversed this narrative of a singular, unitary logic of global capital; in his view, “the totally integrative and all-absorbent capacities of capital itself ” are a deceptive myth. Instead, he emphasizes that “capitalism only advances, as it were, on contradictory terrain” (Hall 1993, p. 29). In order to become global, capitalism has had to incorporate and partly reflect the differences it encounters in its different sites of expansion. In other words, capitalism today thrives on difference: it incorporates rather than crushes differences, and exploits them to suit its own purposes. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that global capitalism does not simply produce a global culture which will become increasingly homogenized over time, but brings into play a complex and ongoing tension between simultaneous cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization, integration, and fragmentation. One of the signs of the resulting pluralization of “history” as global capitalism expands is a gradual decentring of the “West” as prime historical mover. Many world observers agree on this, and in Asia, in particular, self-confident, almost self-congratulatory assertions could be heard, while it lasted. Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, for example, could make these remarks in 1993: When I was posted [in Washington DC] in 1982, I went there with the clear sense that I was going to the Rome of the 20th century. And it was. … But at the rate things are moving today, it is doubtful that Washington DC will be the Rome of the 21st century. … Banish the thought that answers to global questions can be found only in New York, London or Paris. They are equally likely to be found in Shanghai or Tokyo, Jakarta or Bombay, or perhaps even Singapore. (Straits Times Weekly Edition, 4 September 1993)

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I am not interested here in whether Mahbubani’s prediction will come true or not. What is more important to consider is the cultural significance of the frequent expression of such imagined futures in the early 1990s, when the rise of the so-called Asian Tigers was at its height. I will return to this forceful rhetoric of an “Asian renaissance” shortly. First, however, we should entertain the prospect of a more radical change: not just that of a shifting of centres but of a deconstruction of centres as such. Arjun Appadurai has remarked that we are now faced with “a new global cultural economy … which cannot any longer be understood in terms of existing center-periphery models (even those which might account for multiple centers and peripheries)” (Appadurai 1990, p. 6). Instead, the world should be seen as “a complex, overlapping, disjunctive order” characterized by “certain fundamental disjunctures between economy, culture and politics” (ibid., p. 6). These disjunctures arise because the globalization of capitalist modernity has not resulted in a stable and systematized global order with rigid dependency relations between “Western” and “non-Western” nation-states, but rather in an increasingly dynamic and “chaotic” criss-crossing of global flows, not only of media but also of money, people, technologies, and ideas. It is the disjunctures between these different flows, both in source and direction as well as in intensity and effect, which create a situation of profound uncertainty about the “shape” of the “global culture” at any point in time. Or, to put it more accurately, since the intersection of these multi-directional flows at any locality creates differential effects which cannot be predicted, any certainty of an ordered “system” should be forever bracketed (Ang 1996). From a more local point of view, too, this situation brings about more uncertainty and ambiguity: the local becomes more and more a space of flows rather than a space of places, as “the actual dynamics of a given territory rely mainly on … activities and decisions that go far beyond the boundaries of each locality” (Castells and Henderson 1987, p. 7). In other words, the local and the global should not be thought of in terms of their mutual exteriority, because global flows are not only dependent on local circumstances for their impact, but are also constitutive of local “identity”. In this process the nation-state plays a double role: on the one hand, it is the site where an ordered global diversity is officially articulated and

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represented (as in a U.N. plenary session); on the other, it is also the site of power for the containment of proliferating differences at the level of the local. In other words, the nation-state is the institutional site where a precarious balance between world homogenization and world heterogenization is being upheld — for the time being at least. While globalization does involve, as Appadurai has observed, “the use of a variety of instruments of homogenization (armaments, advertising techniques, language hegemonies, and clothing styles)”, these homogenizing forces “are absorbed into local political and cultural economies” and in that way heterogenized through infinite and contingent processes of indigenization (Appadurai 1990, p. 160). The unpredictability of such local potentialities is contained, for an important part, not by global forces, but through the intervention of intermediate power structures operative within the local, particularly the agencies of the nation-state. As the nation-state operates as the legitimate guarantor of cultural sovereignty and collective identity, the media, such as the press and broadcasting, serve as vehicles to unify the nation as an “imagined community”, as has been famously proposed by Benedict Anderson (1983). It is for this reason that many newly independent, post-colonial nationstates, precisely because they are new nations with weak national identities, have generally been inclined to forge very intimate, highly regulated media/state relationships. The assumption that the media are powerful instruments of creating a national culture has played a constitutive role here (Karthigesu 1994). Thus, post-colonial nation-states, certainly those in Southeast Asia, have generally developed ultra-modernist media policies, based on a strict imagined (and imposed) equivalence of territorial state, media, culture, and nation. The control of media messages circulating within the nation, for example, through censorship, or more positively, through the promotion of national television industries which it can regulate and oversee, is part and parcel of this desire for the state to vindicate the cultural solidity of its national boundaries. It is also within such a context that the deployment of a discourse of cultural imperialism was ideologically useful, because it identified the “enemy” as an external force invading the cultural space of the national. But this modernist scenario has been steadily crumbling. In an increasingly globalized world the quest for national/cultural self-identity

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has become increasingly fraught, and increasingly difficult to sustain. After all, in global capitalism the illusion that the state can be in control of its own destiny is disappearing; instead, it is now generally accepted that, as a territorial entity, the status of the state has been reduced to that of nodal point in a network of ever-shifting, nomadic, global flows. It is in this sense that “the new territorial dynamics … tend to be organized around the contradiction between placeless power and powerless places” (Castells and Henderson 1987, p. 7). This does not mean, however, that nation-states are about to give up their cultural nationalist projects. On the contrary, the inherently contradictory nature of such projects is coming increasingly to the surface, producing extremely intractable, contradictory effects which are beyond the state’s control. As Appadurai puts it: States find themselves pressed to stay “open” by the forces of media, technology, and travel that have fuelled consumerism throughout the world and have increased the craving, even in the non-Western world, for new commodities and spectacles. (Appadurai 1990, p. 14)

At the same time, however, these flows are threatening to the nationstate because they destabilize “the hyphen that links the nation and the state” (ibid.). In a sense, then, the effects of globalization are much more daunting and elusive than that of imperialism, because the cultural incoherence brought about by it can no longer be related to a clear external cause. Instead, it has become endemic — part and parcel of the domestic life of the nation. Internal cultural contradiction is now the inescapable fate of all national formations. As Tomlinson says: The idea of “globalization” suggests interconnection and interdependency of all global areas which happens in a far less purposeful way [than the term imperialism implies]. It happens as the result of economic and cultural practices which do not, of themselves, aim at global integration, but which nonetheless produce it. More importantly, the effects of globalization are to weaken the cultural coherence of all individual nation states, including the economically powerful ones — the imperialist powers of a previous era. (Tomlinson 1991, p. 175)

The state, however, does not have the means to adjust effectively to this new configuration of global power because its mode of operation

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remains firmly cast within a modernist framework. After all, the very operation of the nation-state system rests on the assumption of a closed, territorially defined space of national culture and a binary opposition between what does and what does not belong to that national culture, a clear borderline between the national Self and its Others. Satellite television is a dramatic case in point. Satellite television embodies a qualitatively new phase of transnationalization of media flows, because its powerful extra-territoriality makes it very difficult for territorial states to control and police. State policies aimed at keeping satellite television out, for example, by banning satellite dishes, are becoming increasingly ineffective, especially as satellite dishes will progressively shrink in size so that their owners will no longer have to have them in public view (which has made their surveillance possible so far). The Malaysian Information Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman has realized this: “Then whatever laws we introduce would be impossible to prevent anyone from receiving satellite broadcasts from every corner of the world.” (Straits Times, 9 April 1994). In this sense, satellite broadcasting has posed a hitherto unseen challenge to the modernist state/media relationship, because it is a technology which so blatantly exposes the difficulty of cultural border patrol by the state. Experience in Europe and elsewhere shows that all attempts by individual states to accommodate the satellite “invasion” (for example, by introducing commercial national channels or pay television) will eventually only dilute the centralized, modernist arrangement of state2 controlled national(ist) television. For example, it is in recognition of the unstoppability of technological advances that the ban on satellite dishes in Malaysia was lifted in 1996, although this did not mean the introduction of a laissez-faire policy towards satellite television reception. Instead, Malaysia decided to launch its own satellite, Measat (Malaysia East Asia Satellite), and licences for dishes were restricted to those that could receive signals only from Measat. But while initially only local television and radio stations would be permitted to beam programmes using Measat, it was foreshadowed that foreign programmes would be allowed at a later stage (Straits Times, 21 April 1994). One wonders whether such a “compromising” policy would not be the beginning of the end of effective state control over Malaysia’s

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audio-visual image space, and how long it would take before Malaysian audiences would be able to watch Star TV, especially now that the transnational broadcaster has learnt to “localize” its programming and to accommodate the sensitivities of the national élites with regard to the perceived erosion of traditional values by Western programming. This is reflected in a statement recently made by a Star TV official to the 4 effect that “there’s no money in cultural imperialism”. This makes it disturbingly clear that the struggle over control can no longer be cast in terms of a clear distinction between inside and outside (the nation), because the border between the two has become increasingly porous. In other words, the problem is not one of “invasion”, but of “dilution” — an unintended process often actively encouraged by the ambivalent policies of the states themselves. For example, the Indian state broadcaster Doordarshan, for years a key government tool to keep “the West” out of (post-colonial) India, made an arrangement to carry MTV, the music video station, on one of its channels, and recently signed a similar arrangement with Cable News Network (CNN). All this in light of a market-driven attempt to counter the competition of the private Hindi channel Zee-TV and transnational satellite channels such as Star TV (Far Eastern Economic Review, 5 December 1994). Another example is the Singaporean attempt, in its bid to become a major information hub in the region, to woo international news services and broadcasters through attractive financial and infrastructural incentives. As a result, it has attracted Asia Business News (a pan-Asian satellite channel with round-the-clock business reports), Home Box Office Asia, Entertainment Sports Network (ESPN), MTV, and the Discovery network — all “Western” enterprises — to set up their headquaters in Singapore. At the same time, the Singaporean government has remained insistent on the need for tight regulation and censorship. As Ian Stewart puts it: Singapore seems torn between an inclination to be at the forefront of informational and technological change, on the one hand, and a determination to protect its people from what it sees as Western degradation and unbridled democracy, on the other. (Stewart 1995, p. 30)

Assuming then that the media are indeed central to the construction of national identity — an assumption that is worth interrogating

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(see, for example, Collins 1990) — the dwindling of state control over the media would indeed spell danger for the future of nations. This, at least, is the general mood among many official representatives in the region. Will the territorial state indeed become powerless in the face of media globalization? Whether or not that will be the case, the perceived threat seems to be producing quite militant language. Remember Anwar Ibrahim’s suggestion that Asian countries should “mount a counteroffensive” by “offer[ing] cultural products that compete successfully for the free choice of a universal audience”. This prospect is echoed by Datuk Fauzi in his insistence that the best way to counter Western media “dumping” would be for Malaysia to become a giver, not just a receiver of programming: “We must get into the satellite industry and have control of the Asia-Pacific region or at least the ASEAN region”. (Straits Times, 5 April 1994) Such an emphasis on export possibilities is not restricted to the Malaysians: as we have seen, Singaporeans are equally interested in it, while the relatively strong media industries in India, Hong Kong, and Japan are already increasingly looking for transnational audiences within and beyond the Asian region (Iwabuchi 1994). How to interpret such moves? On the one hand, of course, there is nothing surprising in the fact that media producers in Asia, too, are seeking to increase their markets through export and internationalization. This, after all, only makes economic sense in the age of global capitalism. On the other hand, however, there is a culturalist residue, as it were, in discourses such as Anwar’s which indicate that there is more at stake than just economic rationalism. It is a redemptive discourse, a discourse born of an acute sense of dislocation which post-colonial nationstates increasingly experience now that they are seriously entering the globalized, post-modern world. Do Anwar Ibrahim and others really believe that one day in the next century Western audiences will en masse watch “Asian” films the way “Asian” audiences now consume Western films? What would these films look like? And what would “Asian” mean in the first place? Kungfu films? Bollywood musicals? Canto pop? But this is not what matters here. What matters — and what we need to try to understand — is why such a future, the future of an “Asian renaissance”, is being imagined in Asia today (and will not disappear despite the more or less temporary set-back in economic progress). And I want

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to suggest now that, in cultural terms, this imagining is not just a sign of a newly found self-confidence in the region, but also, contradictorily, a sign of anxiety — a particularly post-modern kind of anxiety. I noted earlier that Anwar did not speak as a Malaysian, but as an Asian. This identification with “Asianness” can be interpreted as an attempt to reinstate a (cultural) border on a much more grandiose, “civilizational” scale, now that the borders of the nation are becoming increasingly vulnerable. In some ways it can be seen as a response to the rapid pace of economic globalization: post-colonial nation-states feel prematurely launched into the world of post-modern flux, where all identities, including national identities, are up for grabs. This leads to a great sense of cultural insecurity, uncertainty, and directionlessness which needs to be compensated for somehow. A self-orientalizing capitalization on an “Asian” identity — the cultural currency and imagined viability of which was reinforced by Western fascination with the success of “Asian” capitalism in the first half of the 1990s, exemplified most spectacularly by Australia’s official desire to become a “part of Asia” (Ang and Stratton 1996) — is one such compensatory strategy. That the “real” significant differences within the region cannot be easily subsumed within a unifying and unified pan-Asian whole is of course clear; it is something Western satellite broadcasters were quick to learn when they realized that there is no such thing as a pan-Asian television audience. Thus, already in 1994 Murdoch’s Star TV, one of the major Western promoters of the pan-Asian ideal, pronounced the ideal dead when it decided to create separate services for the Mandarin, Hindi, and Indonesian language groups. As Jonathan Karp remarks, “Because Asia includes so many cultures, programme suppliers are finding it must be conquered land-by-land, language-by-language” (Far Eastern Economic Review, 27 January 1994). In light of this new emphasis on localization or “globalization” among Western satellite broadcasters (Robertson 1995), signalling their belated discovery that “Asia” does not exist (at least not from a marketing point of view), it is ironic that Asian national élites are speaking increasingly in the name of precisely such a reified, idealized “Asia”. In this sense, I want to conclude that Anwar’s discourse can be read as symptomatic, because it suggests how a sense of crisis over the deconstructive effects of capitalist globalization is “resolved” in some

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Asian circles today by resorting to the fantasy of a kind of reverse, if soft, cultural imperialism, where it is now “Asia” which will “civilize” the world by disseminating its “values”. Thus, Anwar suggested that “Asia in the twenty-first century should become a greater contributor to the advancement of human civilization”. And as I have already suggested, he is by no means alone in imagining the future of a what he has termed 5 an “Asian Renaissance”. There has been a growing chorus of voices in Southeast and East Asia throughout the 1990s articulating the desire for a shift to the “East” not only of global economic power, but also of global cultural authority. Singapore’s Minister of Culture George Yeo has put it this way: “When we were poor, we had no say. Now that we are less poor, we should begin to assert our own point of view.” (Far Eastern Economic Review, 27 January 1994). And he has asserted squarely that “the Western dominance of the global media will be contested by the East” (Straits Times, 6 February 1993). This self-promotion of an “Asian” civilization as an alternative to the global hegemony of “the West”, this stated desire for “Asia” to make an impact beyond its own territorial and cultural boundaries — that is, this desire to raise the status of “Asian” civilization to global prominence and power — is a form of post-colonial “writing back” with a vengeance which disrupts, at the level of the imagination, the linear process of universal modernization implicitly inscribed in the European project of modernity (Ashcroft, Griffith, and Tiffin 1989). Sometimes, as in the case of Dr Mahathir, this rhetoric is expressed in terms of a defiant “Asia” which will give “the West” its come-uppance — a specification of the controversial “clash of civilizations” premonitioned by influential American political science Professor Samuel Huntington (1993). At other times, as in the more idealist discourse of Mathathir’s former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, what is articulated is the dream for a “civilizational dialogue” on an equal footing, for “the creation of a global community, formed neither by the East nor the West, but dedicated to the ideals of both” (Anwar Ibrahim 1996, p. 41). Either way, the discourse operates to reduce the sense of disorder and uncertainty created by “the global postmodern” through the continuation of an East/West divide. What such a discourse obscures is the fact that “East” and “West” are not two mutually exclusive, eternally different “civilizations” but that

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all nations and peoples, despite their obvious differences, now share a single global order which, despite — or perhaps precisely because of — its decentred and fragmented, localized nature, is governed by the same rules, procedures, and requirements — ultimately, those of global capital. Arif Dirlik has astutely remarked that what makes something like the East Asian Confucian revival plausible is not its offer of alternative values to those of EuroAmerican origin but its articulation of native culture into a capitalist narrative. (Dirlik 1994, p. 51)

In this sense, the ascendancy of “Asia” so strongly banked on and desired among Asian élites today cannot be understood in terms of a triumph of “East” over “West”, but more complexly and unrelentingly as the insertion and mutual entanglement of both in a more comprehensive but at the same time more fragmented and diversified global capitalist culture. As Dirlik puts it: For the first time in the history of capitalism, the capitalist mode of production appears as an authentically global abstraction, divorced from its historically specific origins in Europe. (Ibid., pp. 51–52)

Seen this way, the most successful and accomplished form of “Western cultural imperialism” has been precisely the universalization of capitalist culture throughout the world. To an important extent, then, the promotion of “Asia” must be understood within the framework of the abstract logic of the now globalized capitalist mode of production. Anwar Ibrahim himself has remarked, as already quoted, that what he has called an Asian “counteroffensive” “will be meaningful only if we can offer cultural products that compete successfully for the free choice of a universal audience”. And the Straits Times’ remarks that “good values do not sell on television because they are good values but because the programmes they are communicated through are good programmes” (Straits Times, 6 January 1994), implying that Singaporean programmes should first of all develop their entertainment value. The language of capitalism is spoken loudly and eloquently here: “competition”, “free choice”, “selling”. So naturalized has the capitalist culture of marketing and commerce become that what constitutes “Asian” cultural products, apparently, can only be defined in terms of their career as commodities on the global market-place — that is, a matter of market positioning, niche marketing.

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NOTES 1. These subtle differences between Anwar and Mahathir, with the former being more conciliatory towards the West, at least in rhetoric, may have contributed to the former’s fall from grace in the Malaysian political hierarchy in 1997, when Mahathir deposed him as deputy prime minister and as appointed successor to the prime minister. 2. The rapidity of developments in global communications is signalled by the fact that while satellite television was the issue of concern in the early 1990s, by the late 1990s the main concern has shifted towards the Internet, which has posed an even more daunting challenge to the border-guarding aspirations of national governments. 3.

It should be added, however, that such state control was never completely effective in the first place. For example, despite the ban, people in Sarawak have for years been able to receive foreign broadcasts using satellite dishes bought on the black market. Similar infringements of satellite dishes bans are regular practice among television audiences in places such as southern China and Iran, along the IndianPakistani border, and, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, in East Germany. In the latter case, cross-border television has commonly been seen as a significant contributor to the popular uprising that led to the fall of the Wall.

4. This comment was made during a speech in Jakarta in June 1995. I would like to thank John Sinclair for reporting this to me. 5. Ironically, Anwar’s own ill-fated downfall and current imprisonment in Malaysia may, in the eyes of his supporters, be seen as a definite retreat from the “Asian renaissance” he himself has aspired to represent. REFERENCES Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1983. Ang, Ien. “In the Realm of Uncertainty: The Global Village and Capitalist Postmodernity”. In Living Room Wars: Rethinking Media Audiences for a Postmodern World. London: Routledge, 1996. Ang, Ien and Jon Stratton. “Asianing Australia: Notes towards a Critical Transnationalism in Cultural Studies”. In Cultural Studies 10, no. 1 (1996): 16–36. Anwar Ibrahim. The Asian Renaissance. Singapore: Times Books International, 1996. Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy”. Public Culture 2, no. 2 (1990). Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffith, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures. London: Routledge, 1989. Castells, Manuel and Jeoffrey Henderson. “Introduction”. In Global Restructuring and

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Territorial Development, edited by J. Henderson and M. Castells. London: Sage, 1987. Collins, Richard. Culture, Communication and National Identity: The Case of Canadian Television. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990. Commission of the European Communities. Television Without Frontiers. Brussels: Commission of the European Communities, 1984. Dirlik, Arif. After the Revolution: Waking to Global Capitalism. Hannover and London: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. Hall, Stuart. “The Local and the Global: Globalization and Ethnicity”. In Culture, Globalization and the World-System, edited by Anthony D. King. Houndsmills: Macmillan, 1993. Huntington, Samuel. “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 73, no. 3 (1993): 22–49. Iwabuchi, Koichi. “Return to Asia? Japan in the Audiovisual Market”. In SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 9, no. 2 (1994): 226–45. Karthigesu, R.“Broadcasting Deregulation in Developing Asian Nations: An Examination of Nascent Tendencies Using Malaysia as a Case Study”. In Media, Culture and Society 16, no. 1 (1994): 73–90. Miller, Toby. “National Policy and the Traded Image”. In National Identity and Europe, edited by Philip Drummond, Richard Paterson, and Janet Willis. London: British Film Institute, 1993. Robertson, Roland. “Glocalisation”. Journal for International Communication 1, no. 2 (1995). Robins, Kevin. “Reimagining Communities? European Image Spaces, Beyond Fordism”. In Cultural Studies 3, no. 2 (1989): 145–65. Sahlins, Marshall. “Cosmologies of Capitalism: The Trans-Pacific Sector of ‘The Word System’”. In Culture/Power/History, edited by Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry B. Ortner. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994. Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus, 1993. Schiller, Herbert. Mass Communication and American Empire. 2nd. ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992. Shoesmith, Brian. “Asia in Their Shadow: Satellites and Asia”. In Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science 22 (1994): 125–43. Stewart, Ian. “Chorus of Contempt”. Weekend Australian, 21–22 January 1995. Tomlinson, John. Cultural Imperialism: A Critical Introduction. London: Pinter Publishers, 1991.

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Modernity and Mahathir’s rage: theorizing state discourse of mass media in Southeast Asia YAO SOUCHOU

I have always loved television. Like many people addicted to the gentle habit, I have long realized that television viewing is not only pleasurable but is also good for the nerves. At the end of the day, after putting the children to bed, with a cold can of beer in my hand and sitting in front of the television, I am indeed a prince in my private realm. The exhaustion from the day’s toil is imperceptibly dissolved in the realm of desire and fantasy. My enjoyment of television, however, is always mixed with a certain feeling of unease. There is often a sense that the pleasure of mass entertainment may deposit something unsound, something apocalyptic, that will act upon my consciousness when I am least aware of it. At the same time, even as I am deeply engrossed, there is a part of my mind telling me I should be doing something more worthwhile — maybe reading a book, or writing a letter to a friend. Perhaps it is also a question of self-image. As ambitious intellectuals we are not likely to openly confess the secret pleasure we take in watching Wheel of Fortune and the ideologically dubious Miami Vice, where the good guys and the bad guys are barely distinguishable in their Gorgio Amani suits and fast cars. The clumsy reference to my ambiguous feeling towards television illustrates, if anything, how common is our suspicion of the enjoyment

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of the mass media. This suspicion in fact can be traced to major philosophic currents which work to invalidate such “common pleasures”. First is the essentially bourgeois view that the mass media is for the “masses”; it caters to the lowest common denominator of unreflective thoughts and easy emotions. Television programming, dominated by soap operas, talk shows, and musical video, it is argued, lacks pedagogic value: unlike classical arts, it offers neither spiritual enlightenment nor critical engagement with life’s concerns. Popular culture pleases but does not teach. The failure of popular culture lies precisely in its impotence in delivering what high culture has promised: to cultivate a refined aesthetic sensibility and humanistic values, and to act as a prophylactic against the brutish influences of industrialization and modernization. The other critique of the mass media comes from Marxism, particularly through the powerful voice of the Frankfurt School. For Adorno, mass culture is a powerful cultural product of capitalism (Adorno 1991). Imbued with the ideological values of capitalism, mass culture is instrumental in creating fetishized sensibilities among consumers who are wont to accept their conditions under a comprehensive economic and ideological domination. The invalidation of the mass media therefore has a powerful intellectual heritage in the West. Over the past two decades, a similar process is also taking place in Southeast Asia, one that is specifically played out against the context of rapid economic development and cultural change. In the state discourse of Malaysia, for example, the engagement with the “politics of pleasure” reworks the cultural imperialism argument by giving it a new and complex ideological register which resonates with state hegemony and a distinctive posture of “Asian triumphalism”. What emerges is a contradictory blend of anti-West post-colonial concerns and statist ideology. My discussion will begin by deconstructing the political currency of such a discourse in Southeast Asia, and then go on to attempt to theorize the position of the mass media in the context of the modernizing experience in the region. The central issue which underpins this discussion is, of course, that of cultural imperialism. Echoing the conventional formulations of the 1950s and 1960s (Tomlinson 1991; and Ang, this volume), the notion of cultural imperialism voiced by Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir repeats the fervent critique

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of the control of world media by the West, and the undesirable effects of the Western media on local societies and cultures. The “cultural harm” of the Western media is the key feature of dominant state discourses in many countries in Southeast Asia. There is, however, an interesting irony in all this. For the perception of cultural vulnerability by many Southeast Asian states is taking place at a time of emerging political and economic confidence in the region — confidence which may be tempered but not written off by the 1997 economic difficulties, as many observers have argued (Holloway et al. 1997). In any case, the route to economic recovery is likely to ever more greatly depend on flows of information and technology from the capitalrich West — and Japan. However, the significance of the mass media and information technology in general lies not only in their economic importance or instrumental value. For Southeast Asian states on a path of rapid development, they — together with many other items of urban consumption such as mobile phones and designer goods — are the index of modernity itself. The mass media — the very act of setting up a television station — is as much an instrument for disseminating politically contingent information for nation-building, as it is a sign of a nation’s arrival in the modern world. For this reason the relationship of developing nations with the mass media is always an uneasy one. For what is implied is not only the impact of mass entertainment or even a relatively facile social issue like that of television violence, but an ambivalence towards the fruits of modernity themselves. In articulating the unease of this ambivalence, the discourse of the mass media in Southeast Asia becomes a crucial voice in the dialogue with Western modernity. The voice is often rhetorical and overstated. But it is not without a note of the tragic when it insists on the integrity of local national and cultural concerns, and the need to resist Western economic and cultural hegemony in a globalizing world. Writing from Southeast Asia — Singapore, specifically — I find it necessary to develop a discursive position which engages with, sympathetically and critically, both local concerns for the effects of globalization and the specific ideological agendas implicit in the critique of “Western hegemony”. For the state discourse on the media is often highly effective in galvanizing national feelings and passions. This effectiveness draws on and feeds into the new posture of

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Southeast Asia in the post-colonial world. The dramatic pace at which globalization and Westernization are taking place reshapes the quality of the modernization process far beyond the scope and conceptions of post-war developmentalism. Though economic development always brings about changes in traditional communities, globalization and Westernization — it is feared — are taking the process further apace in a way that threatens the cultural and existential centres of local societies. The discourse on mass media in Southeast Asia is a significant articulation of this fear while it resists the very sources that have brought about the — real and imagined — conditions of vulnerability. Thus, what I have called the “politics of pleasure” directly raises doubts about the “authority” of Western hegemony generally. In putting Western political and economic domination to a local cultural scrutiny, the state discourse brings to the surface and deploys the historical antagonism between the colonizing West and the colonized East. However, the othering of the West, the casting of the “non-East” to the space of its historical colonial representations, is problematic in the world of global restructuring. In such a world, the West is no longer the familiar entity with which the developing nations can easily pit their passion against the world. The Southeast Asian discourse on mass media, I argue, has to be seen as an active response to, and an attempt to manœuvre in, the fluid conditions of global exchanges which have brought about considerable uncertainty in any representational enterprise. By continuously structuring a systematic difference between us and them in a world that is increasingly coming together, the enunciation of “Asian concerns” is caught within its own ambivalence and desire. It is a desire that inscribes a double move of othering and appropriating in relations with the West. In this terrain of attraction and repulsion, the West is no longer simply “there”, but comes to inhabit the centre of our wishes: and it is this repositioning of the West in Asia which invites the deconstructive move that follows. Asianizing the mass media

It is not easy to give shape to the complex process of rewriting an Asian agenda in mass media in Southeast Asia. On the one hand, there is undoubtedly a recognition that the proliferation of mass media is a natural

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consequence of the flow of information and the spread of advanced telecommunication technologies. All this is viewed as somewhat inevitable and even beneficial. As one writer puts it, “There is no way that governments can stop the flow of information from entering their countries because of the wide prevalence of satellite technology” (Jussawalla 1993, p. 128), and the best that Asian governments can do is to harness the new technologies for economic development. However, the lure of economic promises is mixed with a feeling of uncertainty at the massive impact of the media such as Star TV and other satellite broadcasting on local societies. In Southeast Asia, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir has been the most fervent critic of the Western media. His colourful remarks about the workings of the Western media help to articulate the anxiety many Southeast Asian nations feel about the dramatic changes their societies are undergoing. Indeed, his forceful view of the working of the media is enmeshed in his “Asian model” of development, which argues that authoritarian government is a condition — and necessary political price — for achieving economic growth. It is a model endorsed by Malaysia’s neighbours from Singapore to Indonesia. For example, the New Light of Myamnar, the major English daily of Yangon, in an article on 14 September 1993, upheld the Malaysian Prime Minister as an Asian leader “who warned of the Western news agencies’ activities to destabilize individual countries in Asia … [in order] to achieve an economic domination of the region” (Straits Times, 16 September 1993). Leaving aside the complex specificities of the responses of Southeast Asian states, it is clear that Dr Mahathir’s various pronouncements echo the concerns of many governments in the region, and help to constitute the central positions of an Asian approach to mass media. Our discussion may fruitfully begin by examining his remarks in detail. Since coming to power in July 1981, Dr Mahathir has consistently attempted to assume a distinctively “anti-West” international posture which reinforces Malaysia’s profile as a spokesperson for the “East”. The “Look East” campaign in his early administration, for example, hoped to shift Malaysia’s political, economic, and cultural interests towards Asia, specifically Japan and South Korea, whose disciplined work-force and economic growth provided, to his thinking, a better model for Malaysia than the declining West. Over the years, he has consistently

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built upon this agenda, and has presented himself as an Asian leader who is prepared to “talk back to the West”. Many of Dr Mahathir’s moves are exquisitely orchestrated — for example, his “Buy British Last” policy in protest against the raising of British university fees for foreign students. Later in 1994, he engaged in a row with the English press over a report in the London Sunday Times of his taking of bribes, leading to the banning of English companies from tendering for Malaysian government projects. In post-colonial times, when the resonance of a Western imperial past has barely settled, Dr Mahathir’s action takes on something of a radical gesture: it is an attempt of the colonized subject to demand its ex-colonial masters to answer for their sins. His criticism of the Western media is highly provocative: in striking a relatively independent posture against the West, and in offering the West still burdened by a memory of colonialism and imperialism an opportunity for redemption. This is a rich field for analysis, and I turn to an event in 1993 as an illustration. In July 1993, global media magnate Rupert Murdoch bought a 63.6 per cent controlling interest in HutchVision Ltd., the parent company of the Hong Kong–based Star TV which broadcasts music video, sports, and news to thirty-eight countries in Asia and the Pacific. Star TV began with three channels in 1990, including an English sports channel, a music channel, and a Mandarin channel offering Chinese soap operas and variety shows. In the following year, BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) news and documentary and family entertainment channels were added to the package. As advertising revenue was a major source of income for Star TV in its initial years, its programme signals then were not scrambled so that they could be received by television via a simple decoder and a satellite dish. The penetration of Star TV had been spectacular. Despite measures by some governments to discourage access, by early 1993 the number of Star TV households reached 11 million in twelve nations, its most successful markets being Israel and Taiwan, followed by Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and India (Wang 1993). The purchase of Star TV by Rupert Murdoch gave rise to strong objections from Dr Mahathir. In his three-day visit to Brunei in August 1993, he raised the rhetorical question, “Why has Mr Rupert Murdoch

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brought 64 per cent stake of Star TV for US$500 million? If he is not going to control news that we are going to receive, then what is it?” He wanted to know why the media tycoon was “paying such a fantastic price for a network that has never shown any profit” (Straits Times, 4 August 1993). These remarks have to be seen in the context of his general distrust of the Western media, and his criticisms are directed at three levels. Firstly, the Western media is powerful and amoral. In Dr Mahathir’s words: We can watch murder as it is being committed in all the gory details, but at the same time the TV can have us dancing while watching Michael Jackson during his moonwalk. Clearly the people who decide what we should see and hear hold terrible power. They can have us dancing in the streets or they can have us rioting with firebrands in our hands, burning, looting and killing. (Star, 14 October 1993)

Secondly, the mass media distort the truth about Asia. They “have not been fair and they black out anything good” about developing countries. They are thus destabilizing and work against “Asian interests”: There is no Asian newspaper for Asians, only Western newspapers published in the name of Asian countries. … Their [foreign media’s] main idea is how to create friction and instability, so that if we are unstable they can compete with us. (Straits Times, 4 August 1993)

Last is the idea that the Western media disrupt and threaten Asian societies and their traditional values. In spite of the immense commercial opportunities of satellite television, Dr Mahathir is emphatic about the need to prevent open channels like Star TV from importing “undesired elements” to Asian communities: “We want the media to inform people. We don’t want the media to destroy their culture.” (Straits Times, 7 October 1993). It is in response to remarks like this that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation replied: “We are conscious of the Asian way of life and its unique cultural, historical and religious heritage. We would not presume to intrude into the domestic affairs of any country.” (Straits Times, 6 August 1993). The Prime Minister’s remarks are a mixture of personal indignation, offended national sensibilities, and political over-reactions. Assuming a passionate “Asian voice”, these remarks speak directly to the West-

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ern Other. Dr Mahathir’s dramatic rhetorical style constitutes a highly effective dialogic performance of the type described by Bakhtin (1981). By talking about the world’s media as controlled by “a very few people in the West” (“the Big Brothers” of whom Rupert Murdoch and New York–based Dow Jones & Co. which publishes the Far East Economic Review are obvious members), the discourse assumes a kind of “common sense” among developing countries under the assault of the Western media. In his address at the 48th U.N. General Assembly on 1 October 1993, he reportedly devoted twelve paragraphs in his fifty-sixparagraph speech to the international media, something that was considered “unprecedented”; as Bernama, Malaysia’s official news agency remarks, “This is especially so as most leaders would normally voice concern about world politics in their addresses at the United Nations” (Sunday Times, 2 October 1993). To the audience on this and other occasions, his criticism of the West and the Western media always borders on the breaking of established diplomatic protocol. Indeed, the almost self-conscious breaching of the established rules of conduct marks the speaker as different from those for whom the protocol is normally prescribed. By refusing to play the game according to the rules, the rhetoric expresses much more than a suspicion of the West, but constitutes a language of “post-colonial resistance”. The West as Other

Dr Mahathir, however, is not alone in the condemnation of the Western media and his insistence on Asia’s vulnerability and moral uniqueness. Singapore too, for example, through the compelling voice of its then Minister for Information and the Arts, Brigadier-General George Yeo, had called on Southeast Asian nations to “go on the offence” in regulating Western broadcasting and in “promot[ing] our own values and way of life” (Straits Times, 20 December 1993). In a similar vein, Thailand had reproached the London-based publisher of the popular Longman’s Dictionary of English Language and Culture for describing the Thai capital Bangkok as a city “famous for its temples … and where there are a lot of prostitutes” (Straits Times, 7 July 1993). The Thai government had protested that such an entry would “project a negative image of Thailand … [and] erode the general moral standard of Thais” (Straits Times,

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7 July 1993). Post–doi moi Vietnam too introduced a national campaign for purging “social evils”, “blaming [them] on Western influences that have returned to the country since [Vietnam] began its economic reforms” (Straits Times, 17 May 1994). In support of the authorities’ efforts in checking bars and karaoke bars, the writer Huu Ngoc was quoted as saying: “This is our third war of resistance. The first two were armed resistance — this is a peaceful war to fight materialistic domination of life that threatens to destroy our cultural identity.” (Straits Times, 17 May 1994). Such activities of the state affirms the prevailing perception — among government circles and some sections of civil society — of a Southeast Asia under assault by Western culture’s aggressive global movements. In such a perception the complex problems associated with the mass media — its social impact, its use and abuse, and its mode of management and control — are seen as primarily about its “Western origin” and harmful effects. Asian viewers are perceived as victims of Western cultural imperialism, and the West an entity that Asia, morally and culturally, is not. In post-structuralist terms, the process is one of displacement: a disavowal by the author of the discourse of his own desire and will to power by constructing another space “out there”, among “the Other”, in which to hide himself. The question we have to ask here is not so much if the Western media actually distort news about Asia, or if there are real grievances with regard to mis-reporting by the Western media. These questions cannot be settled by simply deciding on their truth or falsehood. Instead, we have to turn to the “desire” inserted in this construction of a systematic difference between East and West, us and them. This focus enables us to bring forth all that beguiles an Asian subject like Dr Mahathir: his anxieties, resistance, and existential strategies. However, if I am taking the discussion to this theoretical path, it is not to belittle the Asian complaint that local events are often misrepresented in the Western media. For example, there is no doubt that Western media coverage of events such as the Tiananmen incident or Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 is highly selective in a way that reflects the deepseated values of individual freedom and liberal democracy in the West (Wang 1991). Nonetheless, it is useful to remember that news events are never simply objective facts which the media can simply take and

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present to the world. What is reported is always filtered through the editorial and ideological decisions of the media in question. But the point is that if the media in general distorts, it is not always clear that such a distortion is predictably directed at any target in the East (or the West, for that matter). The issue of media credibility is too complex a question to be settled here. If some Western newspapers tend to be overcritical of the East, as expressed by Dr Mahathir, they are just as likely to find fault with their own governments and societies. It is because reporting by the Western media does not assume a single coherent position with regard to the East that we have to direct attention to the concerns and authorial desire of the Asian approach to mass media in conditions of modernity. Our discussion, therefore, directs attention to the crucial dualism in such an approach. This dualism in fact posits a series of differences in terms of East and West, us and them, truth and distortion, tradition and modernity, and so on. These oppositions are cultural constructs; their effect is to give the West and Western media — and thus the East itself — a formal quality, and the appearance of separate and identifiable entities. What do we make of the constitutive principle that characterizes the discursive formation? The most immediate answer is totalization: the cutting across many diverse and conflicting notions about the West, Asia, the mass media and their social effects, and placing them under a set of structural categories with which these ideas are explained and explained away. Totalization is a strategy that employs homogenization and an all-encompassing framework under which all the multiple and dispersed processes associated with the mass media can be subsumed. Through this process, the West is constructed as an object that articulates something of our desire and anxiety in the modern world. If the Western perception of Asia is never innocent, neither is our understanding of the West. We too build agendas in our enterprises. These agendas, as I shall explain, are about asserting an Asian voice in the post-colonial world. They have, at least in the hands of Southeast Asian states like Singapore and Malaysia, come out of the attempt to wrestle the centre of hegemonic influence from the West. The East or “Asia” now emerges as a sovereign subject while marking the West as the Other residing in

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the foreign space, possessing all the qualities we are not, or that we wish to have. The West is the Other discursive space in which Asia can find its new destiny. It is perhaps useful to think of the discourse as engaging in a kind Occidentalism, an Orientalism in reverse. Both employ totalization and othering in the inscription of truth and knowledge. If the (imperial) West had created the Orient out of its own imagining and will to power, Asia can also give rein to the force of desire by totalizing the West in a counter-deployment in which Asia alone speaks the master voice. It is the principle that follows the rule of, as Dr Mahathir remarks concerning his meeting with Rupert Murdoch, “What he does to me, I will do to him” (Sunday Times, Singapore, 3 October 1993). It is as if by employing the same strategy as the West, the Asian voice merely wishes to settle the account with the West. It is prudent, however, not to stretch too far this inference of Asian discourse as an opposite of Orientalism. Certainly it would be misleading to put them together on the same plane as they do not have the same history nor do they occupy the same position in the international hegemonic order of global capitalism. Nonetheless, Said’s classic argument is useful here because it reminds us of the importance of social and political conditions in which the construction of knowledge and power takes place. What is brought to light is not only discursive deployment itself, but also the very conditions of “speaking”. In so far as Southeast Asian discourse on mass media is counterhegemonic, it is an operation that attempts to reconstruct the West by inscribing the diverse social and cultural spaces it inhabits under the “Sign of the West”. The strategy hopes to reverse the privileged pole in the opposition between East and West. Casting the West to the outside, and putting in place instead Asia as the sovereign subject in the new global exchange, the strategy signals Asia’s coming of age. Dr Mahathir’s remarks, by emphasizing Asia’s victimization by the West, struggle to express an undeniable (from a historical perspective) natural justice in supplanting the dominant voice of the West. His Occidentalism claims the prerogative of contestation, of playing the same discursive game as the West, thus articulating and harnessing the knowledge and power that are invariably involved.

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Politics, difference, and the desire to be modern

In one way, the game is a beguilingly simple one of post-modern politics (Yeatman 1991). As the global order begins to shift, as power increasingly flows beyond the traditional spheres that made the world, the future is taking shape through the struggles of the disinherited nations to claim a place in the narrative of progressive nations. These struggles engage new voices and new rules for the game. There is nothing more evident of this than the current rewriting of the narratives of democracy, human rights, and the environment from the “Asian point of view” (Bartley et al. 1993). Politics in post-modern conditions identifies and draws on two sources of tension. Firstly, there is what Lyotard (1984) calls the crisis of narratives, the scepticism of the grand modernist stories about objective and universally achievable Truth, Justice, and Progress. If there cannot be a consensus about the ultimately transcendental grounds for these ideas, they become chronically “contextualized” and some other ways of seeing and operationalizing them have to emerge (Yeatman 1991, p. 116). The result, as Dr Mahathir instinctively understands, is to cast doubt on the moral, economic, and cultural superiority of the West. Secondly, post-modern politics refocuses attention from the hegemonic order in its macro-structural location to the marginalized sites where subaltern voices are trying to speak. These are not necessarily revolutionary moves, but are more about the insistence by those at the border (in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, and locality) of their right to construct their own subjectivities and rewrite their own histories. Asian discourse on mass media can be seen within this context in which the agendas of Western modernity grounded in European Enlightenment ideals — democracy, individual freedom, and human rights — are being questioned. The discourse in fact reassesses and reformulates the understanding of the value and purpose of mass media from an alternative “Asian perspective”. The move is counter-hegemonic in that it insists on a different reading of the “truth” about mass media and the right to script a new agenda. Post-modern politics, in the way I have outlined, is a major move to break away from the Marxist totalization of the relation between base and superstructure, and from the conception of the economic “at the

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last instance” (Althusser 1971, 1977). But in the rejection of essentialism and teleology, there is a great temptation for post-modern politics to turn into a game of difference or opposition without a discernible and realistic objective of struggle. As we have seen, the writing of an Asian discourse on mass media precisely involves the speaking of “an alternative voice”, and the making of a new and different sovereign subject from that of the West. The “politics of opposition” can at times take on a seemingly elementary logic in the discourse about the Western media. If the power of Rupert Murdoch is to be questioned because he is a Westerner, then Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok’s control of the Hong Kong English daily South China Morning Post is defensible because he is Malaysian. If the Western-controlled mass media distorts Asian news and corrupts Asian values, then the “Asianized media” would hopefully achieve where the Western media fail. This crude system of opposition and antagonism is possible only because the Asian subject’s locating of himself in the exact reflection of the Western Other. By positioning itself as a reaction against the injustice committed by the West, the discourse invariably subscribes to the one-sided instrumentalist conception of hegemony as something the dominant West does to the dominated East. Homi Bhabha criticizes Said’s Orientalism thus: [It] is difficult to conceive of the process of subjectification as a placing within Orientalist or colonial discourse for the dominated subject without the dominant being strategically placed within it too. There is always, in Said, the suggestion that colonial power and discourse is possessed entirely by the coloniser, which is a historical and theoretical simplification. The terms in which Said’s orientalism is unified — the intentionality and unidirectionality of colonial power — also unify the subject of colonial enunciation. (1983, pp. 24–25, quoted in Mutman 1992/93, p. 174)

The Asian approach to mass media suffers from a similar methodological fallacy — of bracketing itself out, of implying an immunity, from its enunciation of the West. Following Bhabha, we have to see the Asian subject as strategically implicated in a discourse that invents both the East and the West. What Bhabha points to is the impossibility of erasing difference through the simple tactics of opposition. Differences cannot be annulled because the unconscious desire that produces the subject cannot be an-

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nulled. This rupturing of distinctions, of the duality of the Other, is for our analysis a decisive deconstructive manœuvre. What is at stake is not simply whether it is valid to locate the sources of our woes in the West, but rather the contour of our wishes which makes necessary such a denunciation in the first place. In the realm of discourse, if the difference between the East and West is really an invention, and if in the construction of the West the East also creates itself, then we need a term to express this play of difference inscribed by the working of desire, for example, a term such as that which Derrida calls differance, which he defines simultaneously in two senses. The first: to take recourse consciously or unconsciously, in the temporal and temporizing mediation of a detour that suspends the accomplishment or fulfilment of “desire” or “will”, and equally effects this suspension in a mode that annuls or tempers its own effects … The other sense … is the more common and identifiable one; to be not identical. (1982, p. 8)

Derrida’s notion of differance drives home the difficulty in the making of a simple and reified difference between East and West in the imaginary, quite apart from what takes place in the socially and economically real. Speaking from the terrain of psychical manœuvre, the making of difference by an Asian political leader like Dr Mahathir is the ingenious working of the unconscious will to create a screen upon which to project itself. The West becomes a construction that deflects the Asian subject’s existential concerns in a globalized world. Globalization, modernity, and the West

The response of Southeast Asian to Western modernity is thus immensely subtle. The need for economic development has meant an open courting of the benefits of modernity: Western education, technology, and foreign capital (not to mention nationalism and parliamentary democracy). At the same time, governments also attempt to seal off their societies from what they see as undesirable imports from the West, of things ranging from foreign newspapers and journals to girlie magazines and occasionally rock music and Hollywood films. Such a closure has not proved to be easy in the condition of globalization. With the rapid flow of goods, capital, people, information, ideas, and cultures across nations and societies, globalization simply means the opening up of societies

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whose values and traditions are now subject to external influences and scrutiny. Along with this tendency there is also in accordance with Weber’s classic argument, the increasing rationalization of institutions and their functions under modernization. In the condition of modernity, theoretically at least, political, economic, and religious institutions are separate, and what we do may not necessarily be related to what we are. Institutional rationalization means that it is no longer possible to confine moral meanings, institutional functions, and private acts within the principles that define communal boundaries in the first place. Globalization adds a new dimension to “the primacy of functional differentiation” under modernity (Beyer 1990, p. 384). With diminishing spatial separation between communities and cultures, globalization exacerbates a society’s boundary maintenance problem on a scale it did not have to deal with before. In the words of Beyer: The resultant global tendencies of societies have radically altered the conditions under which the moralising solution is still possible on the level of society on a whole, because the group now includes everyone. (Ibid., p. 384, emphasis added)

Theoretically, we are now moving far away from the immediate concern of Asian leaders like Dr Mahathir. But as a more general problem of modernity, functional differentiation and openness have to be singled out as crucial tension behind much of the Malaysian Prime Minister’s rage against the West. And in a way he is not wrong: modernity/ modernization can be said to bring about a moral decline in Asian societies simply because moralizing standards can no longer rely on institutionally supported judgements (for example, by kin groups and religious institutions) about what we do and who we are. Religious credentials, for example, now operate in competition with the pulls of secular achievements and attractions like education, financial and professional success, and ownership of the status symbols of urban consumption. Globalization, on the other hand, creates the conditions in which those who used to be outsiders now live among us. In a world of global communications, we lose much of our choices in selecting our neighbours. Outsiders among our midst are a profound contradiction. They are especially so at a time when traditional moral standards and institutions are being undermined by the onslaught of modernization. Out-

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siders in our midst create significant problems in affirming outside/ inside, enemies/friends distinctions that are crucial in constructing the Evil Other to show the possibility of God and salvation. Meeting him face to face not only makes the Evil Other appear less than what he is imagined to be; in the world of transnational capitalism, we find that we have to deal with him because he is essential for realizing our own political and economic ambitions. The West as the Evil Other is a powerful imaginary which constitutes the history of the present, as Foucault might put it, that reveals not so much the past as the very nature of the making of an anti-West posture outside the West. Such a posture draws from the anti-colonial past, and came into being by totalizing the varying political needs and aspirations of the societies of the non-West. For this reason, any attempt to enclose a discourse within, say, a distinctively Asian position — for instance, in regard to Western cultural imperialism, Third World environmentalism or feminism — is fraught with methodological problems: the discourse of Asianized mass media is only one articulation of these. The difficulties in casting out the West are especially acute when we are reminded of the position of transnational capitalism itself. In the global economy, the industrialized West (which rightly includes Japan) still remains the world’s centre of technologies, industrial expertise, and financial capital. The more astute of the economists in Southeast Asia are wont to see the 1997 financial and economic crisis in Asia as resulting in ever greater dependence on the West for its resources and further “rescue packages”. In a similiar fashion, the slow rate of growth in Western economies is likely to be seen as an outcome of industrial restructuring rather than as evidence of long-term economic decline. Consequently, while the sediments of anti-colonialism might keep alive an “anti-West” political stance, the urgent task of modernization and economic recovery would have us invite the West back simply because success depends on its technologies and participation. Mass media and telecommunications are a part of the crucial resources. However, more than anything, the mass media and information technology in general signify — and warn of — the coming together of the East and the West and other worlds. What I am concerned with here is the nature of this double move: the inscribing of a culturally significant posture in order to cast

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the West to the other side while we seek economic and industrial spaces to assist and accommodate its return. There are further ironic loopings to this. The arriving of the West among us would further energize the othering of the West, making it even more necessary to bring all the historical antagonisms to the fore in order to put him in his place. Contrary to what Dr Mahathir would suggest, global communication does not so much facilitate Western cultural invasion as reconfigure the relationship between the East and the West, who are now centrally implicated as both subject and object, us and them, friend and enemy. All this creates significant ambivalence not only with regard to Asia’s relationship with the West but also towards the experience of modernity itself. It is in this ambiguous terrain of attraction and repulsion, need and resentment, that the ambivalence of Asian discourse on mass media is located. The West as stranger: uncertainty and Westoxication

When the Western Other is continuously in our midst, he is no longer our enemy; he becomes a stranger. Enemies are essential, in fact useful, because they help to say something about what we — ourselves and friends — are not, and do not wish to be. Enemies offer the comfort of symmetry: without enemies there can be no friends, and friends only exist because there are enemies beyond the boundaries of friendship. Friends and foes can be spatially set apart, but the stranger makes us see the illusion of this symmetry because he is neither friend nor enemy or he can be both. The stranger, in Bauman’s elegant reworking of Simmel, refuses the smug antagonisms of conflict and difference (Bauman 1990, p. 143). For both Bauman and Simmel, the role of the stranger is charged with a profound significance derived precisely from his propensity to break the pristine boundaries which divide friends and enemies, us and them, inside and outside the community. Always already “here” among us, the stranger has the unique position of “the man who comes today and stays tomorrow” (Simmel 1971, p. 143). The stranger is disruptive because he refuses to stay securely on one side, the site of the friend, or the site of the enemy; he thrives on the contradiction as the enemy living in our community. By breaking the neat spatial, social, and cog-

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nitive divisions of friends against enemies, the stranger threatens the certainty of knowing and thus threatens the social order itself (Bauman 1990; Douglas 1966). The idea of the West as Simmel’s stranger “who comes today and stays tomorrow” makes good sense when we consider the restless movement of the West in the geography of modernity in Southeast Asia. In the global flow of information and cultures, and the restructuring of the transnational economy, the West no longer gives comfort as the Other, and as the enemy. Of course, both the enemy and the stranger are threatening by the fact of their not being friends and by the quality of uncertainty they evoke. While they both may represent grids of possibilities from which real and imaginary threat might come, the nature of the damage that can come from the stranger is immensely greater and more awesome. It is so because by being neither a friend nor an enemy the stranger denies us the ability to respond: we cannot act because we have no way of knowing which is the case. From this point of view, we can think of the Asian discourse of the West as an attempt to give him shape from the shadow of uncertainty, to bring him under the light of decidability. All the moral qualities — or the lack of them — invested in the West thus unambiguously place him in a “determined” place, and in the process transform him from a stranger to an enemy. If globalization and modernization confuse the status of the enemy by bringing him to our home grounds, the discursive strategy of an Asian leader like the Malaysian Prime Minister is always to move the West to the territory of exile. Asian discourse of the Western media is a move which forever resists the deployment of the West as a stranger by constantly reversing the processes of coming together, by restoring his status as an enemy/other. Contrary to the claims and wishes of the state and some intellectuals in Southeast Asia, modernization is invariably tied in with Westernization. From the view of Simmel’s brilliant analysis, the potential of the West to destabilize “Asian social order” becomes very real indeed. Out of the difficulties in resolving the ambiguous status of the West, the Asian subject figures him into a phantasmatic product of desire. If modernity brings not only social progress and economic development but

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also Westernization and thus threat to our bounded communities, then the fate of modernity may be too terrible to contemplate. Displacement and disavowal are the logical route for desire to bypass the necessity of confrontation with itself. “Westoxication”, to use a term of Beyer (1990), represents a spectrum of this deployment. The West, such as the proclamation of the Aliran (a spiritual revivalist movement in Malaysia) would have it, is the land of the Fallen Angel, infested with a myriad of social and moral ills. Chandra Muzzafar, then its president, helpfully provides a list: Problems arising from unlimiting [sic] production, unending consumption, an anarchic fiscal situation, the erosion of absolute values, an antagonistic relationship between individual and community, the loss of both discipline and love within the family, the decline of a sense of sacred in man — man and man [sic] — and nature relationship … (Muzzaffar 1985, pp. 25–26)

The complaint of “Westoxication” is a powerful expression by the nonWest of its ambivalence towards modernity, and the urgent need to build a long-term separation of Westernization from modernization. The reshaping of the West as transcendental evil — “the West as Satanic Empire” — gives a clear signal to a return to some fundamental formulation that is capable of communicating distinctively Asian (or any nonWestern) values and aspirations. Such a call is as much a nostalgic yearning for some untainted past of traditional communities as a powerful response to globalization and modernization which have brought about, as it continues to do so, major conflicts between regions in the world, and between needs and desire within ourselves. The Asian discourse on mass media is just one of the many endeavours which attempt to manage and resist the restless movement of the West in the social, cultural, and political landscapes of the world. If the particular construction of the West expresses something of Asia’s vulnerability, then such a construct is as an illusion as it is real when we use it to formulate an understanding of the world, to build a basis to undermine the forces of Westernization. The exiling of the stranger, the imprisoning of the Western Other in the opposite space, is a crucial move to protect our home ground. A home cannot admit strangers. But by securing the stranger as enemy, we create in the West a site in which we find respite from our feeling of uncertainty.

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Postscript: cultural authenticity, pleasure, the politics of signs

Mass media in the globalizing world is a complex domain implicating a wide range of issues. My attempt to theorize the complex processes involved has barely touched some of these issues. As a way of conclusion, the following are probably useful remarks of preliminary observation: 1. The discourse on mass media in Asia requires a conception of local culture as authentic, charged with fundamental qualities that give sense to a unique Asian culture and identity (in the singular). Essentialism is an important aspect of this discursive strategy. But authenticity is also a burden; for its conception as a set of historically enduring values and practices also creates the conditions of culture’s vulnerability. Purity invites corruption; it is a state that carries the seed of disorder and the danger of moral collapse, as Mary Douglas (1996) has suggested. Yet the conception is necessary in order to create the equally essentialist opposites in the Western Other. Only by seeing Asia as traditional/authentic/communal can we understand the West as anarchic/impure/individualistic. Ironically, as Said reminds us, the East as tradition-bound, sentimental, and ruled by emotion is also an Orientalist construct of a Western imperialistic discipline. The ambition of the Asian discourse of mass media as a counter-hegemonic thrust is problematic. 2. My analysis bypasses the question of cultural imperialism which post-structuralist criticism would reject for its totalization and determinism, as Ien Ang (in this volume) has emphasized. But another problem of the argument is the denial of the specificity of people’s — mostly positive — experiences of the mass media. It is a fault which this analysis to some extent shares. When we talk about a medium such as television, viewers’ pleasure is the grounded reference point, the indisputable reason why they watch it. This, and thus the fecund issue of the politics of pleasure, are ignored by the Asian approach to mass media and by my analysis. Can people insist on the right to watch television (or films, videos) simply because it is pleasurable? The impact of a medium such as television, and even the emotional issues of television violence, are not conclusive.

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Counterpoised against the doom and gloom of what Fowles (1992) called the “television prigs school” are two basic points. Firstly, television can be good for you because the fantasies of television dramas allow viewers to rework and thus diffuse tensions and contradictions in real life. Critics like Fowles have used this proposition to explain the uneven relationship between a relatively crime-free Japanese society and television violence in Japan, which is significant, even by U.S. standards. 3. A more effective defence of the politics of pleasure in regard to television is offered by post-structuralism via semiotics. This approach stresses the constitution of meaning by individuals through encoding, the structuring of new “system of reference” between signs and signifieds. The process in fact suggests that there is no objective referent of purely semantic (dictionary) meaning, and furthermore, encoding is always a double or triple overlaying of meaning because all referents are already encoded by other agencies in other linguistic situations. Content analysis of television programmes, for instance, only makes sense if we know how viewers interpret what they watch with reference to their social and cultural experiences. We think of the complex play of gender, ethnicity, economic status, culture, and indeed Western cultural hegemony in constituting the popularity of say Michael Jackson in Southeast Asia. With regard to items of any urban consumption like pop music and Coca-Cola, there seems to be no single objective ground from which we can derive an authoritative meaning out of context. A semiotic approach effectively rescues the social significance of mass culture from the cultural imperialism proposal. Soap opera, for instance, the easiest target of attack as mindless Hollywood-inspired fantasy, has been shown to present a powerful feminist critique of patriarchy by highlighting the endless troubles and conflicts in perfect bourgeois households in programmes like Dallas and Falcon Crest (Ang 1991, p. 83). 4. The deployment of a post-structuralist critique has the merit of destabilizing state discourse which powerfully constructs a systematic difference between East and West. Writing from Southeast Asia, such destabilizing constitutes a political move because of the investment of the state in the fixity of meaning in the first place. Post-

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sructuralism operates by inserting itself between the distinctions, by tracing them to the operations of unconscious wishes. The method also brings to light the pitfalls of determinism. This is a theoretical position as much as a personal faith, which sees individuals as capable of writing their own texts, of creating their own meanings, with regard to the mass media. My field-work observations in Hong Kong and Sarawak seem to confirm that local cultures, rather than being simply “destroyed” by the mass media, are able to appropriate television images, turning them into something that makes sense on fishing boats in the South China Sea or in the East Malaysian jungle. 5. Post-structuralist criticism thus gives viewing subjects a degree of freedom from and even resistance to the powerful influences of the mass media. It is a strategy of deferral, where the final meaning is never settled but always lies one step ahead of the endless looping of encoding and decoding. The politics of this is immensely subtle, but only one aspect of it concerns me here. Is it possible to make definite ethical and political judgements about the effects of the mass media? There seem to be two issues here. Firstly, the mass media and telecommunications can and do have an effect on behaviour by their ability to carry and duplicate information globally. From Iraq to Somalia, “crisis situations of low-level conflict” are constructed visually and instantly transmitted for the world’s consumption. When anti-Shah revolutionaries copied and distributed millions of audio-cassettes of the speeches of Ayatollah Khomeini even before his return to Teheran from exile in Paris, they effectively influenced the outcome of the event. The social impact of the mass media cannot be easily dismissed. A second issue can be raised regarding the politics of representation. The production of media images has become a contested area. Minority or marginal groups are resisting stereotyping and demanding a representation that reflects their sense of dignity and self. How post-structuralist criticism can contribute to this form of media politics is a crucial concern for any analyst. Some agendas of social responsibility have to be written into the analysis. But such a project would be quite distinct from any policy measures based on the easy acceptance of the

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effect of television violence, and the instant solution of censorship and denial of access by the state as frequently witnessed in Southeast Asia. Post-structuralist refusal of foreclosure is useful here in its forever breaching of the subject, and carving up a space for interrogating the representations of local cultures and social aspirations sponsored by the state. NOTE Some of the issues discussed in this paper have been explored in my article “The Predicament of Modernity: Mass Media and the Making of the West in Southeast Asia” (Yao 1994, pp. 33–51). REFERENCES Adorno, Theodor W. The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, edited with an introduction by J.M. Bernstein. London: Routledge, 1991. Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy. London: Monthly Review Press, 1971. . For Marx. London: Verso, 1977. Ang, Ien. Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination. Translated by Della Couling. London: Methuen, 1991. Bartley, Robert, Chan Heng Chee, Samuel P. Huntington, and Shijuro Ogata. Democracy and Capitalism: Asian and American Perspectives. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1993. Bauman, Zygmunt. “Modernity and Ambivalence”. In Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity, edited by Mike Featherstone. London: Sage, 1990. Beyer, Peter F. “Privatization and the Public Influence of Religion in Global Society”. In Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity, edited by Mike Featherstone. London: Sage, 1990. Bhabha, Homi K. “The Other Question”. Screen 24, no. 6 (1983): 18–36. Derrida, Jacques. Margins of Philosophy. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1982. Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger. London: Routledge, 1966. Fowles, Jib. Why Viewers Watch: A Reappraisal of Television’s Effects. New York: Sage, 1992. Holloway, Nigel et al. “Cassandras Confounded”. Far Eastern Economic Review, June 1997. Jussawalla, Meheroo. “Information Technology and Economic Development in the

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Asia Pacific”. Media Asia 20, no. 3 (1993): 134–40. Lyotard, J.F. The Postmodern Conditions. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984. Mutman, Mahmut. “Under the Sign of Orientalism: The West vs. Islam”. Cultural Critique, no. 23 (Winter 1992/93), pp. 165–97. Muzzaffar, Chandra. “Islam in Malaysia: Resurgence and Reponses”. New Asian Vision 2, no. 1 (1985): 14–34. Simmel, Georg. “The Stranger”. In On Individuality and Social Form. First published 1908. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1971. Tomlinson, John. Cultural Imperialism: A Critical Introduction. London: Pinter Publishers, 1991. Yao Souchou. “The Predicament of Modernity: Mass Media and the Making of the West in Southeast Asia”. Asian Journal of Communication 4, no. 1 (1994): 33– 51. Yeatman, Anna. “Postmodernity and the Revisioning the Political”. Social Analysis, no. 30 (1991), pp. 116–30. Wang, Georgette. “Satellite Television and the Future of Broadcast Television in the Asia-Pacific”. Media Asia 20, no. 3 (1993): 134–40. Wang Mei-Ling. “Who Is Dominating Whose Ideology? New York Times Reporting on China”. Asian Journal of Communication 2, no. 1 (1991): 51–70.

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Representing state desire and the sins of transgression RAY LANGENBACH

Yellow and white are wise, red and black are stupid; yellow and white are rulers, red and black are slaves; yellow and white are united, red and black are scattered. (Tang Caishang [1867–1900], quoted in Sautman 1995, p. 211)

In his short essay, “Ten Years and a Billion Dollars”, William Burroughs describes “The Walk Exercise” that he gives to his writing students: The original version … was taught me by an old Mafia Don in Columbus, Ohio: seeing everyone on the street before he sees you. Do this for a while in any neighborhood, and you will soon meet other players who are doing the same thing. Generally speaking, if you see other people before they see you, they won’t see you. I have even managed to get past a whole block of guides and shoeshine boys in Tangier this way, thus earning the Moroccan moniker: “El Hombre Invisible”. (Burroughs 1982, p. 49)

Burrough’s invisibility is a function of his obviousness and transparency. His strategy of “covert spectacle” combines a poignantly imperial act (the king who vacates his throne to pass unrecognized in his realm) with the petty megalomania of a bourgeois expatriate-on-smack. This notion of a visible “invisibility” recalls Michael Rogin’s 1993 musings on the American Pentagon and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter”:

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The thief hides the purloined letter, by placing it in plain sight. His theft is overlooked because no attempt is made to conceal it. The crimes of the postmodern American empire … are concealed in the same way. Covert operations actually function as spectacle. (Rogin 1993, p. 499)

The “covert spectacle” is an integral component of contemporary state-craft and the mass commodification of late capitalism, as revealed in the functions of censorship and mass media propaganda. While censorship paradoxically works to make the invisible (the unnoticed) visible through its erasure, displacing original authorship with the signature of the state, in the spectacle of propaganda, the state is reified as this displacing meta-self. In a charismatic state this meta-self is found in the performance of a (usually male) progenitor/leader/hero, hailing and informing the people. In an administrative state, such as Singapore since 1990, the bureaucracy, ruling élite or party are seen to be the alphaperformer. This chapter posits propaganda as the reified (fetishized) reperformance of interpellation, that is, the re-performance of the ideological recognition or hailing of the people by the state, in such a way that the state cannot be repaid, cannot be hailed or recognized in return, simply because there is no one there to hail … only the evacuated spectacle of interpellation as state dramaturgy. Both censorship and propaganda, by discursively intervening into the systems of agreement and cultural semiotics, freeze the populace in a circuitry of futile receptivity, in which “power belongs to the one who can give and cannot be repaid” (Baudrillard 1986, p. 129). Local struggles between communities, ethnic groups, or classes are suppressed or elided under this fascinating drama of state dissemination. A culture or an economy, iterated and produced through interpellation, is thus reiterated, and reproduced (propagated) through the spectacle of propaganda. This chapter cues the uppercase “State” to a usage by Singapore sociologist, Chua Beng Huat, in his 1995 book, Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore, but deriving from Gramsci’s theorization: “the entire complex of practical and theoretical activities with which the ruling class not only justifies and maintains its dominance, but manages to win the active consent of those over whom it rules” (Gramsci

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1971, p. 244) as in the famous equation, “State = political society + civil society, in other words, hegemony protected by the armour of coercion” (ibid., p. 263). This chapter uses the lower-case “state” to refer to a specific government, a ruling party, a group of leaders, distinguishable from civil society. State, then, refers to not only a combination of civil and political society, but also the means by which a ruling élite maintains and extends its hegemony — and it is these means which are the subject of this chapter — while a “state” would be the agency which, at a particular moment in history, would deploy means to maintain or extend its particular hegemonic configuration. Seen as “strategic means for maintaining power”, the state is never a “steady-state” or “status quo” for long, but is incessantly under negotiation, a vortex of relationships, and struggle … unpredictable, chaotic, and transitional, simultaneously coalescing, dismembering — a site of incessant strategy and tactics. One such strategic means is Burrough’s “first seeing”, a pre-emptive panoptic strike, pre-formative rather than performative; an expropriation of agency that is designed to produce the illusion of a status quo of pre-defined and predetermined relations, without negotiation. We recognize this strategy in colonial relations, where the colonized subject, Fanon’s “native”, finds himself/herself trussed in the colonizer’s displaced subjectivity. The goal of the exercise is to ensure that citizens will not question the motives or legitimacy of the ruling élite, who must appear selfless, so that the citizens will selflessly transfer their loyalty, labour, and devotion to the state’s benefit, convinced that “Everything is within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State” (ibid., p. 261). This evacuation, displacement, and transference actually amounts to a planning and realization of formalized relationships — much like the aesthetic manipulations of “formal relationships” performed by a painter on a canvas or a conceptual artist, working in four dimensions, although most politicians would not admit to being glorified designers. It is at this conjunction of ideology, real politics, and aesthetics where we must look for the representations of State desire in Singapore. State desire is articulated through the functions of government, law, city planning, and social engineering, while its “negative” circulates through the depiction of the “Other” in the representations of the

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marginalized bodies: women, homosexuals, transvestites, artists, and the “low-educated”. Their problematic “nature” is inflected with economically unproductive pleasures of ephemeral aesthetic ritual, non-reproductive sexual acts, or unproductive labour. These groups are assigned a negative role by the state in the national dramaturgy (a subversive “antinational” role), because their sins of transgression — namely, their “subversive” heterogeneity — can then serve to positively heroicize and reify the struggle for continued power by a ruling patriarchy. To extend its hegemony, the government inscribes these groups as “infestations” which threaten to disrupt a construction of a seamless continuity, underpinning the political and monetary economy. This chapter will use the lens of the Artists’ General Assembly (AGA) at the beginning of 1994 to focus on certain aspects of the state’s 1 “meritocratic ideology” (Blum 1984, p. 84) which was (and remains) buttressed by an uncritical evocation of two strongly contested and ideologically inflected colonial sciences (or pseudo-sciences), biometrics — the categorization of races through the quantification of biological characteristics, and eugenics — the study of methods for enhancing inherited racial characteristics. These scientific discourses were evoked by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) to rationalize governance by a ruling élite of first- and second-generation leaders, through a representation of the ruling élite as the paragon of a meritocratic organization of power relations. This is achieved by scientifically naturalizing that meritocratic hierarchy, thereby justifying the party’s continued hegemony (into the second, third, and fourth decades of their control over the organs of state). In other words, through these processes, the PAP produced a cybernetic feedback loop — a moebius strip — in which the contingent and arbitrary discourses of governmentality were deployed to rationalize and inculcate a scientifically essentialized meritocratic framework, diathetically carrying an assumption of genetic inevitability, which, once accepted by the populace, leads inexorably to the conclusion that those carrying out this operation were genetically endowed to do so. To put it in discursive terms, an arbitrary, contingent, and imaginative State discourse, arbitrated and constituted itself as a scientific and statistical fact of nature, thereby camouflaging its arbitrary, contingent,

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and imaginative character. That an obsession with ideal replication in the register of the imaginary can lend itself to somatic literalization — transformed through acts of state power into a large-scale social project of biological reproduction — is the disturbing subtext of one of the most tenacious and formidable of state narratives constructed in Singapore’s recent history, with consequences yet proliferating at the time of this article. (Heng and Devan 1992, p. 344)

The Artists’ General Assembly (AGA)

In 1994 a week-long Artists’ General Assembly (AGA) was held at Fifth Passage Gallery, organized jointly by two progressive artists’ groups: Artists’ Village and Fifth Passage Artists Ltd. The two groups were instrumental in the advancement of performance art, installation art, alternative music, gender and identity issues, and the development of new aesthetic forms. Problems began when three video tapes scheduled into the Video Fest were banned, with a number of others receiving substantial cuts by the Board of Film Censors. Tongues Untied by Marlon Riggs (United States), a black, gay conscientizing tape, was banned because “it promoted a homosexual lifestyle” (New Paper, 30 December 1993), Game of the Year by Ellen Pau (Hong Kong), a parodic send-off of a speech by Chinese Premier Li Peng concerning the Tiananmen Square crackdown, was banned for its political content, and a performance tape by Thai artist, Vasan Sithiket, was banned for its depiction of a scatological act. The censorship board erased the tapes (submitters have the choice of having their banned tapes erased or shipped out of the country); and the AGA organizers decided to show them to the public in their erased state, so as to not “censor the censors”. Some artists presented performances in front of the video monitors as a critical response to the censorship on 29 December. The following day, the tabloid English-language press, the New Pa2 per, a paper of the government-controlled Singapore Press Holdings, ran a story on the video screenings and the performances. A number of artists became increasingly agitated by what they considered to be inaccurate and sensationalized reporting by the New Paper. On the final night of the festival, Josef Ng and Shannon Tham performed as part of a twelve-hour New Year event, including numerous other performances,

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poetry readings, and music. Ng’s performance, “Brother Cane”, reflected critically on the recent arrest and exposure in the press of twelve men for allegedly gay activities, six of whom pleaded guilty and were given jail and caning sentences. Tham’s performance responded to the tabloid press coverage by incinerating a page from the New Paper, swallowing the ashes and regurgitating into a barrel. On 3 January, the New Paper again went on the offensive, carrying articles on the performances of Josef Ng and Shannon Tham, and sensationalizing a short interval of each performance. Press photos showed Ng’s partially naked back, his briefs partially lowered, revealing the tops of his buttocks, in the act of cutting his pubic hair, and other photos of Shannon Tham, burning and consuming the ashes of the New Paper. The National Arts Council, under the Ministry of Information and the Arts, with a mandate to distribute funds to artists and art groups, released a statement to the press on 5 January: The National Arts Council (NAC) noted with consternation the report (in the press) yesterday (3.1.94) of two artists putting on so-called performance art: One snipped off his pubic hair while the other vomited, both publicly in protest against allegedly unfair reports by the press. NAC finds the acts vulgar and completely distasteful which deserve public condemnation. … Asked whether such acts should be allowed, NAC said that this is a matter for the Police to decide. (New Paper, 5 January 1994)

Two weeks later, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Information and the Arts issued a joint statement to the public stating that they were … concerned that new art forms, such as “performance art” and “forum theatre” which have no script and encourage spontaneous audience participation pose dangers to public order, security and decency, and much greater difficulty to the licensing authority. The performances may be exploited to agitate the audience on volatile social issues, or to propagate the beliefs and messages of deviant social or religious groups, or as a means of subversion. (Straits Times, 22 January 1994)

They barred Josef Ng and Shannon Tham from performing (a ban that continues today), and 5th Passage from presenting unscripted perform-

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ances in the future and from receiving any state funding. The artist, Josef Ng and the 5th Passage manager, Iris Tan, were arrested, charged, and after court proceedings found guilty of their respective charges — committing an obscene act in public for Ng, holding a performance after the expiration of a Public Entertainment Licence for Tan. These 3 events have been discussed in greater detail elsewhere. What is relevant for this discussion was the significance of the video, Tongues Untied, its censorship and the relationship of this state performance to the biological engineering programme carried out by the previous PAP administration, under the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. But first, there are two difficulties associated with a return to the issue of biological engineering in Singapore, now in 1999. These are firstly, the tendency of writers to treat the Singapore State as a monolithic concentration of power; and secondly, the problem of the complicity of artists and intellectuals in the reproduction of State desire. With regard to the first difficulty, the discursive treatment of the State as a monolithic concentration of power has gone the way of other singular, monovalent meta-discourses of gender, race, genius, authority. Polyvalent governmentality, with a combination of power between and within the state and civil society, is now the price of entry into State discourse. This is a particularly sensitive issue in Singapore political and cultural debates. Chua Beng Huat, among others, has made a strong case for viewing Singapore as a site of polyvalent, negotiated governmentality, based on his Gramscian reading of the state as an ideological hegemony or consensus. Singapore is not simply an authoritarian state. The legitimacy and longevity of the PAP government, from 1959 to the present, is built on a strong ideological consensus with the people around ‘economic pragmatism’. (Chua 1995, p. viii) … PAP’s popularity lies significantly in its ability to develop an ideological system which was able to crystallise and reflect, relatively accurately, the underdeveloped material condition of the island population at the time of independence. This enabled it to provide the leadership which united the population behind its developmental policies, which in turn delivered material returns to the governed. The success of PAP’s authoritarianism is thus itself to be explained by its acceptability to or at least toleration by the population through the presence of an ideological hegemony or consensus. (Ibid., p. 10)

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Throughout his writings, Chua maintains that there are very real limits to the PAP’s consensus-building and coercive activities, following directly from his contention that the PAP or the “leadership” is not equivalent to the Singapore State, but is merely a part of a much larger complex of civil and political society, requiring incessant negotiation and adaptation. Chua’s position raises interesting questions concerning consensusbuilding in a one-party state. A one-party system is far more capable of “stimulating” (Huntington and Moore 1970) consensus in the populace than a multi-party system, and that “stimulating” relies on intervention, discipline, and the monopolization of coercion (Chua 1995, p. 17). So, Chua’s position, in the absence of a consideration of the oneparty state as spectacle (Debord), appears to lead into a vicious circularity: while the government obtains its legitimacy from consensus, it also actively reinforces that consensus through the application of coercive means, and the aggressive elimination of competing proto-hegemonic agencies, thereby “destroying all the other organisations or … incorporating them into a system of which the party is the sole regulator” (Gramsci 1971, p. 265). It may be that without an analysis of the state’s “spectacle” (that is, the state’s incessant commodification of itself, as an economic realm developing for itself — at once a faithful mirror held up to the production of things and a distorting objectification of the producers (Debord 1994, p. 16), its military organization, and its propaganda representations (the subject of this chapter), an accurate picture of the nature of consensus in a one-party state cannot be rendered. Another problem with a narration of the “strong state” is that things have changed in the past decade. Again, Chua among others have pointed to the desire and strategies employed by the PAP, particularly under the second-generation leaders, to show “itself to be responsive to pressure and demands from the electorate, in spite of being a single-party dominant government with scant political opposition in parliament” (Chua 1995, p. x). This is a picture of the state as, in Gramsci’s words, “not only the apparatus of government, but also the ‘private’ apparatus of ‘hegemony’ or civil society … which does not intervene, which trails behind events” (Gramsci 1971, p. 261). Once again, this is a complex situation which requires a discussion of the initiatives of civil society and its relationship to traditional cultures, local culture, and globalism,

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which this chapter cannot address. Nonetheless, it is the claim of this chapter that while the confrontational politics of the body may have been somewhat ameliorated in recent years, an “essentialized” meritocratic framework remains, now distributed throughout the various organs of the state, most obviously in housing, the law, arts, and education. So, while it is certainly problematic (and pervasive in Western and Asian liberal humanist circles), to consider the Singapore state as simplistically monolithic and autocratic, it is equally problematic (and a convenient fantasy of the conservative international business and diplomatic communities) to view the Singapore state as a textual realm, devoid of real-politic, characterized simply by the circulation of a purely pragmatic discourse of global trade and efficient governance, as this is precisely the representation desired and carefully promulgated by the state. Government in Singapore lies somewhere between these poles, 4 close to Gramsci’s interventionist state or disciplinary régime, a bureaucracy conflated with the military, in which the military act as reserves of … order and conservation (ibid., p. 215), and indistinguishable from the bureaucracy. It should also be said that, although a parliamentary system, Singapore governance is one still under the charismatic shadow of a paradigmatic modernist “man of destiny” (ibid., p. 210). The second difficulty in returning to the deployment of social engineering in Singapore is that, in practice, instruments of social engineering are generally devised and carried out by governments hoping to extend their hegemony, with the able assistance of some intellectuals and academics. Modernity abounds with examples of artists and scientists willing to side with a political regime to the detriment or demise of their colleagues, due to jealousy, fear, complacency, or to ensure that their own theory may make it into the spotlight of historical application. From the view of intellectuals, successful politicians may often get the theoretical details wrong, but they have the means to make things happen. Pierre Bourdieu has analysed the relationships of intellectuals to state power: All the evidence suggests that, at a given level of overall autonomy, intellectuals are, other things being equal, proportionately more responsive to the seduction of the powers that be, the less well endowed they are with specific capital.

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The struggle in the field of cultural production over the imposition of the legitimate mode of cultural production is inseparable from the struggle within the dominant class … to impose the dominant principle of domination (that is to say — ultimately — the definition of human accomplishment). In this struggle, the artists and writers who are richest in specific capital and most concerned for their autonomy are considerably weakened by the fact that some of their competitors identify their interests with the dominant principles of hierarchization and seek to impose them even within the field, with the support of the temporal powers. (Bourdieu 1993, p. 41)

Bourdieu’s distinction between autonomous producers and bourgeois artists does not hold up in Singapore, where most, if not all, artists derive from bourgeois origins. The period immediately following the AGA did, however, offer an insight into the competition for symbolic capital that Bourdieu describes, as a bevy of artists, dramatists, and writers joined the government in condemning not only the artists involved in the controversy but also the art forms they were introducing, apparently never imagining that they could be curtailing the possibilities of their own future expression or formal development. Sharaad Kuttan discussed the issue in an article for the journal Commentary in 1994: Artists are also called on to act as partners in the administration of censorship. Censorship is no longer the firing line on which the state and artist meet. For the practitioner, “self-censorship” is the extension of this logic, wherein censorship is an act of social and professional responsibility and rational calculation. (Kuttan 1996, p. 111)

This issue also requires a long discussion, but suffice to say here that it is problematic to present a picture that places political production at one end of the State, and cultural production at the other in simplistic opposition. Rather, a complex notion of a synergistic State allows for micro discourses writing of polyvalent tactics, strategies, and influences. “Gifted” in Singapore

In Asian colonies, biometrics was introduced as phylogeny, craniometry, morphology, and I.Q. testing, that is, as the application of Enlightenment “ratio” to the colonized body and brain from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. Darwinian natural selection and

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Linnaean binominal categorization justified European colonialism outside Europe, naturalized the dominion of the European aristocracy, and later, the “inevitable” dominance of the bourgeoisie, over the industrial proletariat. Understanding the developmental stages of intelligence and civilization provided the rationalization for colonial statesmanship, and the charitable protection of “… sullen peoples, / Half devil and half child.” (Kipling) “caught” at an earlier stage of human evolution. This metaphor of underdevelopment was used, for example, to justify American imperialism in the Philippines and elsewhere: … modern science had shown that races develop in the course of centuries as individuals do in years, and that an undeveloped race, which is incapable of self-government, is no more a reflection on the Almighty than is an undeveloped child who is incapable of self-government. The opinions of men who in this enlightened day believe that the Filipinos are capable of self-government because everybody is, are not worth considering. (Strong 1900, p. 310)

Since the eighteenth century, the same dismissive paternalistic analogy has been used inside the United States to justify the slaughter of Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans, and later to reiterate preconceptions of intelligence and moral development in welfare debates. While discussing the recent book, The Bell Curve, Richard Lynn, one of the principal proponents of the use of I.Q. testing to discriminate human subjects, imagined a grim Euro-American future: … the black underclass is growing in numbers, partly as a result of high fertility and partly through immigration. … One of the major divisions will be between those who are sufficiently intelligent to work and an underclass lacking the requisite intelligence. The underclass will turn more and more to crime because it has little to lose. … There is one thing the underclass is good at, and that is producing children. These children tend to inherit their parents’ poor intelligence and adopt their sociopathic lifestyle, reproducing the cycle of deprivation from generation to generation. The underclass has more children than the rest of society. This is another reason why it will expand in numbers and become increasingly troublesome. (Lynn 1995a)

Lynn’s apocalyptic fantasy reveals a great deal about his fears and desires — those of a hegemonic class faced with the anxiety of its displacement by an underclass that the capitalist system both relies on and would just as soon do without.

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For the last two hundred years in America, monolithic whiteness has produced a body of literature that left very little room for other discourses. But the rising profile of black culture in the United State over the past three decades has had a profound impact on national culture as a whole, and has brought to the surface the long-suppressed spectacle of African-American subjectivity as a complex field, defined by relations and struggles over race, ethnicity, cultural histories, local cultures, class, and sexuality. The film, Tongues Untied, created by poet, film-maker, and performer, Marlon T. Riggs, in 1989, signified an important artistic development in that it pointed to the centrality of the contribution of black gay men to the overall struggles of African-American culture and gay culture in the United States. In her review of the film, the black critic Valerie Smith described the film as an interweave of … personal narrative with songs, interviews, dance, and performance pieces in an exploration of gay black male subjectivity in contemporary US culture. The film shows how homophobia among black and non-black heterosexuals, racism among white gays, and the AIDS epidemic have combined to silence the voices of black gay men. (Smith 1992, p. 62)

In the film, the HIV-positive Riggs presented himself, in his own words, as “black, gay, gifted and proud”. The uncanny word here is “gifted”. It runs counter to over three hundred years of stereotyping the “Negro” in white Western discourse, making this manifesto in film so unequivocally powerful in the United States, where it was banned from one hundred local public broadcasting stations for its “glorification of the deviant” (Berger 1992, pp. 36–39). In Singapore, the Film Censorship Board, the only Singaporeans to view the film, apparently also understood the film’s message to be subversive. The tape was banned in accordance with two laws: the obscenity law, covering material with a “tendency … to deprave and corrupt” for its depiction of male nudity and love-making (Chan 1996, p. 106); secondly, in accordance with Sections 377 and 377A of the Singapore 5 Penal Code (inherited from the days of British colonialism) for the tape’s “promoting [of a] homosexual lifestyle”. Through this act of censorship, the African-American body, this time by virtue of its association with gay culture, found itself yet again

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in the position of the abject. Although African-American culture is largely received as cultural trope or figure of speech in Singapore via music, television, and scholastic comparisons in the press, gay culture in Singapore is now far more than a Western trope, with increased visibility in civil society over the last decade, despite punitive laws and regulations. Gay sexuality is often portrayed as a sign of Western decadence and a threat to national discipline. Geraldine Heng and Janadas Devan speculate that the “dream of a timeless paternal essence … splendid, transcendent, immortal” in the psyche of the patriarchal government underpins the PAP’s vision of perennial patriarchal power, economic stability, and national integrity. But their utopian vision of a reified state is haunted by the fear of feminine pollution: Whether represented by actual women … or “other” races and cultures whose identifying characteristics are implicitly feminized — whether, that is, it is a sexual, or a social body that haunts and threatens — the figure of threat, auguring economic and social disintegration … (Heng and Devan 1992, p. 356)

This fear of feminine pollution informs “narratives of national crisis”, which are deployed by post-colonial governments in order “to reenact periodically the state’s traumatic if also liberating separation from colonial authority” (ibid., p. 356) by the State’s “founding fathers”, the firstgeneration leaders. The discourse of national origins, to an extraordinary degree, is emptied of feminine agency, and the birth of the nation is narrated as a male parthenogenic rite of separation and incorporation. Heng and Devan’s articulation of state strategy is astute: … by repeatedly focusing anxiety on the fragility of the new nation, its ostensible vulnerability to every kind of exigency, the state’s originating agency is periodically re-invoked and ratified, its access to wide-ranging instruments of power in the service of national protection continually consolidated. (Ibid., p. 343)

As far back as 1969, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew issued the apocalyptic warning that chaos and social infection were leaking in from the West: In the interest of all, we cannot and will not allow this permissive, escapist, drug-taking, self-indulgent, promiscuous society (in America and Western

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Europe) to infect our young. Those who try to introduce these habits do so at their own peril, for we shall take immediate antiseptic measures to prevent and scotch any such infection or affectation. The choice before us is constant vigilance or a complacent slide to perdition. (Josey 1968, p. 527; emphases added)

The germ metaphor was recently revived to express the perceived negative influence of the Internet on Singapore society. HIV-like information assaults on the nation’s immune system have replaced the threat of drugs, long hair, and wild clothes, the Trojan horses of the 1960s and 1970s: Every society creates immune systems to defend its own key organs and we must have the immune system in Singapore [sic]. Otherwise, by slow increments, we allow these organs to be infected and degraded. And that is not good for us, it is not good for the health of the whole society. (Straits Times, 27 July 1994, p. 3; emphases added)

This narrative of assault and infection is a “first seeing”, in which a collective spectacle of fear obscures the actuality of State desire; collective paranoia is first generated through the mass media and then transmuted into rationalist policy. Once “pollution” becomes the frame through which human differences are interpreted, the potential of democratic governance is replaced by an interminable shuttling between fears of unstable pluralism, “material transmogrification — growth, alteration, difference, the transformations wrought by an undisclosed, nevercertain future” (Heng and Devan 1992, p. 350). “Adding to the assets” 6

Historically bound together, ethnic, feminine, cultural, and information pollution form a synergistic threat to the power — that meta-self who musters a totalized state response to dynamic and relativistic social phenomena. Beginning in the late 1960s and still continuing today, the Singapore state sought to promulgate a series of population policies which would normalize heterosexual productivity among the educated and the talented citizenry. 1967

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew suggested that 5 per cent of the population are “more than ordinarily endowed physically and mentally”, and

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that it is on them that “we must expend our limited and slender resources” (Selvan 1990, p. 48). By 1969 this percentage of the population “with leadership potential” had narrowed in government pronouncements to 2 per cent, a figure which happens to coincide with the “genius” threshold adopted by the International Mensa Society as a prerequisite for membership. 1969 December

During the Parliamentary Debate on the Abortion and Voluntary Sterilization Bills, the Prime Minister quoted extracts from an article by Professor Richard Lynn, published in the New Scientist of 20 March 1969, in support of the legislation: “… the I.Q. of higher professionals and executive parents had been shown to be considerably higher than that of unskilled workers (150 to 86)”. Lee warned that there might be a need for “comprehensive incentives for graduate mothers to reproduce more and disincentives for less-educated women to reproduce less in future” (Straits Times, 30 December 1969). On 29 December, the Straits Times ran an editorial in support of the Bills, ironically referring back to the views of Professor B.H. Sheares, “Singapore’s leading gynaecologist during the final colonial decade”. Professor Sheares not only believed that sterilization had a definite place in any programme to control the rapidly increasing population in developing countries, but “it was the only successful method” (Straits Times, 29 December 1969). This calling up of the views of a colonial doctor underscores the uncanny colonial repetition that these policies represented, and the PAP’s adoption of what Heng and Devan term, “inter7 nal Orientalism”. The state received early support for its programmes from some wellknown eugenicists, scientists like William B. Shockly, noble-prize win8 ner in physics, and co-inventor of the transistor (Heng and Devan 1992, p. 358). In his 1969 speech to Parliament in support of the pending Abortion and Voluntary Sterilization Bills, Lee called on the research of Richard Lynn, Associate Editor of the anthropology journal Mankind Quarterly. Lynn suggested in 1991 that the poor and ill are “weak specimens whose proliferation needs to be discouraged in the interest of the improvement of the genetic quality of the group, and ultimately of group

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survival” (Lane 1995, p. 129). Lynn is a strong proponent of the theory that “Mongoloids” and “Caucasoids” are on average, brighter than other races: Who can doubt that the Caucasoids and the Mongoloids are the only two races that have made any significant contribution to civilization. … Whatever criteria are adopted, the Caucasoids and the Mongoloids are the two most intelligent races and the historical record shows that this has been the case for approximately the last 5,000 years. (Lynn 1995b, pp. 280–84, cited in Sautman 1995, p. 206)9

Lynn not only divides the world by race, but by geography and gender as well, using the North-South line between most First World and Third World cultures for his I.Q. Rubicon. Lynn hypothesizes that Mongoloid and Caucasian intelligence resulted from having to adapt to and survive in the severity of northern climes. The longer Ice Age in northeast Asia required higher intelligence among Northeast Asians than was demanded of Europeans or any other race. These archaic adaptations to the environment, he claims, have been genetically passed to the present generation. Lynn also maintains that the smaller cranial size of women has resulted in their diminished intellectual capacity (Sautman 1995, p. 217, note 50). The socio-biological rational for male superiority, supplied by Paul Broca’s disciple, Topinard, in 1882, is strikingly close to Lynn’s explanations for Mongoloid superiority and the Singapore state’s rhetoric privileging male responsibilities: The man who fights for two or more in the struggle for existence, who has all the responsibility and the cares of tomorrow, who is constantly active in combating the environment and human rivals, needs more brain than the woman whom he must protect and nourish, than the sedentary woman, lacking any interior occupations, whose role is to raise children, love, and be passive. (Topinard 1981, p. 22)

1983, National Day

Lee Kuan Yew announced incentives for high-income, graduate women to marry and procreate, and, later, a disincentives programme for lowincome, “less-educated” women to procreate less, including payment of a cash grant of S$10,000 into their Central Provident Fund account for voluntary sterilization.

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Graduate women, according to Lee, were being too selective of their mates, reproducing an average of 1.9 children versus less-educated women at 3.9. Less education, for Lee, apparently meant less intelligence, and he read Eysenck’s “80% nature, 20% nurture” statement thus: “Studies have shown that 80 percent of how well you do depends on nature and only 20 percent on nurture” (emphasis added). It was here, in this “turn” that a performance-and-reward system, initiated by the ruling party but now largely accepted and shared broadly by the populace (constitutive of the Gramscian hegemonic State), was performatively reframed as an ideology designed to maintain the specific hegemony of that ruling party. Once meritocracy was naturalized as a genetic inheritance, the entire structure of the daily performance of the State economy became instrumental to the desire of the current state apparatus to remain in power. Through the language of genetics and biometrics, continued PAP hegemony was presented as a logical outcome of the system, a Darwinian inevitability. 13 September 1983

Dr Chow Kuan Hon, from the National University of Singapore Botany Department, is credited with the assertion that ancient Greece, “a once culturally rich and technologically advanced country … collapsed because of a fall in the intelligence of its race. Rich Greek women … regarded giving birth as shameful and bringing up children as a burden”. He suggested a “Selective Population Control” policy to “encourage birth control among highly intelligent women”, but discourage it among lessintelligent ones, thereby “maintain[ing] and upgrad[ing] the level of intelligence of Singaporeans” (Straits Times, 13 September 1993). Dr Chow apparently got his ideas, almost verbatim, from Hereditary Genius (1869) by the English Francis Galton (1822–1911), a cousin of Charles Darwin and the founder of eugenics: We know, and may guess something more, of the reason why this marvelously gifted race declined. Social morality grew exceedingly lax; marriage became unfashionable, and was avoided; … mothers of the incoming population were of a heterogeneous class. In a small sea-bordering country, where emigration and immigration are constantly going on, and where the manners are as dissolute as were those of Greece in the period of which I speak, the purity

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of a race would necessarily fail. It can be, therefore, no surprise to us, though it has been a severe misfortune to humanity, that the high Athenian breed decayed and disappeared. (Cooley 1995, p. 433)

Dr Chow, trying to rationalize a highly controversial policy promulgated by his employers, ironically harkened back to a text from the heyday of British colonialism: a text motivated by a neo-classical imagining of fifth century BC Greece. The notion of a “marvelously gifted race … in a small sea-bordering country, where emigration and immigration are constantly going on” must have resonated in 1860s Britain as it later did in 1980s Singapore, offering an imaginary narrative of cultural continuity of great civilization directly from Greece to Britain and now to Singapore. Here was the historical narrative needed for a policy which oversaw the application of (Euclidean) “ratio” to the human subject in accordance with biological and statistical evidence. 23 January 1984

The then Minister of Education, Dr Tay Eng Soon announced the Graduate Mothers’ Priority Scheme to encourage university-educated women to have more children by offering them first choice of primary and secondary schools, while less-educated mothers were offered S$10,000 to accept sterilization after two children. The government recognizes that if well educated mothers, who can provide well for their children, produce three or more children, they are adding to the assets of the country. Their children will hopefully grow up to be good and useful citizens. (Straits Times, 23 January 1984)

The Singapore state’s population control measures climaxed in the early 1980s, and a poor election result in 1984 may have led to the termination of what were perceived as unpopular and intrusive policies (Hill and Lian 1995, p. 152). In 1985 the “Graduate Mothers’ Priority Scheme” ended and the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board was closed. However, in 1993 the theme returned when the new Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, announced the “Small Families Improvement Scheme”, offering twenty-year housing grants and housing for low-educated mothers who agreed not to have more than two children, as long as the family

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remained together (ibid., pp. 153–54). Further housing disincentives against single mothers were added in 1994 (Straits Times, 21 August 1994). 23 November 1993

Twelve men were arrested for alleged sexual offences during the course of a week-long sting operation at the Tanjong Rhu beach. Six of the men pleaded guilty and received jail terms along with three strokes of the cane. December 1993

Tongues Untied banned. January 1994

Artist, Josef Ng, and Iris Tan arrested for “Brother Cane”.

10

Conclusion: race, gender, sexuality, art, and sociobiology

So, what do minority races, ambitious women, gay men and women, and “irresponsible” artists have in common in the eyes of the state? In an expanding economy in 1993, with a rapidly burgeoning middle class, these transgressive elements must have represented the dangers of what Zizek calls “excessive enjoyment”. What is therefore at stake in ethnic tensions is always the possession of the national Thing. We always impute to the “other” an excessive enjoyment: … the peculiar way he organizes his enjoyment, precisely the surplus, the “excess” that pertains to his way. (Zizek 1993, pp. 203 ff.)

Zizek reapplies Marx’s theory concerning the contradictions inherent in the capitalist mode of production to the cultural field of production, that is, the problem of surplus production outstripping the capacity of consumption, and the need for periodic “violent eruptions which for a time restore the disturbed equilibrium” (Marx 1962, p. 244). The Other’s excessive enjoyment threatens the state because it prefigures the possibility of the disruption of the ratio-nal (based on the proper ratio or proportion) standards and representations of society as a site of productive labour and cultural continuity.

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In its media representation of a unified nation in perpetual crisis, the Singapore state has identified consumption and enjoyment (including the desire to not work too hard) as excesses of cultural capital that must be periodically withdrawn from the systems of exchange until equilibrium is restored. But the process has to be constantly repeated as a “rift must continually ensue between the limited dimensions of consumption … and a production which forever tends to exceed this immanent barrier” (Marx 1962, p. 251). Wee Wan Ling places the incipiency of the period of the promotion of homogeneous “Asian values” in the late 1970s (Wee 1999). Continuing through the period until the economic crisis of 1997, Asian values and Confucian values were the banners under which the populace was anxiously inscribed with the virtues of work and bourgeois values of 11 thrift and moderation. With the willing participation of many artists and intellectuals, the government sought “to impose the dominant principle of domination (that is to say — ultimately — the definition of human accomplishment)” (Bourdieu 1993, p. 41), as a sign of equilibrium, cultural order — the excesses of pleasure endlessly deferred to a “fully developed” future. In this process, the Singapore state accepted a broad infrastructure of Western science and ideology for the realization of industrial modernity, while seeking to distance itself from the transgressive heterogeneous elements that come along with gobalization, including liberal Western discourses of human rights, women’s rights, and artistic, intellectual, and political criticism. It is ironic that the Singapore state wrote colonial and orientalist perceptions of Europe’s Other into the discourse of Singapore national identity. These stigmatized and rigidly controlled signs of heterogeneity represent excessive enjoyment in the late capitalist State, what Zizek refers to as the “eruption” of the “real” (Zizek 1993, p. 204), that is, the “nondiscursive kernel of enjoyment” (Zizek 1995, p. 37). The Singapore state chose to represent itself as a “true believer” of a contested Western tradition of scientific knowledge; originally formulated in the conditions of European and American “manifest destiny” and expansionism. This tragic flaw in a State system predicated upon an industrial-age capitalist mode of production, in which cultural and fi-

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nancial capital is carefully managed and engineered, has produced a late capitalist spectacle of self-commodification, so aptly described by the French Situationist theoretician, Guy Debord: The ruling class, made up of specialists in the ownership of things who for that very reason are themselves owned by things, is obliged to tie its fate to the maintenance of a reified history and to the permanent preservation of a new historical immobility. (1994, p. 106)

While eugenicist rhetorics has helped the ruling élite maintain the power of “first seeing”, the internal contradictions of that colonial position appear to have left the State bifurcated: an “hombre invisible” obsessed with his own deferred image. NOTES 1. I am borrowing the term from Jeffrey M. Blum, who in turn found it in the writings of Bowles and Gintis. I accept a definition of meritocracy along the lines of Richard C. Lewontin, Steven Rose, and Leon J. Kanmin’s tripartite, developmental concept of biological determinism in their article, “Bourgeois Ideology and the Origins of Biological Determinism” (1984, p. 108). “First, it is asserted that the inequalities in society are a direct and ineluctable consequence of the differences in intrinsic merit and ability among individuals. Second, it is asserted that these differences are coded, in large part, in an individual’s genes, so that merit and ability will be passed from generation to generation within families. Finally, it is claimed that the presence of such biological differences between individuals of necessity leads to the creation of hierarchical societies because it is part of biologically determined human nature to form hierarchies of status, wealth, and power.” In Singapore the PAP government adopted meritocracy to reform an inherited bureaucracy established under the British colonial system. 2. All newspapers, except Tamil Murasu (a family-run daily with a small circulation) come under Singapore Press Holdings, a public-listed company with two types of shares: ordinary shares and management shares (Tan and Soh 1994, p. 27). Management shares can be held only by approval of the Minister for Information and the Arts (MITA). Those who hold management shares can sit on the board of directors. The chairman of the board and the editor must be approved by MITA, as specified in the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (Baratham 1994, p. 93). 3. Looking at Culture (1996), a limited-edition book edited and published by Sanjay Krishnan, Sharaad Kuttan, Lee Weng Choy, Leon Perera, and Jimmy Yap. The book devoted a section to the controversy.

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4. Gramsci’s description of the interventionist state as one “which will take the offensive more openly against oppositionists and organize permanently the “impossibility” of internal disintegration — with controls of every kind, political, administrative, etc., reinforcement of the hegemonic “positions” of the dominant group, etc.” (p. 239). Later, however, description of the interventionist state as having an “economic origin … connected … with tendencies supporting protection and economic nationalism” (p. 263) does not fit Singapore’s globalist economic stance. This discrepancy points to (a) the uneasy comparison between the nationalist socialist states of the late 1920s to early 1930s that Gramsci was describing, to Singapore of the 1960s to the 1990s, and (b) the widely variant regulations imposed by the Singapore government towards, on the one hand, the cultural field of production, and, on the other, the economic field. 5. “UNNATURAL OFFENCES 377. Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animals, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. (Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.) 377A. Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.” 6. In 1863 Louis Agassiz expounded the doctrine of “multiple Adams” (that different races represent different species): “Conceive for a moment the difference it would make in future ages, … if instead of the manly populations descended from cognate nations the United States should hereafter be inhabited by the effeminate progeny of mixed races, half Indian, half negro, sprinkled with white blood. … I shudder from the consequences.” (Gould 1981, p. 49). 7. “The institution of what can be called, for suggestive convenience, an “internalized Orientalism” makes available to postcolonial authority the knowledge-power that colonial authority wielded over the local population” (Heng and Devan 1982, p. 355). 8. In 1970, Shockly recommended in a letter to the U.S. National Academy of Scientists that a fund be established to pay “intellectually inferior” people for voluntary sterilization (Sedgwick 1995, p. 146). Dr Chow’s call for sterilization falls into a long tradition of American, South African, and Rhodesian programmes, reaching up to the present-day activities of the American Eugenics Society, and the Pioneer Fund. On the connection between eugenics, fascism, and white supremacism, see also Karrier 1972, p. 345; Kevles 1985, p. 152; Sedgwick 1995, p. 151.

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9. However, Asians have not always scored so well in I.Q. polls. Scoring at an I.Q. level of 65–70 in the 1920s, the Chinese were placed in the feeble-minded category with the Jews (Kutzik 1995, p. 246). The discrepancies raise many questions concerning the effects of economic well-being, class, and education on such tests. 10. The government’s response to Josef Ng’s performance should be viewed in the context of the cases of American, Michael Fay, and Shiu Chi Ho from Hong Kong, two youths arrested in October 1993 for vandalizing cars and other infractions. Fay and Shiu were charged with vandalism under the 1966 Vandalism Act, which carried a mandatory punishment of caning and incarceration. 11. Chua points out the scepticism of S. Rajaratnam and Goh Keng Swee concerning this ideology of the moment. Goh apparently felt that “thrift and industry”, which, as former Finance Minister, he saw as the crux values of Singapore’s success, were “great Victorian virtues” rather than Asian values (Straits Times, 25 August 1984, cited in Chua 1995, p. 66). REFERENCES Baratham, Gopal. The Caning of Michael Fay. Singapore: KRP Publications, 1994. Baudrillard, Jean. “Requiem for the Media”. In Video Culture: A Critical Investigation, edited by John Hanhardt. Layton, Utah: G.M. Smith, Peregrine Smith Books, in association with Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1986. Berger, Maurice. “Too Shocking to Show?” Art in America, May 1992, pp. 36–39. Blum, J.M. “Meritocracy: The Ideological Dimension” (1978). In Designer Genes: I.Q., Ideology & Biology, edited by Chan C.K. and Chee H.L. Petaling Jaya: Institute for Social Analysis, 1984. Bourdieu, Pierre. The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, edited by Randal Johnson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Burroughs, William S. “Ten Years and a Billion Dollars”. In A William Burroughs Reader, edited by John Calder. London: Pan, 1982. Chan C.K. and Chee H.L, eds. Designer Genes: I.Q., Ideology & Biology. Petaling Jaya: Institute for Social Analysis, 1984. Chan Wing Cheong. “Obscenity and the Law”. In Looking at Culture, edited by Sanjay Krishnan, Sharaad Kuttan, Lee Weng Choy, Leon Perera, and Jimmy Yap. Singapore [published by the editors], 1996. Chua Beng Huat. Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. Cooley, Charles. “Genius, Fame and Race”. In The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions, edited by Russell Jacoby and Naomi Glauberman. New York: Times Books, 1995.

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Debord, Guy. Society of the Spectacle. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: Zone Books, 1994. Gould, Stephen Jay. The Mismeasure of Man. London: Penguin Books, 1981. Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Translated and edited by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971. Heng, Geraldine and Janadas Devan. “State Fatherhood: The Politics of Nationalism, Sexuality, and Race in Singapore”. In Nationalisms & Sexualities, edited by Andrew Parker et al. New York: Routledge, 1992. Hill, Michael and Lian Kwen Fee. The Politics of Nation Building and Citizenship in Singapore. London: Routledge, 1995. Huntington, Samuel P. and Clement H. Moore. “Conclusion: Authoritarianism, Democracy and One-Party Politics”. In Authoritarian Politics in Modern Society: The Dynamics of Established One-Party Systems, edited by Samuel P. Huntington and Clement H. Moore. New York and London: Basic Books, 1970. Josey, Alex. Lee Kuan Yew: The Crucial Years. Singapore: Times Books International, 1968/80. Karrier, C. “Testing for Order and Control in the Corporate Liberal State”. In The IQ Controversy: Critical Readings, edited by Block and Dworkin. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972. Kevles, Daniel J. “In the Name of Eugenics, Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity”. In The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions, edited by Russell Jacoby and Naomi Glauberman. New York: Times Books, 1995. Kuttan, Sharaad. “The Limits of Liberalization”. In Looking at Culture, edited by Sanjay Krishnan, Sharaad Kuttan, Lee Weng Choy, Leon Perera, and Jimmy Yap. Singapore [published by the editors], 1996. Kutzik, David M. “A Triumph of Packaging”. In The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions, edited by Russell Jacoby and Naomi Glauberman. New York: Times Books, 1995. Lane, C. “Tainted Sources”. In The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions, edited by Russell Jacoby and Naomi Glauberman. New York: Times Books, 1995. Langenbach, R. “Looking Back at Brother Cane: Performance Art and State Performance”. In Proceedings of the Symposium: “Space, Spaces and Spacing”, edited by Lee W.C. Singapore: The Substation, 1996. Lewontin, Richard C., Steven Rose, and Leon J. Kanmin. “Bourgeois Ideology and the Origins of Biological Determinism”. In Designer Genes: I.Q., Ideology and Biology, edited by Chan C.K. and Chee H.L., p. 108. Petaling Jaya: Institute Analisa Sosial, 1984. Lynn, Richard. “Is Man Breeding Himself Back to the Age of the Apes?” (1994). In The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions, edited by Russell Jacoby and

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Ray Langenbach Naomi Glauberman. New York: Times Books, 1995a. . “The Evolution of Racial Differences” (1991). In The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions, edited by Russell Jacoby and Naomi Glauberman. New York: Times Books, 1995b.

Marx, K. Capital. Vol. I: Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962. Rogin, Michael. “‘Make My Day!’ Spectacle as Amnesia in Imperial Politics”. In Culture of United States Imperialism, edited by Kaplan and Pease. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993. Sautman, Barry. “Theories of East Asian Superiority”. In The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions, edited by Russell Jacoby and Naomi Glauberman. New York: Times Books, 1995. Sedgwick, John. “Inside the Pioneer Fund”. In The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions, edited by Russell Jacoby and Naomi Glauberman. New York: Times Books, 1995. Selvan, T.S. Singapore: The Ultimate Island. Clifton Hill, Victoria: Freeway Books, 1990. Smith, Valerie. “The Documentary Impulse in Contemporary African-American Film”. Black Popular Culture. Seattle: Bay Press, for Dia Center for the Arts, 1992. Straits Times. “Resist the Urge to Act Quickly”, 21 August 1983. . “BG Yeo: Build Defenses against Outside Influence”, 27 July 1994. . “Debate Yes, but Do Not Take on Those in Authority as ‘Equals’”, 20 February 1995. . “New Moves to Regulate the Internet Here — SBA to Monitor Web Sites for Objectionable Material”, 6 March 1996. Strong, Rev. J. Expansion under New World–Conditions. New York: Baker and Taylor, 1990. Tan Yew Soon and Soh Yew Peng. The Development of Singapore’s Modern Media Industry. Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1994. Topinard, P. “Le poids de l’encéphale d’après les registres de Paul Broca” (1888). Memoires Sociétè d’ Anthropologie Paris, 2nd series, vol. 3. In The Mismeasure of Man, edited by Stephen Jay Gould. London: Penguin Books, 1981. Wee Wan Ling. “Capitalism and Ethnicity: Creating Local Culture in Singapore”. Paper delivered at the Embedding Capitalism in Newer Asian Contexts, 22–23 March 1999, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. Zizek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993. . “Guilty Pleasures: Zizek”. Interview by Tim Mathieson. World Art, no. 2 (1995), p. 37.

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4

McNationalism in Singapore LEE WENG CHOY

Ideology is not a dreamlike illusion that we build to escape insupportable reality; in its basic dimension it is a fantasy-construction which serves as a support for our “reality” itself … (Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology)

The camera loves Manhattan. Each gaze is an immediate infatuation — with the skyscrapers and their great shadows, with the way Central Park in June carves a giant green rectangle out of grey concrete, with the bricks of old brownstones, the bright big city lights. From chic uptown Madison Avenue to the dirty surrealism of the Lower East Side, from a Wall Street frenzy to a 42nd Street hustle, the camera has raced to catch every detail: to climb up to the Chrysler Building gargoyles, to recognize a famous face in the crowd, or to pity a homeless person sleeping in a sidewalk bed of newspapers and cardboard. The first time I saw New York — not counting the time when I lived there as a toddler — I was overwhelmed like most everyone else is when he is in the presence of something so big. But my sense of awe had as much to do with having grown up in Manila on a diet of images from America. America was the “Other” for me, the central object of my imagination, fascination, and desire. That autumn day in 1981, as I wandered around Manhattan, things would seem familiar, although I

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had never actually seen them or could not possibly have remembered them from when my mother pushed me around in a stroller. The explanation for this déjà vu is that I must have seen the thing in question or something similar on television, in a movie or a picture. Even now when I visit the city, I have no grasp of the thing itself; everything is always mediated by a mythology of images. That, however, has not made me any less enchanted with the place. On the contrary, the image, the fetish instead, has become the object of desire. There is always a doubt that I am really there, always the comparison with the screen, and soon enough I will have left, and my memory of the city will have become grafted with the many images stored in mind from cinema, television, and photography. By virtue of being one of the most photographed, filmed, and televised cities, New York claims a spectacular place in the world’s imagination. For many — resident, visitor, or one who’s never been there — the city is a metonym for a whole country, the United States of America piled onto a rock thirteen-and-a-half miles long and two-and-a-half miles wide. Yet the representing of New York is hardly unique. All of the United States, from its major metropolises to its highways, farmlands, and small towns, has been endlessly signified. America is an imaginary invented as much by itself as by others. No other place and no other identity are more articulated: either with such enormous volume and repetition in the mass media, or with such subtlety and complexity in diverse discourses from academic theory to African-American hip-hop music. I begin this chapter about cultural nationalism in Singapore with a paragraph reminiscent of Woody Allen’s prologue-paean in his film Manhattan so as to put to the forefront the United States as a fantasy space. That there is a preponderance of American cultural forms in Singapore is obvious. The shopping centres teem with imported goods, notably American brands — Levis, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Coke, Mattel, Hewlett Packard, and Time Magazine, to name a few. Franchises like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut practically punctuate the commercial areas of the country, while the movie multiplexes showcase such films as Forrest Gump, Batman and Robin, The English Patient, and other Hollywood fare. Not only do American shows occupy a large share of Singaporean English-language television, even the home-made productions are pat-

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terned after them (for example, Masters of the Sea, a Dallas-style drama serial, Gotcha, a Candid Camera clone, and Under One Roof, a family sitcom à la The Cosby Show and Family Ties). This state of affairs is not unusual, as any site thoroughly permeated by transnational capital is also pervaded by commercial-popular culture, whose sources, references, or forms are very often American. The question is: how does the U.S. figure as an “Other” that is contemplated and contested in expressions of Singaporean cultural nationalism? My query presumes that, firstly, identity is constructed and, secondly, that its construction is predicated on the simultaneous constructing of others qua “Others”. In terms of official rhetoric, the frequent “othering” of the United States is symptomatic of what sociologist Chua Beng Huat describes as the “anti-liberal democracy” of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), “where collective well-being is safeguarded by good government by honourable leaders” (Chua 1995, p. 185). This guardianship of good government is anxious about the spread of American media, culture, and values in Singapore. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, in his 1994 National Day Rally speech, for example, contended that the United States is declining precisely because of too much liberal democracy, where traditional values have lost their authority and influence over society. Goh argued that if Singapore is to continue to prosper, it must avoid liberal America’s pitfalls. This ideological othering of America by Singapore’s leaders may seem contradictory, since the United States is hardly a political, military, or economic threat but rather an important ally in all three regards. The fact is American investments and export markets were instrumental in Singapore’s rapid economic growth since independence in 1965, and “the [Singapore] state has vigorously promoted ideological support for the activities of international capital” (Rodan 1989, p. 209). Moreover, as part of its strategy to ensure the nation’s competitive advantage, the state is investing considerable effort into making Singapore the information hub and arts centre for the region. How then does the PAP’s antagonism with American liberalism square with the imperatives of attracting and furthering the flow of information and transnational capital in an increasingly competitive, rationalized, and globalized world economy?

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Following the terms “McDonaldization” and “McWorld” — used by George Ritzer (1993) and Benjamin Barber (1995) to signify rationalization and globalization — I use the term “McNationalism” to designate the complex of tensions between articulations of nationalism and the forces of rationalization and globalization, and will look in particular at the expression of cultural nationalism, rationalization, and globalization in advertisements in Singapore. In Reading Ads Socially, Robert Goldman writes: Advertisements saturate our social lives. … Yet, because ads are so pervasive and our reading of them so routine, we tend to take for granted the deep social assumptions embedded in advertisements. We do not ordinarily recognise advertising as a sphere of ideology. (1992, p. 1)

Whereas Goldman’s social and critical reading of advertisements intends to “map the cultural reproduction of commodity hegemony” (ibid., p. 2), my reading of advertisements in Singapore turns instead to the relation between fantasy and ideology. Deploying psychoanalytic film theory, I will discuss certain advertisements as “McNationalist” fantasies, analysing them in the context of the state’s ideological othering of the United States. Ideological advertisements: SIGN-APORE

Often when typing the word “Singapore”, “Signapore” is the typo I produce instead. Though perhaps “Signapore” is exactly what I should intend to type all along, for Singapore is indeed a city of signs — as is New York, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, or any other modern city, great or small. It is my premise that Singapore is part of Guy Debord’s (1967) late capitalist society of the spectacle, where images have eclipsed the commodity as the primary object of our consumption and contemplation. From this perspective, the ideological analysis of Singapore’s visual 1 cultural forms is of particular importance for a critical understanding of that society. Since the 1970s, psychoanalysis has played a major role in the discourse of how cinema operates as an ideological medium (Mayne 1993, p. 20).This coupling of psychoanalysis and ideological critique in film theory builds on Louis Althusser’s emphasis that ideology most impor-

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tantly operates not only in institutional structures, but also in the representational realm which addresses or “interpellates” subjects. There is, as Althusser puts it, “no ideology except by the subject and for subjects” (Althusser 1971, p. 170, quoted in Mayne 1993, p. 14). In other words, individuals respond to ideology by recognizing themselves as subjects of it. And the realm of the subject or subjectivity is, of course, the domain of psychoanalysis. Cinema and psychoanalysis share many central preoccupations, not least of which are story-telling, and the operation of desire and fantasy. Story-telling or narrative is understood in psychoanalysis as “one of the most fundamental ways in which one constructs an identity, in both cultural and individual terms” (Mayne 1993, p. 24); whereas desire is understood as “how individuals conceive of themselves in subjective terms, how relations between self and other are defined, and how pleasure is sought and satisfied” (ibid., p. 22). To these definitions, we should add that, following Lacan, the Other is essential to the formation of desire: desire is always the desire for and of the Other. Not only do we desire the Other as the object of our desire, we desire what (we imagine) the Other as a subject desires (for us). In the words of Slavoj Zizek: Desire is not something given in advance, but something that has to be constructed — and it is precisely the role of fantasy to give the coordinates of the subject’s desire, to specify its object, to locate the position the subject assumes in it. It is only through fantasy that the subject is constituted as desiring: through fantasy, we learn to desire. (1991, p. 6)

What I will attempt in my reading of certain advertisements as McNationalist fantasies is to situate the Other of the desires staged by these fantasies. My purview is the reading of these advertisements as texts, and their particular enunciation of ideological desire. In psychoanalytic film theory the concept of enunciation refers to the process by which the viewer forgets that he or she is watching an external or disembodied fiction outside the discernment of desire. Rather, “the film seems to be narrated by the viewer himself, who becomes, in imagination, its discursive source” (Stam et al. 1992, p. 129). Furthermore, I presume that aspects of psychoanalytic film theory can be meaningfully applied to Singaporeans in sufficiently similar ways as they can to Americans or any persons living in contemporary, cosmopolitan capitalist society. Some

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film theories tend towards a monolithic view of the unconscious, and consequently, like other modernist-type master codes, are limited in their relevance across cultures (Mayne 1993, p. 79). On the other hand, the current emphasis in film theory on fantasy (with its focus on subjectposition mobility and the staging of desire) provides for a more sophisticated reading of the relationship between the psychic and political dimensions of spectatorship — a relationship that is clearly in place in the Singapore context. McDonald’s, McNation, McSingapore …

Apparently Singaporeans watch more movies per capita than anybody else in the world. If you went to the cinema here sometime during 1994, chances are you would have caught the Giordano “World without Strangers” series of advertisements and the “Get that man a Tiger” Tiger Beer advertisement. The Giordano advertisements came in pairs: in one advertisement, a teenage Chinese male travels to some “Third World” place and befriends the “natives”; in the other, a female counterpart does the same in a different place. The various scenarios were: a village in rural China (boy); a Russia littered with fallen communist monuments (girl); somewhere in the grasslands of Africa (boy); an isolated train stop in Latin America (girl); and the last in the series — which was usually shown twice in a row as it had no counterpart — a boy playing football with a tin can on the streets of a small town clearly located in Latin America. What these advertisements do, apart from selling Giordano jeans and casual clothing, of course, is represent Hong Kong — the cosmopolitan centre of Chinese capitalism even before the July 1997 takeover — through the visage of a benign, youthful, handsome, and trusting face. In the Singaporean context, this Hong Kong–Chinese capitalist representation would likely be identified as a close cousin of Singapore’s own ascending capitalist modernity. While the advertisements herald the rise of a new capitalist bourgeoisie élite — new in the sense that it implicates a different location in global capitalism, a different cultural construction from Europe or America — the representation of this ascendancy is still predicated on the penetration of some primitive Other. To read Giordano’s use of an Italian-sounding name as contradict-

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ing its promotion of Asian capitalism would miss the point. The name may be a concession to the dominance of Western language in marketing discourse, but the Giordano company makes clear its Asian global cultural identity. At any rate, its use of a catchy moniker is not the only application of marketing principles first practised in the West that have since become the grammar of globalization. What McDonald’s is to food, Giordano is to clothing: its products are inexpensive, limited in range, not of high quality but competently mediocre, and the brand has a recognizable and respectable image. The marketing of Giordano is an example of the fusion of rationalization and globalization with pan– East Asian cultural nationalism in the fantasy space of advertising. Nevertheless, even if a marketing strategy did send mixed signals about Asian subjects in global or non-Asian locations, that would not mean the advertisement campaign would be less effective. As fantasies, advertisements do not require the impeccable coherence of, say, philosophical treatises. The pleasures a subject obtains from fantasy lie in the pleasures of mobility, of moving from one subject position to another, and often across contradictory terrains. As Mayne writes, fantasy’s “very nature is to exist for the subject across many possible positions” (1993, p. 88). Such a movement across perhaps conflicting subject positions is even clearer in a 1994 Tiger Beer advertisement. Raffles Light Beer and Anchor Beer have also used White actors in Western settings to try to impress upon the Singapore viewer that these local, Asian products have international reputations and cosmopolitan aura. Do the people at beer companies really believe that Asian viewers find the self-satisfied smile of the White male the true sign of sophistication and the quintessential indication of the quality of their beer? A cast of six are on a yacht out at sea. Two bikini-clad Western women fawn over four men, one of whom looks boyish and Asian, and who remains in the background throughout. The advertisement begins with one man having just caught a fish. Our hero arrogantly tosses it back to sea as bait. In the next shot we see that he has hooked a marlin. We see him grimacing, grappling with his fishing rod, then a close-up of him looking triumphant, with the women’s ample cleavages flashed on either side of his face. Just when the two other White guys are about to haul the vanquished fish on board, one says — “Get that man a beer”

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— while the other, the guy who caught the first fish, shoots back — “No, get that man a Tiger!” Back at the pier, with the large marlin hanging in the background, everyone toasts and drinks, and the Tiger theme song hits its final crescendo. As a fantasy, the Tiger Beer advertisement stages the cosmopolitan ideal of White, handsome, and sporting men, surrounded by White, attractive women: the very crystallization of fun which any subject — Asian or otherwise — would desire. “Desire”, as defined by psychoanalytic film theory, is about “how individuals conceive of themselves in subjective terms, how relations between self and other are defined, and how pleasure is sought and satisfied” (Mayne 1993, p. 22). Moreover, as mentioned above, for Lacan, desire is always the desire of the Other. Lacan’s terms “ideal-ego” and “ego-ideal” designate the two sides of desire’s Other (the first term refers to the site of imaginary identification, while the second pertains to symbolic identification).The “ideal-ego” is what we would like to be, that is, the image of ourselves that we would like to see ourselves as. What the Tiger advertisement does is place the 2 viewer, especially but not necessarily the male viewer alone, in a position to identify with the White male as an ideal-ego. The central question here is whether the advertisement actually “calls” or “interpellates” the desiring subject into being by enabling him to identify with the White male as an ego-ideal. The ego-ideal is the “very place from where we are being observed, from where we look at ourselves so that we appear to ourselves likeable, worthy of love” (Zizek 1989, p. 105). To name the ego-ideal is to answer the question “whose gaze is it with which we desire?” But the answer in the case of the Tiger advertisement is not simply, “the Westerner’s gaze”. I would suggest that accompanying this identification with and desire for the white Other is an equally strong desire to be Asian. Tiger Beer is after all unmistakably made in Singapore, as most viewers would know. In this and other advertisements, Tiger Beer trades on the theme that “our beer” is as good as “theirs” in the West. Such a comparative contestation implies — and constructs — a differentiation between “us” Asians and “them” Westerners. Under the sign of “Our Beer from Singapore”, the advertisement is not simply about an Asian subject’s desire to pass as white or Western. Rather, the tension between the two sets of ambivalent desires is located

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in a site intersected by the anxiety of surpassing even while it longs for the West and what it represents. To better analyse the Singaporean relation with the Western gaze in advertising, it is useful to contrast the Tiger Beer advertisement with one of McDonald’s. While the local, Asian product attempts to acquire an international aura by taking on signifiers that are clearly “Western”, a foreign product achieves credibility by passing as local. A 1994 McDonald’s television advertisement defined the state of the art by creating the perfect Singapore, replete with a sense of local authenticity — thus almost completely naturalizing as Singaporean one of the world’s most commercialized purveyors of homogenized, American mass culture. The advertisement begins with the title, “The Sounds of Singapore”, and from the first scene we see it is designed to rouse nationalistic sentiments. School children are outdoors and the school flag is being raised. They sing their allegiance — “When the sun shines upon our land”. The advertisement is clearly MTV-influenced with its quick jumpy edits: from the raised school flag we cut to laundry hanging on bamboo poles from windows. The many scenes include the MRT subway system, teenagers flirting with each other at a McDonald’s, Chinese lion 3 dancers, and a young man singing a Chinese song as he drives through a “drive-thru” in what looks like a red, open-top Triumph or MG. The next scene deserves attention: it is at a kindergarten and the children are learning the alphabet. The teacher raises a “B” and some kid says “B for boy”, then “G for girl”, and when it comes to “M”, which should stand for “mother”, a precocious boy says “M is for McDonald’s” — a not-sosubtle but significant substitution indeed. Throughout, music makes seamless the multitude of images, switching deftly back and forth from Chinese to Western, from old to new styles — thus the ideal integration of Eastern and Western, traditional and post-modern cultures. A notable omission perhaps is that the Singapore depicted is peopled only with Chinese, while in reality it is multiethnic. As the advertisement reaches its climax, shots of McDonald’s food are intercut with a saxophone, then with teenage boys in a room playing electric guitars. There is a souvenir banner with a red star on the room’s ceiling. It is a minor detail, but one that situates the advertisement clearly

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in the Post–Cold War era, which for McDonald’s means one big happy New McWorld Order. The advertisement is teeming with visual virtuosity. After the boys’ room, we cut to fireworks, then to tossed lettuce strips, the latter for a moment resembling pattern etched in the sky by the fireworks (recall the earlier correspondence/juxtaposition of flag and laundry). We wind down with a shot of a clock tower showing seven o’clock, so presumably the advertisement began at exactly seven in the morning and compressed 12 hours into a single minute. The final scene shows an old man inside his room playing the McDonald’s theme on an Erhu, a Chinese two-stringed musical instrument, with the setting sun piercing through the Chinese lattice windows. The old man’s presence contrasts with that of the boys, with their modern, Western guitars and cosmopolitan room decor. Sophisticated and self-reflexive, the advertisement ends with the epilogue “A visit to McDonald’s always sounds good”. Surely the Big Mac, the Chicken McNuggets, and the French fries are not really what it is all about. They are not so much food as the stuff of Guy Debord’s society of the spectacle, of Jean Baudrillard’s “simulacra” (1983). They are signifiers — perhaps if you could taste an empty signifier it might taste like a McDonald’s hamburger. What McDonald’s advertisements have consistently staged — whether in the United States, Singapore or anywhere else — is the desire for the idyllic, fetishized, fantasy McWorld under the golden arches, a representation the advertisement so succinctly captures. In the “Sounds of Singapore”, this fantasy world has been extended to a Singapore McNation of rationalized comforts. Does watching the McDonald’s advertisement make Singaporeans proud of Singapore? If so, that would mean the immediate identification is with McDonald’s — which signifies an ideal scenario of Singapore’s perfect life — and through McDonald’s as a signifier for Singapore, we then identify with the nation. The advertisement works by offering a gaze through which Singaporeans can stage their longing and wishes. McDonald’s assumes the power to call forth Singapore, to interpellate its viewers as nationalistic citizens. On the other hand, perhaps the advertisement presumes a sense of nationalist pride in the first place. The advertisement does both: wanting McDonald’s makes you proud of Singapore, and being proud of Singapore makes you want McDonald’s.

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Zizek writes: Let us take the case of the famous advertisement for Marlboro: the picture of the bronzed cowboy, the wide prairie plains, and so on — all this “connotes”, of course, a certain image of America (the land of hard, honest people, of limitless horizons …) but the effect of the “quilting” occurs only when a certain inversion takes place; it does not occur until “real” Americans start to identify themselves (in their ideological self-experience) with the image created by the Marlboro advertisement — until America itself is experienced as “Marlboro country” … [T]he point is not that Coca-Cola “connotes” a certain ideological experience-vision of America (the freshness of its sharp, cold taste, and so on); the point is that this vision of America itself achieves its identity by identifying itself with the signifier “Coke”. (1989, p. 96)

Following Zizek, what happens with the McDonald’s advertisement is that Singapore becomes experienced, even if so minutely, as a McSingapore. However, long before McDonald’s reconfigured Singapore as a McNation, it had made a McAmerica of the United States. Zizek’s remarks about the United States achieving its identity through Marlboro, Coke — and one would certainly add McDonald’s to that list — imply that the globalization of world culture through the importing of American commercial-popular culture happens not only to other countries but to the United States as well. McDonald’s might pass as part of the local wherever it has been imported; however, more accurately, it remains a paradigmatic local signifier for both globalization and American commercial-popular culture. The implicit Other in the “Sounds of Singapore” is undoubtedly America. But, significantly, the advertisement presents a fantasy of Singaporean cultural nationalism without antagonism with this Other. Instead, all elements are strung together in harmony, as were the electric guitars and the erhu in the ads’ musical score. Perhaps in another country the use of McDonald’s as a signifier for cultural nationalism might seem less uncanny, but in Singapore, where America is vigorously contested, it is the height of irony. Contesting America

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s 1994 National Day Rally Speech focused on a single theme, family values. Goh argued that if Singapore did not want to “lose its vitality, its solidarity”, then it must have the

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moral anchor of strong family values. Central to the speech was a contesting of America. Societies can go wrong quickly. US and British societies have changed profoundly in the last thirty years. Up to the early 1960s, they were disciplined, conservative, with the family very much the pillar of their societies. Since then, both the US and Britain have seen a sharp rise in broken families, teenage mothers, illegitimate children, juvenile delinquency, vandalism, and violent crime. … American society now places less value than before on what it owes to others as a matter of moral obligation; less value on sacrifice as a moral good; less value on social conformity and respectability; less value on correctness and restraint in matters of physical pleasure and sexuality … Recently, The Straits Times carried an advertisement showing a boy saying: “Come on, Dad. If you can play golf five times a week, I can have Sustagen once a day”. I found the language, the way the boy speaks, most objectionable. Why put an American boy’s way of speaking to a father into a Singaporean boy’s mouth? … These advertisements will encourage children to be insolent to their parents. Many American children call their fathers by their first names, and treat them with casual familiarity. We must not unthinkingly drift into attitudes and manners which undermine the traditional politeness and deference Asian children have for their parents and elders. … Michael Fay, back in America, got drunk, and when his father protested, he tackled the father and wrestled him to the ground. I cannot imagine a Chinese son, or any other Asian son, physically tackling his father. But that may happen when sons call their fathers by their first names and treat them as equals. Familiarity can breed contempt. … America’s and Britain’s social problems — a growing underclass, which is violence-prone, uneducated, drug-taking, sexually promiscuous — is a direct result of the family unit becoming redundant or non-functional. … (Excerpts of Goh’s speech, “Three Lessons for Singapore”, Straits Times, 22 August 1994)

Goh is by no means the only Singaporean leader to criticize the United States. The West has and continues to figure crucially in Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s speeches. While he has argued that the economic growth of East Asia will lead to the reaffirmation of Asian culture, tradition, and values, Lee nonetheless acknowledged that “the European and later the American civilizations have dominated the world”. He went so far as to “assess Western influence [in Singapore today] at 60 per cent, compared to the influence of core Asian values at 40 per cent”. Although in “20 years, this ratio will shift, as East Asia produces its own

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mass products and coins its own political vocabulary” (Straits Times, 6 February 1995). Implicit in Lee’s notion of culture and value is that they underpin comparative difference and reflect power relations. There is no “better” or “best” without those others whom you have bettered, hence the prefacing of his remarks about an anticipated Asian superiority with a mention of the previous supremacy of Europe and America. Of course, this constant comparison and competition with Others is not a feature unique to Lee’s or Goh’s discourse, but to any construction of cultural nationalism at large. What is arguably distinct about the Singapore leadership’s rhetoric is the degree to which America predominates as an ideological “Other” figure. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has written that “the discourse of man is in the metaphor of woman” (1983, p. 169). Pace Spivak, my claim, less emphatically, is that a substantial part of the discourse of Singapore is in the metaphor of America. Apart from being frequently contested by Singaporeans, the import of the United States as an ideological arena is further demonstrated by the fact that the conservative discourse of America is re-staged here, using the American sources themselves. The Straits Times regularly prints or reprints American columnists and pundits, with topics ranging from U.S. foreign policy to economics to the state of the American family. Given the newspaper’s editorial policy, these reprints generally promote positions convergent with the Singapore leadership’s own. In “The system promotes illegitimacy in US”, for example, former Dan Quayle speech writer Lisa Schiffren writes: “America faces no problem more urgent than its rocketing illegitimacy rate. Last year 30 per cent of all babies were born out of wedlock” (Straits Times, 12 August 1995). Speaking of Quayle, during the 1992 U.S. presidential elections, the QuayleMurphy Brown dispute was well covered by the Straits Times with a bias for the then Vice-President’s pro-family values stance. When the controversial The Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray (1994) was published, the discussion of race, intelligence, class, and government policy in American was reproduced in Singapore press.4 The book got a lot of positive press, and excerpts were given a number of full pages in the newspaper. What these examples illustrate is how American debates are appropriated into the discourse of the Singapore state. The conservative American voice — pro–free market, anti-welfarism, tough on crime,

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pro-family — becomes yet another vehicle for Singapore’s leaders to criticize American liberalism, to hold it up as the image of catastrophe for this “highly vulnerable” island city-state that can, as Prime Minister Goh puts it, “go wrong quickly”. “Westernization”, Chua Beng Huat asserts, “became a convenient holder of all the ills of capitalist developments in Singapore, against which a very loose formulation of “Asian values” was elevated supposedly to arrest the rot that threatened” (1995, p. 118) Furthermore: In contrast to the earlier policies that were aimed at producing an efficient and disciplined work-force necessary to the economic development of a new nation and the material well-being of the new citizenry, the policies and programmes of the mid- and late 1980s have as their motivation the inscription of selectively reinvented “traditional” attitudes and values as the “truths of Asians” in general. (1995, p. 119)

Thus, having achieved economic success, the state has acknowledged that it is time to channel energies into safeguarding the nation’s Asian cultural identity. Underlying this evolution in policy-making is the same paradigm: at stake is survival and success, and a strong cultural identity is deemed necessary to thrive in this competitive world. Western liberal values, so the argument goes, differ fundamentally from Asian values, and if Singapore emulated America it would sabotage its supposedly authentic culture and values, and, most importantly, its chances to survive and thrive. In the 1980s, partly to stem the anticipated problems from excessive individualism (read: Westernization) in society, the PAP attempted to utilize Confucianism to explain the cultural factors underpinning the country’s economic success (see Chua 1995). In 1882, Ernest Renan said: “Getting its history wrong is part of being a nation” (quoted from Hobsbawm 1990, p. 12); following Renan, the PAP’s less than convincing articulation of neo-Confucianism could be read as “getting their Chinese history wrong”. But apart from ideologically engineering its own history, getting American History wrong has also become part of being Singapore. Goh’s 1994 National Day Rally speech, for instance, offers a terribly inadequate summary of the last thirty years of American history. Goh’s version, nonetheless, is shared by many American conservative

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politicians, pundits, and business leaders. For Goh, as well for Dan Quayle and company, the rise of single-motherhood is virtually the cause of the decline of America, rather than poverty and urban decline having as one of its effects high rates of minority single mothers on welfare. In his speech, Goh indicated a moment in American history, the post-war years — a period for which Reagan America had tremendous nostalgia — when America supposedly had solid traditional values and was on top of the world. Goh and conservative Americans maintain that today’s America is declining not only because it has lost its traditional values; what is worse is that it has become the culture of articulation par excellence — all values are open for negotiation. In contrast, the Singapore leadership wants to circumscribe negotiation, and its rhetoric reveals (as all essentialist positions reveal) a refusal to admit articulation as the fact of the identities of nation, state, and ruling party. The simple reason for Singapore’s convergence with American conservatives on the explanation of the latter’s decline is that the PAP is conservative as well. But, more to the point, the state–big business interests in both countries coincide. The Singapore leadership has always acknowledged the nation’s dependence on the larger forces in the world political economy, particularly the American economy and military. In an interview with the New York Times, Lee Kuan Yew remarked that Singapore’s survival in the next twenty years depends on the U.S. economy and a stable balance of power between China, Japan, and Russia.5 Lee is basically reiterating the crucial external factors that have made possible the country’s success since independence. As mentioned earlier, from the onset in 1965, American investments and markets were instrumental in Singapore’s rapid economic growth (see Rodan 1989); three decades later it is still the case: with over S$10 billion committed, the United States led Europe, Japan, and Singapore with its share of the total investment commitments in manufacturing during the period of 6 1991–96. Given their substantial mutual interests, how then does one explain Singapore’s vocal antagonism against America? Singapore’s attacks are directed specifically at those custodians of culture and values — the “liberal” media — and not at American businesses. In a speech criticizing the American media’s sense of cultural superiority, Lee Kuan Yew

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made it clear that American businesses valued and prospered in their partnership with Singapore, that the multinational corporations (MNCs) “disregard what the Western media alleges”. Moreover, “these MNCs have come to make profits, not to do us favours. We have enabled them to make their profits” (Straits Times, 14 August 1995). This “We” could refer to Singapore as a whole but also specifically to the PAP-led state, whose strong role in the rapid industrialization of Singapore has been well discussed. Since to be attractive to MNCs is to enable “them to make their profits”, a central (though not exclusive) ideological agenda underlying Singaporean “nation-building” is to serve multinational capital accumulation — the primary force behind globalization. Nationalism and globalization achieve a symbiosis in Singapore, with the PAPled state, the MNCs, and supposedly all Singaporeans benefiting. I have been arguing that the contesting of America is prominent in current political discourse in Singapore, that the lines of contestation are over culture and values, and that this contesting does not undermine Singapore’s substantial economic, military, and political partnership with the United States. But I have yet to suggest why the leadership would appropriate America as an ideological arena in the first place. The PAP appears to have adopted a small-state defence mentality: it is best to fight your battles outside your country, on the Other’s turf. While plugging into globalization is the crux of Singapore’s economic strategy, the uncontrolled opening up of society is considered a dangerous side-effect. Contesting America displaces the debate over the liberalization of Singaporean society to an outside of the country. Consequently, the most visible antagonisms are between a unity, Singapore, and an Other, liberal America, and internal antagonisms are downplayed (though not eliminated). These internal antagonisms are not just about party politics between the PAP and the opposition; they are about negotiating the very means of government and state, about the autonomy of civil society, about individual rights, and so on. Saturating political discourse in Singapore with debates about the United States in the most reductive versions of “liberal” versus “conservative” makes room here for articulation — of cultural, ethnic, and political difference and identity, social responsibility, individual freedoms, modernity, and tradition — even narrower than the relatively narrow

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mainstream political discourse within the United States. Here the values of capitalism are inadequately examined, and non-conservative (for example, leftist) critiques of liberal-democracy are not broached. The problem with the United States is consistently presented as one of an 7 excess of democracy and a lack of discipline. Where it is especially lacking in the United States is at the home, and home is where Singapore has it. Family discipline becomes a code for social discipline. Significantly, the excess of democracy is always seen as an excess of individualism. Never mind that the social activism in the United States in the 1960s — a “flourishing” of democracy, if you will — addressed fundamental flaws in good old traditional-values 1950s America, such as systematic racism and sexism. The 1995 William Safire–Williams College episode illustrates some of the dynamics of contesting America. Safire in his New York Times column attacked Prime Minister Goh, saying he was unfit to receive an honorary degree from Williams College, Massachusetts. George Crane, and other Williams College faculty who protested the College’s decision to honour Goh, invited the PM to a debate there. The PM’s press secretary responded by inviting Crane and Safire to come to Singapore and debate Goh. Safire declined but offered to face-off with Lee Kuan Yew, if Goh would take on Singaporean exile Francis Seow. Chee Soon Juan, of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), called for a public debate with the PAP saying it was “hypocritical” of the PM “to make a show of debating Americans about matters dear to Singaporeans while ignoring the opposition in Singapore” (Straits Times, 19 July 1995). In the end, no one debated anyone. The PAP rebuffed Chee’s calls for a public debate, maintaining that the SDP has ample opportunity to debate politics in parliament, and Deputy PM Brigadier-General Lee Hsien Loong dismissed Safire’s counter-offer as a chickening-out. Subsequently, Chee got embroiled in defending himself against accusations that he was siding with the Western media and being disloyal to Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew, in a speech after the Safire episode, said: We must debunk those who echo the American media line that we will only prosper and progress if we dismantle our practices and institutions. … Those who peddle this line to our people are stooging for the Western media and their human rights groups. (Straits Times, 14 August 1995)

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In Lee’s rhetoric, criticism, opposition, and the articulation of political antagonisms within Singapore become conflated with “stooging for the Western media”, and attempting to “dismantle our practices and institutions”. It is not just that every new, different, or critical argument or position is framed through a single consideration — whether it is proor anti-government — but the lines are also drawn between an “us” — the true and pragmatic patriots of Singapore — and an “Other” — the stooges or sympathizers of American liberalism. Denied desires

In this paper I have discussed certain “McNationalist” fantasies (for example, the McDonald’s “Sounds of Singapore” advertisement) in the context of the Singapore state’s ideological othering of the United States. Because it is thoroughly permeated by transnational capital, Singapore is also pervaded by commercial-popular culture, whose sources, references, or forms are very often American. And while plugging into globalization is the crux of Singapore’s economic strategy, the state aims to curtail the spread of liberal American values. As I have argued, a key feature in the advertising strategy of McDonald’s is to pass for the local wherever it is imported, nevertheless, McDonald’s is still read in Singapore as a sign for both globalization and American commercial-popular culture: America is the hidden “Other” in the McSingapore of the “Sounds of Singapore” advertisement. I would like to close this paper with a few more remarks about this hidden Other which is at the heart of so many McNationalist fantasies in Singapore. Lacan uses the term l’objet petit a (literally, the object small “a”) to refer to the object that is the cause of desire (Zizek 1991, p. 12). But as Zizek notes: “[t]he paradox of desire is that it posits retroactively its own cause, ie., the object … can be perceived only by a gaze “distorted” by desire” (ibid., p. 12). As an object of intense fascination for Singapore, liberal America is ideologically distorted in its contemplation and contestation. Represented as the society of total articulation, it is the forbidden desire. What is liberal America for Singapore if not the l’objet petit a that Singapore denies itself and is hysterically afraid of becoming? “We” (Singapore) must remain disciplined; “they” (America) are excessively permissive. They enjoy themselves too much. Zizek observes: “We

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always impute to the “other” an excessive enjoyment: he wants to steal our enjoyment (by ruining our way of life) and/or he has access to some secret, perverse enjoyment” (1993, p. 203). In the case of the United States, the enjoyment is hardly secret — it is because it is never secret but so conspicuously exhibited that American pleasures are so perverse to Singapore. The “mirror stage” is another Lacanian concept that sheds light on the contesting of America. It is the stage in early child development when the child’s first sense of an integrated self-image takes place. Janadas Devan has suggested that the West, and America in particular, functions 8 like the mirror for a young Singapore still in its mirror stage. This explains some of the hurt implicit in Singaporean retorts to Western and American criticisms. The PAP-led state sees itself as an exemplar of pragmatic rationality and instrumental reason, and should be acknowledged as a revitalized incarnation of an otherwise flagging Western modernism. Instead, the Western media ridicules Singapore as an aberrant version of itself (of liberal democracy), belittling it as an uptight, too-perfect little McNation, or, as science-fiction writer William Gibson once put it, “Disneyland with the death penalty”. The hurt and anxiety, however, find partial resolution in fantasy; there, the mobility between conflicting subject-positions allows for the enjoyment of a fetish which displaces or blocks consciousness of the conflict. The McDonald’s advertisement is an instance of such: in a fetishized McSingapore, Eastern and Western cultures fuse harmoniously, and rationalization and globalization converge with nationalism. There are a number of other McNationalist-type advertisements, but suffice to cite two which reveal how readily the seductive enjoyments of the “enemy” — of “liberal values” Hollywood/America — can be appropriated for the (phantasmatic) defence of the nation. A newspaper advertisement for the Singapore Air Force shows a stack of videos of Top Gun, Fire Fox, AirWolf, and Blue Thunder, below which a caption asks, “When was the last time you rented a video about a finance executive?” Then there is a television advertisement for the government’s “Total Defence” campaign (Psychological, Social, Economic, Civil, and Military Defence). It looks pretty slick, but what is remarkable is that its style of music signifies a detoured return of the Other’s repressed. Once

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a marginalized African-American cultural form, hip-hop and rap has become, in a most watered-down version, the song to “put your heart, mind, will to the defence of Singapore”. NOTES 1. Within the scope of this chapter, the distinctions between television and cinema are not crucial, as I am concerned mainly with what psychoanalytic theory has to say about the moving images of advertisements as a text, rather than on the differences between the nature of television and cinema viewing. Unlike cinema spectatorship, where viewers sit attentively throughout the film, television viewers channel-surf as well as do other things while watching (such as read or eat a meal). Nonetheless, as Sandy Flitterman-Lewis argues, television-viewing operates through “reduplicating structures of fascination to compensate for its appeal to a dispersed and fractured subjectivity” (1987, p. 204). In my discussion of advertisements, the difference between television’s fragmentary and cinema’s rapt viewing is beside the point, because advertisements, which are short in duration and frequently repeated, operate similarly enough whether shown in the cinema or on television. The comparison between feature films and television shows, on the other hand, would warrant specific attention to how each medium is viewed differently. 2. I should clarify that in psychoanalytic film theory, the “viewer” is not the same as a “real person”, but the viewer or subject is a constructed position. To watch a film is to enter into a discursive space and to fill up the various subject-positions constructed by the film and its apparatus. The problem lies in trying to map a connection between film theory’s subjects and real individuals (Mayne 1993, pp. 36 ff.). Actual persons who watch films indeed take on these subject positions, but they do not do so passively — they negotiate these positions. Yet it is beyond the scope of this chapter to discuss how real Singaporean viewers negotiate the advertisements discussed here. Therefore, I am careful to argue that the advertisements only “place the viewers in positions to identify”, and my claims can go no further than that. 3. Yao Souchou identifies the song as the classic “Shina no Yoru” sung by Yoshiko Yamaguchi, which was popular among Japanese soldiers fighting in China during World War II. 4. See Langenbach in this volume for a discussion of race, intelligence, and government policy in Singapore. 5. “Singapore Must Adjust to World Changes or Decline: SM Lee”, Straits Times, 16 August 1995. 6. Data on investment commitments in manufacturing for 1991 to 1996 are from the Singapore Economic Development Board, published in Economic Survey of Singapore, Third Quarter 1997 (Singapore: Ministry of Trade and Industry, 1997), p. 90.

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7. A cartoon accompanied the Richard Armitage article “Promote Common Values and Respect Differences: What the US, S’pore Should Do After Fay’s Caning” (Straits Times, 10 May 1994). On one side was a picture of New York City — polluted, vandalized, jammed with traffic and violence on the streets; on the other side, Singapore — clean, no traffic jams, no violence, families strolling on the waterfront, a “No Littering” sign and a “Protect your Environment” sign. The Statue of Liberty asks the Singapore Merlion statue, “Hey pal, what’s your secret?” The Merlion, showing a cane, says, “This!” 8. Janadas Devan’s remarks were made in a personal conversation with the author. REFERENCES Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Towards an Investigation)”. In Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, translated by Ben Brewster. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971. Barber, Benjamin R. Jihad vs McWorld. New York: Times Books, 1995. Baudrillard, Jean. Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983. Chua Beng Huat. Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore. London: Routledge, 1995. Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: Zone Books, 1994. Economic Development Board. Economic Survey of Singapore, Third Quarter 1997. Singapore: Ministry of Trade and Industry, 1997. Flitterman-Lewis, Sandy. “Psychoanalysis, Film, and Television”. In Channels of Discourse, edited by Robert C. Allen. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1987. Goldman, Robert. Reading Ads Socially. London: Routledge, 1992. Herrnstein, Richard J. and Charles Murray. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. New York: The Free Press, 1994. Hobsbawm, E.J. Nations and Nationalism since 1780. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Mayne, Judith. Cinema and Spectatorship. London: Routledge, 1993. Ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of Society. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press, 1993. Rodan, Gary. The Political Economy of Singapore’s Industrialisation. London: Macmillan, 1989. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Displacement and the Discourse of Woman”. In Displacement, edited by Mark Krupnick. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.

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Stam, Robert, Robert Burgoyne, and Sandy Flitterman-Lewis. New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics. London: Routledge, 1992. Zizek, Slavoj. The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso, 1989. . Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. Cambridge: MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Press, 1991. . Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993.

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National identity, diasporic anxiety, and music video culture in Vietnam ASHLEY CARRUTHERS

Formally approved by the Sixth Party Congress in 1986, Vietnam’s doi moi or renovation policy has seen the country transform itself from a reclusive Marxist-Leninist state into a market economy ever-increasingly incorporated into the global capitalist system. Along with this new economic openness, Vietnam has variously embraced and had forced upon it a new cultural openness, a process that has seen the once relatively discrete borders of its national culture begin to exhibit an unsettling new porousness. As new media have flowed into the country alongside other consumer goods, the state has begun to find that the tight control it once exercised over virtually all fields of cultural production and consumption is slipping. As one might expect, this process has been quick to revivify the spectre of cultural pollution by a decadent West, one to which the state has periodically reacted since the advent of the policy in spectacular fashion. But doi moi has not only let the West back in. A less remarked consequence of the policy is that it has precipitated something of a return of the repressed of national culture in the form of the popular culture of the Vietnamese diaspora. Doi moi has seen the formation in Vietnam of a huge market in pirated versions of video music variety shows, karaoke,

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and compact discs produced by Vietnamese living the United States, France, and Canada. Thus as well as introducing Vietnamese consumers to Playboy and Die Hard, “renovation” has allowed them to meet such diasporic cultural icons as Elvis Phuong, Lynda Trang Dai, and Paris by Night. While the state has over the past few years become more resigned to the presence in Vietnam of a commercial music culture produced by its former enemies or My nguy [American puppets], and recently has even allowed diasporic singers to perform in Vietnam, this state of affairs continues to afford it no little source of ambivalence and disquiet. The return of an overseas Vietnamese “exile culture” (Nacify 1993) violates a post-Reunification symbolic geography whereby the nation’s traumatic North/South split is resolved by the driving of its enemies, American and Vietnamese, from the divided national space and into exile in the West. Consequently, the renewed presence of these enemies (or at least their music) in the socialist homeland poses a threat to the purity and integrity of the reunited national space, one constituted as whole by the very fact of their banishment (see Duiker 1994). The return of diasporic music and video to Vietnam is an ambivalent issue not only for the state but also, ironically enough, for a large number of diasporic community leaders, intellectuals, journalists, and other people of influence in overseas Vietnamese communities around the world. Identity formation in the diaspora has traditionally been dependent on an anti-communist homeland politics underpinned by a spatial imaginary of exile, wherein communist Vietnam plays the role of the Evil Other against whom the “Free Vietnamese” are defined in terms of unbridgeable spatial, ideological, and even cultural difference. With the advent of doi moi, élites had sought to impose moral pressure on diasporic Vietnamese not to return to a communist Vietnam, be it only for tourism and family visits. Currently, the emphasis is on limiting business and trade links with Vietnam, a practice that is still interpreted by many as a “surrender”. In the recent past, the presence of overseas Vietnamese music and video in Vietnam had been considered a good thing in that the circulation of this anti-communist exile culture was seen as having a subversive effect. Of late, however, its increasingly comfortable presence in Vietnam has led to controversy. As cultural values in doi moi Vietnam undergo a transformation from autarchic, anti-

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colonial statist to global consumerist ones, diasporic commercial culture, alongside other Western and East Asian cultural flows, is playing an important role in the “cosmopolitanization” of the homeland. This process has advanced to a point where homeland music and video, increasingly indistinguishable from the overseas product, are now popularly consumed in the diaspora, while homeland stars such as Hong Nhung, My Linh, Hong Hanh, Anh Tuyet, Ngoc Son, and others have been able to acquire at home the requisite élan to appear in ultra-chic overseas productions. While for many in the diaspora these are seen as positive developments, indicative of a liberalization of the field of cultural production in Vietnam, for others they raise the spectre of the transformation of an anti-state exile culture into a transnational commercial culture with a common consumer habitus. Diasporic élites in particular have sought to resist this opening up of the diasporic public sphere to the homeland, fearing that it must put into question the integrity of the oppositional cultural-national project of “Free Vietnam”, and eventually lead to the replacement of the lost homeland, the defunct Republic of Vietnam, by the contemporary homeland as the referent of diasporic national identity. It is this somewhat unholy remarriage of the Vietnamese homeland and diaspora at the altar of popular music culture — a reunion brought about by the uncontrollable, upredictable nature of cultural flows in these global times — that I wish to explore in this paper. In attempting to capture something of the transnational nature of the object, the space of cultural exchange between Vietnam and the diaspora, I have adopted a research strategy that might be called multi-sited ethnography, after Marcus (1995). The discussion covered here will be split between Vietnam and the diaspora. On the homeland side, I will look at some recent instances of official and popular discourse on the return of diasporic music culture. In the diasporic context, I will analyse a controversy centred around Thuy Nga (the largest of the diasporic popular culture producers) whereby the company was suspected of having abandoned its anti-communist homeland politics in an attempt to break into the official music video market in Vietnam. What I hope to be able to produce from this approach is some sort of representation of the way in which the processes of modernization and globalization in Vietnam, and the

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forms of diaspora-homeland transnationalism they have engendered, are both challenging and reinscribing the hegemonic Cold War narratives which initially gave shape to the Vietnamese diaspora-homeland split. In both sites, claims to cultural and national authenticity have traditionally been based on the putative inauthenticity of the other. Exilic discourse has tended to represent those in Vietnam as having been deethnicized by communism, a Western “import” that undermines the Confucian bases of traditional Vietnamese identity, while state discourse in Vietnam has tended to represent the overseas Vietnamese as having been alienated from their cultural origins and moral tradition by the extraneous values of Western consumer capitalism. Such totalizing depictions of the other have become, however, increasingly difficult to maintain as global processes erode the distinctions between inside and outside, friend and foe, and other key self-constituting binarisms. The analytical task here is to trace the ways in which narratives of national identity have been both disrupted and reinscribed amidst the global circulation of capital, people, objects, and signs. Diaspora Exile and return: narratives of diasporic identity

Some twenty-four years after the fall of Saigon, the dominant representation of the Vietnamese diaspora in the West continues to be that of a victim or refugee diaspora, in the classical Jewish mould. Community gerontocrats protect and project a diasporic identity grounded in the collective experiences of war, hardships suffered under the communist regime, a traumatic exodus, a sense of belonging to a lost homeland, and a commitment to return to and restore the homeland once it is free of communism. This is in origin a middle-class discourse of identity, espoused most rigorously by a core of first-wave political refugees who brought with them considerable symbolic capital from the old society, and by later arrivals with like attributes. This élite has hegemonized community associations and the Vietnamese-language media from the advent of the post-war diaspora in the West, and its ideas, concerns, and anxieties continue to dominate the diasporic public sphere (Viviani 1996, pp. 102–3; Thomas 1996, pp. 154–55; McCoy 1996; and Smith and Tarallo 1995, pp. 59–60). Élites have furthered an essentialist defini-

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tion of Vietnameseness that naturalizes anti-communism and refugeehood by presenting them as intrinisic facets of ethnic identity. This master-narrative of diasporic identity is, however, far from being an untroubled one. While, as recent protests over the hanging of a communist flag and portrait in Little Saigon, California, show, it is still quite possible to generate a communal “we” over a broadly anti-communist issue (Jolly and Mai Tran 1999), the extent of élites’ influence has been significantly reduced over the last decade. The subsequent arrival in the diaspora of second, third, and fourth waves of less politicized refugees (the “passive hurt”), economic migrants, family reunion migrants, northerners, and ethnic Chinese Vietnamese (Viviani 1996, p. 104); the processes of generational change, integration, and assimilation; the normalization of diplomatic and trade relations between Vietnam and the various host nations; and, most importantly for our purposes here, the advent of the doi moi programme of economic reform and (re)globalization in Vietnam, have all served to disrupt and challenge narrow, essentializing definitions of the diaspora as a militantly anticommunist, refugee, or victim one. We have already witnessed the marginalization of a hardline politics of armed return to retake the homeland from the communists by a more liberal discourse of international human rights and “peaceful evolution” to political pluralism. We have also seen a policy of “no contact, no return” to the homeland give way to an acceptance of family visits and a grudging tolerance of cultural, business, and professional contacts with communist Vietnam, which is now receiving around 300,000 returnees and up to US$3 billion in remittances and informal investments from overseas Vietnamese per year.1 These developments have led many to predict the eventual waning of élites’ influence and the disappearance of Cold War politics in determining communal identity and relations with the homeland (for instance, Viviani 1996, p. 121; Thomas 1997). It is in the context of this politics of overseas Vietnamese identity that I wish to look at a recent debate over diasporic commercial culture. Variety shows and the exilic tradition

Sporting titles such as Paris by Night, Asia, Hollywood Nights, Dem Saigon (Saigon nights) and Lang Van, to name the more prominent series,

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music variety shows are almost universally popular amongst overseas Vietnamese audiences. Structured as they are on the premise of variety, the shows incorporate a wide range of musical styles, from pre-colonial works through Western-influenced Tan nhac (new or modern music) to bilingual covers of contemporary American pop songs like Hotel California and Flashdance. They also incorporate a wide range of Vietnamese identities, again ranging from pre-colonial figures through Frenchera cosmopolites to “hybrid” youth. As one Vietnamese journalist put it, we find in these music videos: a variety of musical styles to suit the tastes of many different classes of viewers: love songs, light music, music for the young, foreign music, music from home, trendy music, nostalgic music (nhac sen), comic skits and rich meetings of the old and new. The audience will see Lynda Trang Dai leaping about on the stage, then Huong Lan in black peasant’s pyjamas and a conical hat, then Ngoc Hue in a swimming costume and a pointed bra aping Madonna, then finally Ai Van, holding a broad straw quai thao hat, following Elvis Phuong, dressed in Western trousers and a black coat going off to a festival. (Gia Mom 1996)

While the various segments may pander to individual tastes, the general mode of address of the music videos is very much a collective one. The diverse segments of performance only ever individuate parts of the audience for part of the time. Audience members are constantly recouped via the shows’ diegesis, and the anchoring role of the comperes and their commentaries, into an overarching conception of shared overseas Vietnamese identity. This is centred on an appeal to core cultural values, common tradition, linguistic unity, and an anti-communist homeland politics. Viewers are addressed very much as the members of families, a fact that in itself tends to reinforce the Confucian centrality of the family as a key cultural value. Indeed, it is no doubt a large part of their commercial success that the videos don’t disrupt "family life". In my experience, watching them is most frequently a family activity, even something that produces solidary family activity. Here the shows’ variety produces unity in that there is something for everyone, and nothing likely to seriously alienate anyone. The videos’ loosely sequential, non-narrative structure is also "family-friendly" in that it presupposes a domestic context of reception in which viewing will be interrupted by and cooccur with a range of family activities like cooking, eating, conversa-

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tion, care of children, family members and guests coming in and out of the television room, and so on. Described by musicologist Tran Quang Hai as a vehicle for “a specifically Vietnamese exile-music”, the variety show form has been a mainstay of overseas Vietnamese anti-communist culture from the mid1970s onwards. Composers and performers were initially drawn from the ranks of artists who had been living in South Vietnam before becoming refugees subsequent to the fall of Saigon, and their works reflected their wartime experiences and continuing opposition to the communist regime. In the first decade of diaspora, exile music was explicitly constructed by its producers as being a political weapon in the struggle against Hanoi. Songs such as Nam Loc’s “Farewell Saigon” (1975) [Sai Gon Vinh Biet], and Viet Dzung’s “A Few Gifts Sent Home” [Mot Chut Qua cho Que Huong] were broadcast back to Vietnam via the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA) with the intention of encouraging people to flee Vietnam, thus destabilizing the society. Most older diasporic Vietnamese remember listening to these broadcasts in secret in post-liberation Saigon. The composer of Sai Gon Vinh Biet, which has been performed by over thirty diasporic artists, claims that he received numerous letters from people in refugee camps saying that having heard the song — and specifically its promise of return — encouraged them to flee Vietnam by boat. Pham Duy, the most revered diasporic composer, is said to have been so moved when he performed it on VOA that he fell down unconscious. Finally, an author who escaped from a re-education camp in Vietnam told of how a friend had tried to copy down the song in secret so that the prisoners could sing it. He was caught, beaten, put in solitary confinement, and died next to the unfinished copy of the song (Nguyen Ninh Hoa 1995)! Early themes for variety show songs include nostalgia for the country, nostalgia for Saigon (1975–77); resistance, struggle for the reconquest of the country (1978–81); and description of prisoners’ lives in Vietnam (1981) (Tran Quang Hai 1990). Programme titles include Farewell Saigon, A Tear for Vietnam, The Spring When We Return, and Looking Back at the Last 20 Years. The trend over the last decade, however, has been for these programmes to become less and less explicitly political, to the extent that one is more likely nowadays to come across love songs

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and spectacular dance routines than statements of opposition to Hanoi. The gradual depoliticization of diasporic identity outlined above has produced market pressures that have led to a shift in the political and nostalgic concerns of a somewhat narrow exile culture to a more pluralistic, celebratory, and “hedonistic” diasporic entertainment culture. Exile songs and identities vie here with a plethora of other identities in a post-modern space of plurality, hybridity, and affect (Cunningham and Nguyen 1999). Ca dao me [my mother’s songs]

Recently, the anti-communist credentials of the most prestigious and longest-running variety show, Thuy Nga’s Paris by Night, have been put under the spotlight. Since the release in August 1997 of Paris by Night number 40, Mother, an unprecedented scandal has erupted. Its makers claim that they fully intended the programme to be in the exilic tradition sketched above, but something went horribly wrong. Due to (depending on who you believe) either careless editing, a cynical market ploy, or a communist plot, the video included a dramatized segment in which Vietnamese civilians appeared to have been killed by helicopters and jets of the air force of the Republic of Vietnam (the old South Vietnam). Such has been the outcry over Mother that Thuy Nga has been obliged to offer customers two newly edited versions of the video: the first minus the song Ca Dao Me [My Mother’s Songs], in which the offending image track is set; the second minus this song plus a number of other amendments insisted upon by critics after having viewed the first re-issue. Not satisfied with this exchange, a crowd demonstrated outside the Thuy Nga office in Westminster, California, dumping the videos in a pile and demanding their money back. A further protest has been planned in front of the studio in Toronto where Thuy Nga will . record its next production (“Bieu tinh truoc phong thu …”). Angry articles continue to appear thick and fast in newspapers and on overseas Vietnamese websites. Company director To Van Lai and Paris by Night compere Nguyen Ngoc Ngan have both been obliged to publish in the press and post on the web an apologia, and Van Lai has appeared on radio programmes to take angry calls from Thuy Nga’s disaffected audience.

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The release of Mother was timed to coincide with the festival of Vu Lan, otherwise known as the Season of Filial Piety, beginning on the fifteenth of the seventh lunar month (mid-August). This is meant to be a time in which children, in keeping with the Confucian prescription of unconditional love and respect for one’s parents, become particularly aware of the value of their mothers and of the great debt of gratitude they owe them. By acting properly towards their parents at this time, children may experience and attain the virtue of Hieu thao or filial piety. Accordingly, all of the songs in Thuy Nga’s programme are dedicated to recognizing and praising the selflessness of mothers and the sacrifices they undergo for their children. This proved to be an excellent marketing strategy and Mother sold better than any Thuy Nga video ever has. Mother’s sales figures attest to the fact that music variety shows have been and continue to be seen as an important means of cultural maintenance and communal survival. Particularly important here is their perceived pedagogic function. These shows have been looked upon by audiences and producers alike as a means of active “culture-building” across generations, that is, as a means of acculturating the younger generations of overseas Vietnamese into an “authentic” Vietnamese socio-cultural universe, including of course an anti-communist homeland politics. These pedagogic expectations are, however, to be cruelly disappointed by Mother. In an article in an American Vietnamese newspaper, one journalist describes how his small child has been asking him about the Mother tape every time he goes to town: “Hey Dad, do you have the Mother tape yet?” “Not yet, sweetheart!” “When it’s in, will you buy it for me, Dad?” “Sure, when it’s in, I’ll buy it!” “Are there songs about Mum in it, Dad?” “Of course there are, honey!” “Are there people who escaped across the sea like us, Dad?” Although I didn’t yet know what was in the tape, I confidently said: “Of course there are!”

Later, when the author of the article returns home with the tape, his son wrests it out of his hands, runs inside with it and puts it in the machine to watch.

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Ashley Carruthers “Dad! There are helicopters from our army, Dad. There are jets as well. Come and look, Dad. … Come and look quickly, there are people holding little children as well. Who are they, Dad?” I stepped forward, and looked at the screen: “They’re people fleeing the enemy.” “Who’s chasing them, Dad?” “It must be the Viet Cong.” “Are the Viet Cong cruel, Dad?” “They sure are!” “Did you run like them, Dad?” “I sure did. Your Dad ran away and escaped across the ocean.” “Was running away across the sea hard, Dad?” “Of course it was!” “Dad, there’s another plane there. Is that plane from our side, Dad?” “That’s right.” “Is that house on fire, Dad? Who lit it?” There was a loud explosion. My son stopped his ears and pulled on my hand, calling out: “But Dad, why are our army’s planes killing the little boy’s father?” My eyes widened at the images in the video. What conspiracy was this? Was it for profit, or clumsy propagandising? I had no answer, as my boy continued to cry out: “Is the father of the little boy dead yet, Dad? Does it hurt to die, Dad? Why are our planes killing his father? Is the little boy miserable? What about his mother? Is she unhappy? Who’s going to look after him? Is he angry at the planes of the army who killed his Dad?”

The son then picks up his toy gun and, eyes wide, makes bang-bang noises. “What are you doing, son?” “I’m firing my gun.” “What are you shooting?” “I’m shooting the planes of the army that killed the little boy’s Dad!” I nearly died. I didn’t know what to say to my son. (Bui Xuan Vu 1997)

While there is perhaps an element of fiction in this account, what is significant here is the way the author constructs himself as having invited Thuy Nga into his home, the very stronghold of cultural maintenance and bosom of filial piety, only to be made to appear illegitimate in the eyes of his son. What was it he fought for, the author asks, what was it so many of his people died for, what was the purpose of his des-

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perate flight across the sea if his son cannot be made to understand and hold dear the rightness and justice of the anti-communist cause? The offending video’s violation of this exalted pedagogic task is only compounded by its abuse of the hallowed name of Mother, which transmutes, easily enough, into a betrayal of the Mother-land itself. At least three critics of the cassette used the rhetorical device of dramatizing the context of family viewing to illustrate the harm that this video is capable of doing. In each of these remarkably similar accounts the video takes on something of the role of the jets and helicopters which, in the narrative of Ca Dao Me, shatters the tender domestic environment of a peasant family with bullets and bombs. Speculation has been rife as to what Thuy Nga is up to. The most popular interpretation is that the company has turned its back on its overseas audience, and has dumped its exilic politics in order to break into the much larger homeland market. According to this reading, the controversial scene was included as a concession to Hanoi for permission to officially market Paris by Night in Vietnam (currently only pirates of the show are marketed there informally, an activity from which the company derives no profits). See, for instance, Dao Nguyen Phuc (1997), Thi-Anh (1997), and Tran (1997). To Van Lai and Nguyen Ngoc Ngan have, however, vigorously denied allegations that they have sold out. Both were quick to point out that they have never been back to Vietnam, be it for tourism or business (To Van Lai 1997a; Nguyen Ngoc Ngan 1997). Ngoc Ngan claims that he refused to return even as his father lay dying in hospital in Saigon. On the day he got the news that his father had died, he says, he was performing in Atlantic City — stoically doing his exilic duty. He also points out that he has written over twenty-six books and sixty audio books, the majority of which contain anti-communist content (Nguyen Ngoc Ngan 1997). To Van Lai cites the fact that Thuy Nga videos are officially banned in Vietnam, where they have been categorized by the National Censor as “extremely reactionary”. The Thuy Nga directors have been told in the Party paper Saigon Giai Phong [Saigon Liberation], Van Lai claims, “[not to] hope that there will be a spring when you’ll return”. Van Lai was also quick to point out that people returning to Vietnam with copies of Thuy Nga products risk having them confiscated at the airport, and that this in

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fact had recently happened to someone bringing a copy of Mother into Vietnam (To Van Lai 1997a). Finally, all politics aside, the company denies that the strategy of changing its ideological colours would even make economic sense: “If people in Canada are producing pirate copies in droves, wealthy as that country is, then try asking, who’s going to be able to pay over twenty US dollars to buy an original copy in Vietnam?” (Hoang Dang Son Ha 1997). Thuy Nga has attributed the Mother blunder to an inexperienced director in whom it put too much faith. The company is guilty only, it says, of releasing the video without properly checking his work (To Van Lai 1997a, 1997b; Hoang Dang Son Ha 1997). I am inclined to believe this account. One reason is that it admits to the embarassing fact that one of the company’s young directors should be so unaware of the iconography of the war as to have used the American-provided helicopters and jets of the Republic of Vietnam’s air force to symbolize the “enemy”. This says something about inter-generational alienation that rings true. I also find it far-fetched that Thuy Nga should have changed its political leanings overnight, or that it would make such a clumsy attempt to pander to the communist regime. Given the company’s impeccable anti-communist credentials, it seems unlikely that Hanoi would respond to such overtures. Ironically, it seems that the Thuy Nga company itself deplores as much if not more so than its critics the fact that its videos are consumed in Vietnam. The integrity of the absolutely committed anti-communist position it would like to claim for itself is undermined by the fact that the evil communist Other does not hate Thuy Nga as much as the company might like it to, but instead quite liberally tolerates the circulation of its products on a “grey market” of quasi-legal popular culture. Indeed, such is the embarrassment on the part of the company about its inability to control the circulation of its videos that a Sydney representative of Thuy Nga asserted to me that the company’s products are in fact not available in Vietnam in any form. The fact that one can obtain the latest copy of Paris by Night from any corner video store in Saigon is one that the company needs to repress because it disrupts entirely the exilic fantasy of the lost homeland as a communist dystopia and of itself as the radical oppositional voice of the “Free Vietnamese”.

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Betrayal?

Why then have some exile writers been so quick to condemn Thuy Nga? Why do they insist on making the worst possible interpretation of the blunder of a company with such a reputable history of anti-communism? I would suggest that the somewhat paranoid betrayal narratives targeted at Thuy Nga are best read as something of a disguised or cryptic recognition of the fact of the opening up of the diasporic public sphere to the homeland by market forces. Consumer desires in the diaspora, it seems, have increasingly little respect for exilic niceties. So successful has the doi moi rejuvenation of commercial cultural production in Vietnam been that homeland cultural traffic has begun to flow the other way. Just as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, and Xian are gaining ground against Hong Kong and Taiwan in the competition to serve as the geographic centre of Chinese popular cultural production (Harding 1995, p. 23), so Ho Chi Minh City is coming into contention with Westminster, California, and Paris. Homeland-produced music is increasingly visible on the shelves of CD and video stores in overseas Vietnamese communities. Take, for instance, this response, posted on an overseas Vietnamese Internet list, about a collection of homeland songs that a Vietnamese-American contributor had heard on a tape brought back by a relative from Vietnam: Now I have good news for you. Put away your tape. You can get these songs on CDs. Although you may not find the Lan Song Xanh I & II collection in its original packaging in the U.S. (because it is produced by the Voice of Vietnam), you will find all the songs contained therein on musical CDs published in Little Saigon and San Jose (Mu+c Ti’m Production). I was in Little Saigon last week and picked up copies of Ho^‘ng Nhung and My~ Linh’s CDs for $1.99 each (at La‘ng Va(n in Phuoc Loc Tho Mall on Bolsa). Some of these are exact duplicates of those sold in Vietnam right down to the cover picture, with the exception of the contact information of the producer! This is yet another wonderful example of how normalization and commerce are narrowing the dividing gaps between the Vietnamese-American and Vietnamese in Vietnam and between the two countries. (Contributor to Vnforum, 26 June 1999)

This “reconciliationist” discourse sounds a strikingly different note to those analysed above. It presents us with an image of a very transnational Little Saigon, where homeland music is freely available to consumers

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who have brought a taste for it back from their trips to Vietnam. Note, however, that the Californian companies which pirate the homeland music are careful to remove the producers’ names, fearful of a potential backlash against anyone selling cultural products with the logos of stateowned Vietnamese media companies on them. Note also the incredibly cheap price of the CDs, US$2, not much more than the 25,000 dong consumers in Vietnam pay! The efflorescence of anti-communist sentiment around the Mother video might be seen then as one of the perverse effects of globalization and the claustrophobia of the increasing proximity of the Other, communist Vietnam. While these post–doi moi debates involve the same ideological symbols as the pre–doi moi ones, we should see them not in terms of an opposition between territorial nation-states and Cold War ideological blocs, as the diaspora’s rejection of communism in a distant homeland, but rather as a here-and-now refusal of a homeland identity in the struggle between élites and the state for hegemony over an emergent transnational Vietnamese social field. At stake in this struggle is the exile class’s very ability to reproduce its domination of diasporic politics. With the general erosion of exile culture, exile cultural capital risks losing its value in the field of community politics. Were this to happen, the fact that one was once an officer in the South Vietnamese army, or that one was once imprisoned by the communists, would no longer convey the sense of legitimacy and right to speak for others in the community that they currently do. The hegemony of the exiles would be over. Nation-state Occidentalism and cultural purity

If since the advent of doi moi Vietnam has maintained something of a gracious silence on the international stage about its past and present abuses by the West, its actions on the domestic front have spoken louder than words in aligning it with the attitudes of states like Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia to the West’s cultural excesses. Over the past decade, the Vietnamese state has carried out a succession of cultural purity drives in an attempt to slow the nation’s perceived inundation with foreign cultural pollution. Such endeavours have, of course, a precedent in

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post-revolutionary anti-Western movements in Vietnam, and to an extent have a continuity with the concerted attempt after the fall of Saigon to throw out the “harmful neo-colonialist garbage of the US imperialists” (Duiker 1989, p. 24; see also Taylor 1998, pp. 177–85). Contemporary culture drives need to be read, however, as a specific response to the changes wrought on Vietnam’s cultural landscape by doi moi. While earlier anti-Western movements were oriented towards a “simple” deglobalization, contemporary discourses on cultural pollution take place against the background of a transformed national identity, one which is no longer autarchic but defines itself at least in part by its openness (one speaks of doi moi as an “open door” or mo cua period). Cultural purity drives address the need to renegotiate the terms of Vietnam’s integration into global culture, not to disentangle it once and for all. On a more pragmatic note, the possibility of really re-engineering national culture had been lost since doi moi let the genie of commercial culture out of the bottle. What we witness now is damage control in the unforseen circumstances to which reforms have led. The most recent drive was an early 1996 campaign so fervent that it was described by one local commentator as a “minor cultural revolution” (Nguoi Tan Dinh,2 7 March 1996). Instigated by the Central Party Secretariat, this nation-wide movement sought to “protect and develop the national character” through a massive effort to investigate the importation, reproduction, and circulation of overseas cultural products (“Ban bi thu trung uong”). In the course of the campaign, vehicles with loudspeakers drove through the streets calling on people to “eradicate ‘noxious’ culture and social evils and build an orderly and civilized environment” (“Thanh pho va ca nuoc …”). The confidence of foreign investors was shaken when in Hanoi billboards bearing the brand names of companies like Panasonic, Kodak, Coca-Cola, Aiwa, Tiger Beer, and Sony were torn down without warning because they featured English and other foreign-language slogans inscribed in letters more prominent and colourful than those written in Vietnamese (Nguoi Tan Dinh, 7 March 1996). Pornographic magazines were burnt. Pirated videocassette copies of films from Hong Kong and Taiwan, Asian neighbours perceived to have fallen victim to the Western cultural rot, were singled out for particular attention. The comic artist But Sai Gon [The Saigon

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Pen] saw fit to illustrate the risk posed by them in a picture of a foreign mercenary carrying a gun labelled “noxious culture”, wearing an ammunition belt loaded with video-cassettes reading “violence”, “sex”, “horror”, and “ghost stories”, and casting a shadow of ngoai luong, literally “foreign stream [of culture]” (Saigon Giai Phong, 12 January 1996, p. 6). At the conclusion of the first step of the campaign, 202,000 videocassettes and several hundred thousand compact discs, laser discs, and audio-cassettes had been seized and destroyed, and around half of the estimated 6,000 video rental stores and “video cafés” in Ho Chi Minh City had been forced to temporarily close down (“Khoi dau buoc …, “Thi truong video …”). Those remaining open were permitted to carry 3 only stock approved by the censor. Such a process of “cultural cleansing” can be read, clearly, according to the Occidentalist paradigm elaborated by a number of contributors to this volume (see Langenbach, Lee, Loong Wong, Yao), who understand it as a discursive strategy by which Southeast Asian states have reversed the classical Orientalist idiom (albeit asymetrically) to construct themselves as the positive term in a relation whose Other is a degenerate and ailing West. For Yao, such a production of the West as an object of fear/desire articulates the Southeast Asian subject’s anxieties in a globalized world (see Yao, in this volume) — an uncertain and fluid context in which we all, no doubt, need others against whom to fix our own identities. Indeed, attempts such as that described above to classify culture into the categories of “inside” and “outside” can be read as reactions to the very indeterminacy to which such classifications are subject in the context of globalization (Featherstone 1990, p. 11). It is here that Yao’s reading of the ambivalent signification of the cultural products of the West according to the logic of “the stranger” is instructive. Like the stranger, who refuses the distinction friend/enemy and the spatial order of proximity/distance it supports, the nagging and protracted presence “amongst us” of the now familiar and desirable, now strange and dangerous cultural products of the West puts into doubt the very principle of oppositionality itself (Bauman 1990, pp. 148–49). Their presence in many Southeast Asian contexts is, we can say, chronically ambivalent. While retaining this basic analytical structure, I want to introduce a further level of complexity into it by asking where might the term

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“diaspora” fit into the flawed and troubled narratives of Occidentalism? Western yet not entirely so, other and yet something like ourselves, them and yet us, diasporic subjectivity would appear to further confound Occidentalism’s effectivity as an ordering and normalizing discourse. While with the re-admission of the West the Vietnamese state has had to deal with the fact that “those who used to be outsiders now live amongst us”, with the return of diasporic culture it has had to cope with the more troubling realization that this particular stranger is not as strange as it might like him to be. Cosmopolitan yet familiar, Western yet unmistakably Vietnamese, global yet filled with such local knowledge as the names of Saigon streets or the colour of an autumn afternoon in Hanoi, this popular diasporic music culture refuses to fit unproblematically into the blanket category of “external” or “foreign” culture [ngoai luong] applied to it in official discourse. Thus the diaspora becomes an ambivalent sign which intrudes between Vietnam and the West, disrupting the spatial boundaries and cultural polarities set up in the Vietnamese state’s particular version of Occidentalist discourse. Diasporic music in Vietnam4

Contemporary diasporic music, having evolved out of a cosmopolitan pre-1975 Saigonese culture which the communist victors sought in the aftermath of the war to suppress and erase (Duiker 1989, pp. 32–33; Nguyen Hung Quoc 1994), is still officially considered reactionary and subversive in Vietnam. Pre-1975 musical works produced in the South and those written after 1975 by diasporic artists are submitted to intense scrutiny before being officially passed for circulation and performance. Illegally circulating diasporic works have been subject to periodic crackdowns, which have traditionally been part and parcel of antiforeign culture drives such as the one described above. In the course of that campaign, hundreds of thousands of pirated karaoke videos, laser discs, cassette tapes, and compact discs were seized, and hundreds of unlicensed karaoke machines used to play them were confiscated (“Tren 870 vu …”). Customs officials at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat airport, a key strategic and symbolic site during the campaign, seized 1,320 video-cassettes, compact discs, and laser discs described as having “decadent and reactionary contents”, that is, having originated in the

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diaspora (“Tai cua khau Tan Son Nhat …”). It is estimated that more than half of the karaoke parlours in Saigon were either shut down (or voluntarily closed) during the course of the campaign for failure to comply with licensing and censorship regulations, including possession of illegal videos and laser discs (“Ket qua thuc hien …”). One official noted during the campaign, with evident satisfaction, that “when the (pirated) overseas music videos disappear then local music and karaoke videos reappear, bright and shining, in the display cases of the city’s video shops” (“Thi truong video …”). But such initiatives rarely have lasting effects. Despite the state’s evident will to regulate their activities, consumers are easily able to sidestep state control and obtain a wide range of diasporic titles on a barely clandestine “grey market”. This market is grey in that, while the state appears to have the will to curtail it, it lacks an apparatus of surveillance and discipline sufficiently powerful and efficient to do so (except for extremely limited periods, and then only imperfectly). Even during the height of the 1996 campaign, video store proprietors who had been forced to temporarily close down their stores continued a clandestine trade by taking their wares from house to house, a practice so common it has a name, dich vu video gio xach (carry bag video service) (Nguoi Tan Dinh, 7 March 1996). The state is thus obliged to tacitly permit the existence of diasporic popular music and video, and to suffer its nagging presence on the cultural landscape. When I conducted research for this paper in Saigon at the end of 1997, a time when there was not a “culture drive” in action, it was easy to obtain copies of overseas-produced music variety shows at corner video stores, while vendors around Saigon’s central market, Cho Ben Thanh, were openly showing the latest edition of the diasporic variety show Paris by Night on their display screens. Karaoke parlours were being a little more cautious, particularly those using laser disc technology, many initially showing patrons only song menus with local music on them, but carrying diasporic discs behind the scene, to be produced at the request of trusted customers. The state’s fear of the threat of subversion posed by diasporic culture is not, of course, untempered with desire — for the technical accomplishment, high production values, and cosmopolitan aura of the diasporic product. What really smarts about the popularity of diasporic

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music is that it demonstrates the failure of national culture to meet consumers’ needs from within local cultural and economic resources. Much to the chagrin of Vietnam’s official cultural police and producers, the culture of its former enemies has in the recent past bested the local product in the competition for consumers’ hearts and wallets. This has been one of the pressures which has led to the wholesale transformation of local music, music video, and karaoke. According to Philip Taylor, the early 1980s saw the introduction of some Western pop and a broadening of themes in “revolutionary music”. The mid-1980s brought a rehabilitation of the work of pre-reunification South Vietnamese artists such as Van Cao and Trinh Cong Son, while 1986 saw an informal return to pre-1975 music, and to overseas Vietnamese rearrangements of these works, as well as post-1975 diasporic compositions (Taylor 1998, p. 214). In the 1990s, Vietnamese artists and producers have sought, as far as they have been allowed, to emulate their diasporic counterparts, initially in broadening the scope of song subject matter from revolutionary and patriotic themes to more personal and introspective narratives — including, of course, love songs — and then in adopting the same fashions, performative styles, and televisual genres (especially the music variety show) favoured in the diaspora. Production and distribution companies such as Fafilm and Saigon Television have sought and been granted permission to include songs written and performed by diasporic artists on their own releases in an attempt to reclaim their market share from a monopoly of overseas artists. The situation back in 1995 was such that most karaoke businesses, including state-owned ones, had no local Vietnamese songs on their lists, only overseas ones (Nguoi Tan Dinh 1995).5 More recently, a returned overseas Vietnamese noted: “When I was in Vietnam, EVERY coffee shop and restaurant in Vietnam plays Vietnamese music made overseas. Every home plays music made overseas” (Tran Dinh Hoanh 1998). Saigonese consumers 6

Interviewees evidenced a genuine desire for these newly cosmopolitan products of the local music industry, and many took pride in the assertion that the local product is in fact now superior to the diasporic one. A high percentage of interviewees recounted that the heyday of diasporic

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music (and in particular Paris by Night) had been in the 1980s. This was a decade in which local performers were still not entirely free to shrug off the Confucian moral/political didactic function expected of popular music by the Party, and in which production values remained extremely low. Indeed, in the early 1990s, the “Young Music” (Nhac tuoi tre) programme on Hanoi TV still consisted of badly dubbed and unfashionably dressed singers self-consciously gesticulating beneath mirrorballs in sparsely decorated studios. In addition, informants stressed, Paris by Night had in the 1980s been “new”. Audiences were curious. No doubt the image of their diasporic compatriots amidst the trappings of Western modernity provided a fascinating mirror to audiences’ own (largely frus7 trated ) fantasies of consumption. There was also perhaps an element of nostalgia here. In the South, the consumer habitus for exiled wartime celebrities and their works was readily revived, since the nhac vang or “yellow music” of the old regime had never ceased to circulate in secret during the “closed door” period (Taylor 1998, p. 179). Respondents also stressed that a sense of transgression had then adhered to watching the show, which the authorities had regarded far more seriously than they do now. “If you were caught with a copy of it then” a university student told me, making a grave face, “then ‘Oh my God!’” (Oi troi oi!). By way of showing how audiences’ desire for diasporic music has cooled, virtually all of the interviewees recounted the story of the unfavourable popular response to a much anticipated live show staged by diasporic performers around Tet 1996 at the Nha Hat Hoa Binh (Peace Concert Hall), featuring Elvis Phuong and other diasporic luminaries. This was the first time a large, high-profile diasporic show had come to Vietnam, and the tickets to this event had been several times more expensive than those to concerts given by local star performers such as Siu Black or My Linh. Audiences were, reportedly, “extremely disappointed”. One respondent pointed out that the technical ability of the singers had not been equal to that of local singers, while another reported, tellingly, that audiences were immensely let down to see that “on the stage [the diasporic artists] looked just like anyone else”! It would be unwise not to take these comments critically. There is a structural sense in which the diasporic artists’ live performances could not but have been disappointing to Vietnamese audiences, since the

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cosmopolitan aura which makes diasporic music culture so desirable is, paradoxically, dependent on the absence and distance of the diaspora. The actual presence of diasporic stars in the homeland cannot, of course, deliver this aura. Rather, the banality of their empirical presence ruptures it, and the magic is gone; they become “just like anyone else”. A further interpretation is suggested by one respondent’s reflection that perhaps the negative response to the singers was unfair, since people in Vietnam generally delight in “trashing” (chui) Viet Kieu (a term for overseas Vietnamese with pejorative connotations) at any opportunity they get. Thus we might read the unfavourable response to the singers as the taking of a kind of nationalist pleasure, whereby Vietnamese nationals seek to assert their cultural superiority over their diasporic counterparts. In this vein, a university lecturer told me that overseas Vietnamese composers are incapable of producing new works, and can only rehash pre1975 songs. His suggestion that the diaspora is “culturally exhausted” makes a claim, I would argue, that those who remained in the homeland have access to a source of cultural regeneration which those who left do not — one which flows directly out of the soil, as it were. We might read such a claim as an attempt on the part of the informant to valorize his “hereness”, his having stayed behind in Vietnam, as a way of dealing with his lack of the qualities stereotypically attributed to Viet Kieu (cosmopolitanism, wealth, international mobility, and so on). Claiming that their immersion in the homeland is what gives local artists the edge over diasporic artists arrogates the lack to the diasporic artists, who become culturally stagnant and inauthentic. The assertion, made by almost all of the informants, that they did not like and rarely watched diasporic videos, was belied, however, by the fact that all viewers with whom I watched Paris by Night knew numerous details about the show, such as the fact that Paris by Night co-presenter Ky Duyen is the lawyer daughter of former Republic of Vietnam President and Air Force Commander Nguyen Cao Ky; or that Nguyen Ngoc Ngan has literary pretensions, and has published a number of anti-Hanoi treatises. Interviewees recognized many of the singers appearing on the show, and displayed a high degree of familiarity with its format. After having been told by the members of a household where I was staying that they never watched diasporic videos, I was surprised to discover

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upon looking into the video drawer that it was in fact full of them! Members of this same household also watched with evident delight when I brought home diasporic videos, and even scolded me one time for renting a pirate copy of inferior quality, giving me directions to go to a more reputable pirateer. By contrast, the only informants who expressed an unashamed preference for diasporic videos were those with a professed dislike of the communist regime, those with a large number of family members living overseas, or those with a keen desire to emigrate themselves. This evidence would suggest, then, that respondents were using popular music culture as a ground on which to express their nationalist identifications. Unfavourable popular feeling against diasporic music might be seen as an expression of their desire to participate in the state’s vision of a self-sufficient national culture that rejects corrupting influences from the West. It may also be read as a (state-sponsored) denial of the model of cultural modernity presented by the diaspora, which is considered to have played too dangerous a game with Western modernity, and lost its roots in the process. Their actual practice of consumption, however, indicates the inability of national culture to meet their (disavowed) consumer aspirations and desire for the glittering products of Western modernity. Conservative resistance to the “diasporization” of Vietnamese music

In 1995, the Office for the Protection of Culture of the Ho Chi Minh City Ministry of Information and Culture, in co-ordination with the police, performed a series of raids on a number of famous karaoke restaurants in Saigon. Officials seized 240 laser discs belonging to the “Golden Discs” or “Super Best Collection 20” series, carrying the serial numbers 8001, 8002, and 8003. The significant thing about this case was that these three discs, each containing twenty selected songs, were not pirates of diasporic music, but were actually produced by the stateowned Saigon Television Service, in co-operation with Lek video Hong Kong. The official reason for the seizure of the discs was that they contained “a number of songs closely connected with the military of the Republic of Vietnam”. This was not, however, a clear-cut case. All of

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these songs, made popular by their performance by diasporic artists, were in fact on a list of 130 works written in South Vietnam before 1975 that had been passed for performance and circulation by the national Office for Culture and Information. The Saigon Television Service was furious at the confiscation of the discs and, supported by the newspaper Thanh Nien [Youth], entered into a vitriolic public debate with the Ministry (Nguoi Tan Dinh 1995, “Quang cao, bang video …”). What I want to highlight here is the fact that a government agency in Ho Chi Minh City should have felt so strongly that it took it upon itself to actually go beyond the guidelines laid down by Hanoi for the regulation of diasporic and pre-revolutionary Saigonese culture to seize copies of the “Golden Discs” series, thus coming into conflict with the national censor. We may read many things into this action. For one, it is reminiscent of a particular anxiety on Hanoi’s part about southern Vietnamese cultural identity as being “determined by hostile and alien forces” (Taylor 1998, p. 185). (I can remember a time when it was illegal to dance the lambada in Saigon while it was legal in Hanoi!) For another, it is perhaps an instance of conflict between conservatives and progressives in the regime, a split which allegedly originates in the Politburo. Such bickering between government agencies over the suitability of particular songs is also indicative of a more general ambivalence on the part of the state towards the diaspora. The state’s desire to co-opt overseas Vietnamese subjects’ capital and professional skills for its own project of nation-building is coupled with a fear of their politically subversive potential and oppositional conception of the national project (officially referred to as the threat of “peaceful evolution”). We find quite a frank discussion of this in the government literature on overseas Vietnamese. One author draws readers’ attention to the following: “There are around 400,000 Vietnamese living overseas who have tertiary and higher degrees … Through them we might reach out and grasp the latest achievements of science and industry, including the sciences of management and business.” However, the state must be wary, lest it be “insufficiently vigilant with regard to a small bad element, extreme reactionaries who openly declare their opposition to our administration” (Pham Xuan Nam 1997, p. 298). In the state’s relation to its recalcitrant overseas subjects we discern much of its relation to the West and modernity in general.

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Here, the overseas Vietnamese are in some moments seen as embodying the possibility of a new, true modernization that will nevertheless leave Vietnam’s “cultural values” (and hence the state’s hold on power) intact. Hence the desirability of overseas Vietnamese professionals who are “integrated with the societies and peoples of their host cultures while at the same time preserving their original cultural characteristics” and who thus may “contribute their part alongside the local people to build the nation” (ibid., p. 300). The flipside of this is the fear that the overseas Vietnamese have become too Western, too modern, and that their presence in the homeland must undermine the moral basis of the Confucianauthoritarian state. Another instance of conflict between government agencies sprang up in 1996 over the song A Love Ten Years Past, written by exile composer Tran Quang Nam and performed by overseas star Elvis Phuong. Young Film Saigon had submitted the song to the Ministry of Art and Performance in Hanoi who, after close consideration, found that Tran Quang Nam’s attitude to the nation and the contents of his song had “no problems” (Nguoi Tan Dinh, 12 September 1996). After the song’s release, however, musician Diep Minh Tuyen, vice–general secretary of the Saigon Music Association, wrote a scathing newspaper article about the piece, which he described as “a reactionary overseas song of extremely subtle wickedness”: This song which has been supposed to be purely a love song really has an accusatory and inimical character … Its reactionary intention comes out in its name … There is no question that [the composer] was writing about the ten years since the defeat and flight [of the southern regime] (1975–85), whether he might have left before or after 1975 … The lyrics of “A Love Ten Years Past” also announce its deep and subtle reactionary character. The love of this song isn’t the love of people who live in our national community, it isn’t that of those who stood beside us in the front line. The thirtieth of April 1975 is for us a great day, marking the glorious victory of our people, when we were “happy after the tears flowed”, as Xuan Hong has sung. But in “A Love Ten Years Past”, the man in the song abandoned his nation, and from under Western skies fraudulently spews forth moving words about a past lover, to whom he is without doubt still faithful, moaning and crying for a love cut short: “A love unexpectedly cut short, a love still like a dream”. Ask yourself, who does the author mean to accuse of “breaking up” this affair? He left his lover and ran away but still asks: “My love, over there are your eyes

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still sad?” then lifts his voice to counsel her to “Forget, forget this sad dream”. We see clearly what the author is trying to say here: whoever stayed behind to live under the new regime must have “sad eyes and sad dreams”. When the composer says “[We had] a whole sky full of love, when will it come back?”, he longingly remembers the love he has lost: South Vietnam before liberation. (Nguoi Tan Dinh, 12 September 1996)

What strikes me most about Diep Minh Tuyen’s somewhat paranoid reading of A Love Ten Years Past — a song which the censor was satisfied is nothing but an innocuous love ballad — is its emphatic insistence on the difference of the diasporic Vietnamese, a people “whose love is not our love” (is theirs a bourgeois love?), from those who remained in the homeland. The author is in such earnest to convert these strangers into unequivocal enemies that he is obliged to indulge in an almost comically forced interpretation of the song’s lyrics to “find out” its subtly concealed subversive intentions. Conclusion: a common culture?

Diep Minh Tuyen’s evident need to insist that homeland is homeland and diaspora is diaspora presupposes the possibility that the two are capable of becoming, or have become, muddied. And indeed this is the case. What is so infuriating for conservatives in Vietnam and in the diaspora alike is the fact that, given the post–doi moi shift of song subject matter from war and revolution to love and nostalgia for a timeless and apolitical homeland, overseas and local Vietnamese popular music culture are to an extent no longer distinguishable. The homeland/diaspora difference is frequently not pertinent to audiences in the act of consumption, and confusion reigns as to whether such and such a song or singer is local or overseas. This confusion reflects the fact that there now exist figures in the Vietnamese music industry whom it is hard to locate as being exclusively diasporic or homeland. Perhaps the best instance of this crossover is the revered composer Trinh Cong Son, who actually lives in Vietnam but enjoys equal popularity at home and in the diaspora, and has had a long and fruitful collaboration with overseas singer Khanh Ly. A further instance of this border-crossing is the appearance of Huong Lan, the revered diasporic performer, in the homeland variety show Duyen Dang 6 (1998). Having just arrived from San Jose, she declared to the

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show’s host that she’d been particularly keen to fly in to take part, since Duyen Dang is “so popular both at home and overseas”. Other examples are singers such as My Linh, Ngoc Son, Ai Van, and Hong Nhung. All of these figures have had, of course, in their personal and professional lives, to “choose their sides”. Their music, however, hovers somewhere in between. One is equally likely to come across it in music stores, or hear it played in restaurants, in Saigon, Westminster, Paris, or Sydney. As for consumers of transnational Chinese commercial culture, this music potentially enables Vietnamese consumers “to inhabit trans-spatial and trans-temporal imaginaries that dissolve the fixity and boundedness of historical nationhood and state territorial imperatives” (Yang 1997, p. 288). The opening up of such spaces, and the struggles of diaspora and homeland to recoup them into their respective territorial imaginaries, is the next chapter in the history of the relations between Vietnam and the Vietnamese overseas. NOTES 1. Remittances have been sent by overseas Vietnamese back to Vietnam since the late 1970s, reaching the level of US$700 million per annum by the time doi moi was instituted (Nugent 1996, p. 147). It is currently estimated that US$1 billion to US$1.2 billion is remitted to Vietnam annually through official channels, forming 5 per cent of the country’s GDP or 11 per cent of export earnings, bringing in more foreign exchange than any other source bar oil exports, and equal to yearly rice export earnings. Ten years’ accumulated remittances are equal to ten years accumulated foreign investment in Ho Chi Minh City (Hong Le Tho 1999; Haughton 1999). When one adds unofficial remittances, the figure could be as high as 3 billion. While Vietnam’s overseas population is around 3 per cent of its in-country population (Tran Trong Dang Dan estimates 3.7 per cent [1997, p. 251]), comparable to that of China, remittance flows into Vietnam are far more important, both in per capita terms and relative to incomes, than those into China (Haughton 1999, p. 32). Virtually all of this money comes from overseas Vietnamese. Haughton estimates that the typical adult overseas Vietnamese is sending about US$500 to family and friends in Vietnam every year, or US$2,000 per emigrant household. Mandy Thomas reports that among her Vietnamese Australian research subjects, about 10 per cent of net income was sent back home (Thomas 1997, p. 171). Of the 300,000 overseas Vietnamese who return each year (around 15 per cent of the diaspora), most carry gifts of cash and other goods to relatives (Haughton 1999, p. 33).

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2. Since I will use much of “Nguoi Tan Dinh’s” work here, a note on his positionality is warranted. Firstly, “Nguoi Tan Dinh”, or the “Man from Tan Dinh” is a pseudonym taken from the name of a street in Saigon’s District 3. While Nguoi Tan Dinh’s articles appear in the Toronto-based newspaper Thoi Bao, he himself is actually based in Ho Chi Minh City, where he worked as a professor both before and after 1975, that is, under both the southern Republic of Vietnam and the unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam regimes. He is now retired. His being on the ground in Saigon, avid interest in matters of censorship and popular culture and exhaustive reading of Vietnamese newspapers and magazines make him an excellent source. His work is neither dogmatically anti-Hanoi, as is much overseas Vietnamese writing, nor is it excessively constrained by local censorship, since it is destined for publication overseas (Kim Nguyen, personal letter; Nguyen Dat [editor of Thoi Bao], personal letter). 3. It was estimated that 85 to 90 per cent of stock in Saigon’s 3,000 unlicensed video stores was foreign (“Thi truong video …”). 4. This section draws on archival and ethnographic research I carried out in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) at the end of 1997, as well as overseas Vietnamese publications pertaining to diasporic culture in Saigon. I have focused on Saigon because it is the largest market for diasporic culture in Vietnam. Its economy has revived much more quickly under doi moi than has that of Hanoi, where central planning was implemented as early as 1954. As a consequence, private entertainment technologies such as karaoke machines, VCRs, compact disc players and, more recently, laser disc players, continue to be more within the financial reach of Saigon residents than their northern counterparts. Such technologies are necessary to access diasporic culture, which very rarely features on broadcast media. Further, diasporic culture has its roots in a pre-1975 Saigonese culture which still exists in the living memories of many Saigon residents. Some diasporic stars, such as Khanh Ly and Elvis Phuong, are already familiar to the Saigon audience, since they won their fame in Saigon before fleeing the city’s fall, resuming their careers in the diaspora. While I have focused on Saigon, however, much of what I have to say is applicable to Vietnam as a whole. 5. For instance, the Tay Uyen Karaoke Restaurant, belonging to the state-run “House of Culture” of Saigon’s district one, had in 1995 “no local Vietnamese songs on its list, only overseas (Vietnamese) music”. According to one author, this was because “overseas laser discs have more good songs, especially noisy rock songs and feelgood songs, and also background shots of Europe and America, that our people just can’t get enough of, as well as some other pretty exciting images, so it’s easy to see that they have pushed the local product out of the way” (Nguoi Tan Dinh 1995). 6. I had informal interviews with over twenty Saigonese, ranging in age from sixteen to over forty, about their tastes in music, music video, and karaoke, in all cases

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Ashley Carruthers asking specifically whether they preferred diasporic or local products and performers. Wherever possible I also watched diasporic music videos with informants in their households.

7. See Lockhart (1992, pp. 26–28; 1994, p. 176), on consumer frustration in doi moi Vietnam. REFERENCES “Ban bi thu Trung uong dang ra chi thi ve viec tang cuong lanh dao, quan ly, lap lai trai tu ky cuong trong cac hoat dong van hoa va dich vu van hoa, day manh bai tru mot so te nan xa hoi” [Central Party Secretariat issues a directive about strengthening leadership, administration, re-establishing law and order in cultural activities and eradicating a number of social ills]. Saigon Giai Phong [Saigon liberation], 2 February 1996, p. 1. Bauman, Zygmunt. “Modernity and Ambivalence”. Theory, Culture and Society 7 (1990). “Bieu tinh truoc phong thu Thuy Nga tai Toronto” [Demonstration outside Thuy Nga studio in Toronto]. http://www.freeviet.org/news/news/vnc-msg000192.html (3 September 1997). Bui Xuan Vu. “Thuy Nga Paris 40, truc thang van phan luc” [Thuy Nga Paris 40, helicopters and jets]. http://www.freeviet.org/news/news/vnc-msg00138.html (3 September 1997). Cunningham, Stuart and Tina Nguyen. "Popular Media of the Vietnamese Diaspora". In Floating Lives: The Media and Asian Diasporas, edited by Stuart Cunningham and John Sinclair, pp. 91–128. St. Lucia, Queensland: UQP, 1999. Dao Nguyen Phuc. “Thuy Nga Paris 40, chu de Me” [Thuy Nga Paris 40, Mother]. Excerpted from Viet Nam Nhat Bao (San Jose) [Vietnam newspaper], 9 August 1997. http://www.freeviet.org/news/news/vnc-msg00096.html (3 September 1997). Duiker, William. J. Vietnam Since the Fall of Saigon. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Centre for International Studies, 1989. . Sacred War: Nationalism and Revolution in a Divided Vietnam. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994. Featherstone, Mike. “Global Culture: An Introduction”. Theory, Culture and Society 7 (1990): 1–14. Gia Mom. “Video ca nhac — mot vai cam nghi” [Music video — some impressions]. 1996. http://www.freeviet.org/truyen/vnc-gm78.html (7 September 1997). Harding, Harry. “The Concept of ‘Greater China’: Themes, Variations, Reservations”. In Greater China: The Next Superpower, edited by David Shambaugh, pp. 8–34. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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Haughton, Jonathan. “Money Transfer: How Much Money Is Sent from Vietnamese Abroad? Where Does It Go and How Is It Spent?” Vietnamese Business Journal VII, no. 1 (1999): 32–33. Hoang Dang Son Ha. “Video Me va noi oan khien cua mot doan phim” [The video Mother and the unjust judgement of a segment of film]. 1997. http://kicon.com/ ThuyNga/noioan.html (3 September 1997). Hong Le Tho. “Chung toi muon minh la ‘ta’, chu khong phai ‘Tay’” [We want to be “us” and not “Westerners”]. Bao Nguoi Lao Dong, 27 March 1999. Jolly, Vik and Mai Tran. “Community Answers the Call”. Orange County Register, 24 February 1999. “Ket qua thuc hien buoc mot ND 87/CP, 88/CP va CT 814/Ttg cua Thu tuong chinh phu” [Results of the first stage of the Prime Minister’s resolutions 87/CP, 88/CP and directive 814/Ttg]. Saigon Giai Phong, 15 February 1996, p. 5. “Khoi dau buoc dot pha thiet lap trat tu ky cuong van hoa — xa hoi”. [The first step in establishing social and cultural order]. Saigon Giai Phong, 21 January 1996, p. 2. Lockhart, Greg. “Introduction: Nguyen Huy Thiep and the Faces of Vietnamese Literature”. In The General Retires and Other Stories, edited by Nguyen Huy Thiep, pp. 1–38. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1992. . “Nguyen Huy Thiep’s Writing: Post-Confucian, Post-Modern?” In Vietnamese Studies in a Multicultural World, edited by Nguyen Xuan Thu, pp. 158– 81. Melbourne: Vietnamese Language and Culture Publications, 1994. Marcus, George. “Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of MultiSited Ethnography”. Annual Review of Anthropology 24 (1995): 95–117. McCoy, Damien. “From Hostel to ‘Home’: Immigration, Resettlement and Community — The Ethnic-Vietnamese in Australia 1975–1995”. Ph.D. thesis, University of New South Wales, 1996. Nacify, Hamid. The Making of Exile Cultures: Iranian Television in Los Angeles. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Nguoi Tan Dinh. “Saigon Karaoke”. Excerpted from Thoi Bao, Toronto, 2 November 1995. http://www.freeviet.org/alltext/vnc-kn1127a.html (7 September 1997). . “Tieu cach mang van hoa o Saigon” [Minor cultural revolution in Saigon]. Excerpted from Thoi Bao, Toronto, 7 March 1996. http://www.freeviet.org/news/ news2/vsc-msg00023.html (7 September 1997). . “Chuyen ca nhac o Saigon” [Saigon music]. Excerpted from Thoi Bao, Toronto, 12 September 1996. http://www.freeviet.org/forum/vnnn/text/vncvnnn0004.html (7 September 1997). Nguyen Hung Quoc. “Vietnamese Communist Literature”. In Vietnamese Studies in a Multicultural World, edited by Nguyen Xuan Thu, pp. 120–43. Pascoe Vale South,

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Nguyen Ngoc Ngan. “Thu tran tinh cua Nguyen Ngoc Ngan” [Nguyen Ngoc Ngan’s apologia]. Toronto, 29 August 1997. http://www.freeviet.org/news/news/vncmsg00160 (7 September 1997). Nguyen Ninh Hoa. “Noi chuyen voi nhac si Nam Loc, tac gia cua ca khuc bat hu ‘Sai Gon Vinh Biet’” [Talking with musician Nam Loc, author of the timeless “Goodbye Saigon”]. Viet Magazine 407, 1 May 1995. http://www.saigon.com/~khiem/ 407/407_namloc.html (14 March 1998). Nugent, Nicholas. Vietnam: The Second Revolution. Brighton: In Print, 1996. Pham Xuan Nam, ed. Doi Moi chinh sach xa hoi: luan cu va giai phap [Renovating social policy: foundations and solutions]. Hanoi: Nha xuat ban chinh tri quoc gia, 1997. “Quang cao, bang video, karaoke — ba hien tuong noi, mot ban chat chim” [Advertising, video, karaoke — three floating illusions, a sinking reality]. Saigon Giai Phong, 5 January 1996, p. 2. Smith, Michael and Bernadette Tarallo. “Who Are the ‘Good Guys’? The Social Construction of the Vietnamese ‘Other’”. In The Bubbling Cauldron: Race, Ethnicity and the Urban Crisis, edited by Smith and Feagin, pp. 50–76. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1995. “Tai cua khau Tan Son Nhat 20 ngay thu giu 1 320 bang dia nhap lau” [1 320 illegally imported videocassettes collected at Tan Son Nhat over 20 days]. Saigon Giai Phong, 25 January 1996, p. 1. Taylor, Philip. “Vietnamese Moderns: Interpretations of the State in Postwar South Vietnam”. Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 1998. “Thanh pho va ca nuoc soi noi tham gia cuoc van dong thiet lap trat tu ky cuong trong hoat dong van hoa” [Our city and the entire country enthusiastically participate in the campaign to restore order to cultural activities]. Saigon Giai Phong, 2 February 1996, p. 1. Thi-Anh. “Khi long liem si doi non ra di” [When decency puts on its hat and goes out]. Tivi Tuan San [TV weekly, Melbourne], no. 596 (27 August 1997), pp. 62–66. “Thi truong video co gi thay doi?” [What’s changed in the video market?]. Saigon Giai Phong, 4 February 1996, p. 1. Thomas, M. “Place, Memory and Identity in the Vietnamese Diaspora”. Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 1996. . “Crossing Over: The Relationship between Overseas Vietnamese and Their Homeland”. Journal of Intercultural Studies 18, no. 2 (1997): 153–76. To Van Lai. “Phong van Thuy Nga ve cuon bang Paris by Night 40” [Interview with Thuy Nga about Paris by Night 40]. Radio broadcast. http://kicon.com/

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ThuyNga/index.html (3 September 1997a). . “Thu ngo Trung Tam Thuy Nga” [Open letter, Thuy Nga Company]. http://kicon.com/ThuyNga/thungo.html (3 September 1997b). Tran Dinh Hoanh. Letter posted on “Vnforum” Internet list, 28 June 1998. Tran, Kathy. “Thuy Nga Paris 40, Me” [Thuy Nga Paris 40, Mother]. Excerpted from Viet Nam Nhat Bao (San Jose) [Vietnam newspaper], 9 August 1997. http:// www.freeviet.org/news/news/vnc-msg00095.html (3 September 1997). Tran Quang Hai. “Vietnamese Music Since 1960”. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1, no. 3 (1990): 52–55. Tran Trong Dang Dan. Nguoi Viet Nam O Nuoc Ngoai [Overseas Vietnamese]. Hanoi: NXB Chinh Tri Quoc Gia, 1997. “Tren 870 vu vi pham ve dich vu van hoa” [More than 870 violations pertaining to cultural services]. Saigon Giai Phong, 7 January 1996, p. 8. Viviani, N. The Indochinese in Australia 1975–1995: From Burnt Boats to Barbecues. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1996. Yang, Mayfair. “Mass Media and Transnational Subjectivity: Notes on (Re)Cosmopolitanism in a Chinese Metropolis”. In Ungrounded Empires: The Cultural Politics of Modern Chinese Transnationalism, edited by Aihwa Ong and Donald Nonini, pp. 287–319. New York and London: Routledge, 1997.

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The post-modernization of Thainess KASIAN TEJAPIRA

Consumerism versus nationalism

On 28 April 1993, Wednesday, Manager Daily, a best-selling Thailanguage business daily, carried a full-page advertisement of the Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage (ASA) announcing its annual seminar for that year on the theme of “Seubto winyan seubsan wela” (“Tradition and Trend”, in the Association’s own English rendering, although a more literal translation would be “Carry on the Spirit, Move on with the Times”), to be held in the Plenary Hall at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center from 30 April to 3 May. The advertisement featured a photograph of an attractive young Thai lady elegantly dressed in a business suit. Sitting relaxed in an armchair and looking intently (even invitingly) at her supposed viewers, she was surrounded by several graphic pointers with English captions revealing the unThainess of various parts of her bodywear, namely, a hairstyle with a “Parisian Touch”, “Italian Import(ed)” ear-rings, “American Fragrance”, a suit of “English Wool”, a “Swiss Made” watch, and “Japanese Silk” stockings. A big caption in the top right corner of the photograph asks, directly enough: “Bok dai mai khun pen thai thi trong nai?” (“Can you tell which part of you makes you Thai?”). But who, actually, was the “you” being asked? And who, for that

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matter, was the consumer of un-Thai commodities being looked at? Was it the lady in the photograph or her viewers? Through her reflexive gaze, the viewers were enticed to look with unexpected and growing unease at her image as evidence of the possibility of their own unThainess, their imagined communion with her being grounded on the common challengeability of their Thai identity. For once, the voyeurs themselves were subjected to ethnic self-voyeurism. But not for long. The lengthy caption beneath the photograph rushed to relieve the viewers of the troubling, incipient self-doubt about their own national identity with a quick-fix, soothing message: It’s not strange if we are used to bread and coffee more than rice with curry. … There’s nothing wrong with the fact that we are dressed in Western style. It’s not unusual that we drive Japanese cars. Because Thai-Thai feelings still remain in our spirit … That’s why ARCHITECT’93 summons up the meaning of Thai style of living again by presenting contemporary architectural ideas that are consonant with the Thai way of life in an attempt to stimulate ties between modern living and Thai identity under the theme “Carry on the Spirit, Move on with the Times” (Tradition and Trend) in order to preserve Thainess. (Author’s translation, emphases added)1

Without pausing to elaborate on what “Thai-Thai feelings”, “Thai style of living”, “Thai way of life”, “Thai identity”, and “Thainess” were, the advertisement hurried along to invite architects and the public from all over to the seminar to learn and exchange ideas so as to formulate “the concept of a unique contemporary Thai architecture”. Ironically, the highlight of this mission turned out to be an introductory speech on “present day new concepts [sic]” by a “world renowned Japanese architect, Mr Fumihiko Maki” (emphasis added). The advertisement then ended with an assuring note: “And we who are called ‘Thais’ … will not 2 be ‘Thais’ by name only.” The presumption that Thainess and the consumption of un-Thai commodities could coexist without qualms or dissonance, the fact that Thai architects these days could begin to discuss contemporary Thai architecture only after hearing words of wisdom from their Japanese counterpart, stand in stark contrast to Thainess of yesteryear when the burgeoning nationalist, democratic student movement launched an effective and influential campaign to boycott Japanese goods in the early

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1970s. Being then in high school, I was shown by one of my classmates (whose Thai name, by the way, happened to be Ekkaraj, meaning “independence”) a newspaper clipping of a contemporary Thai poem. The poem wittily rhymed familiar brand names of Japanese consumer products in the Thai market with Thai words, and hilariously poked fun at the way Thai people unceasingly and unthinkingly pursue the consumption of these Japanese goods in their daily lives. The poem left such a profound impression on me that, twenty years later, having been through one massacre in Thammasat University, one failed guerrilla war in the jungles of northeast Thailand and Cambodia, one doctoral thesis at Cornell, and another recent mass uprising in the middle of Bangkok, and having forgotten the details of its reference save some of its culturalpolitical resonance, I still could recite from memory its first and final rhyming couplets. Needless to say, it was the lady with un-Thai bodywear in the above-mentioned advertisement who reminded me most strongly of that poem. And here is its full text, with the title Khaniyom (“Values”), by a virtual unknown, Mr Sakda Jintanawijit: First thing in the morning, grasp White Lion toothpaste and enjoy brushing teeth; then make some tea with a National electric kettle and smooth down hair with Tanjo pomade. Put on Thaitorae Tetoron clothes, wear a Seiko watch when leave home, listen to government news broadcasts on a Sanyo radio, drive a Toyota to pick up girlfriend. Wonder where to do luxurious shopping? Go to Daimaru where there are plenty of consumer products made in Japan, sent here from faraway Nippon. Girlfriend buys Kanebo cosmetics and also those of Shiseido and Pola, Wacoal underwear for her big boobs, Onkyo electric appliances for her ecstasy. Then back at home, switch on a Toshiba TV set, flip through the channels looking for Gamo and Kendo.3 But after fighting mosquitoes for a while, 4 feel like visiting Saburi massage parlour.

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In our modern daily life, we begin to have self-doubt so we ask an Asahi mirror: “Eh, am I a Thai?” 5 (“Watachiwa thai yen deseuka?”)

Freedom of consumption and liberation of national identity

To this soul-searching, nationalist question self-reflexively and rhymingly posed by a Thai consumer of Japanese goods twenty-one years earlier, the resounding answer unhesitatingly and unrhymingly proffered by a Thai consumer of un-Thai commodities today is emphatically: “Yes, I 6 am a Thai despite my consumption of many an un-Thai thing!” What I would argue is that this affirmative answer signifies, in present-day Thailand, cultural liberation from the nationalist regimes of the past and present, be it radical leftist or right-wing authoritarian. This liberation is achieved by consumption in which the consideration of national identity is irrelevant. One can consume commodities of whatever places of origin regardless of one’s own identity with no nationalist angst, guilt, or remorse. Or, to parody a well-known cri d’ extase à la the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Thai consumers are now “free, free at last!” (to consume whatever they desire). On the other hand, consumption also signals the liberation of national identity as signifier from the specific national or ethnic commodityreferents. Thus Thainess becomes unanchored, uprooted, and freed from the regime of reference to commodities signifying national or ethnic Thai identity. Thainess is now able, as it were, to roam freely around the commodified globe, to coexist and copulate with Italian ear-rings, American fragrance, English wool, a Swiss-made watch, Seiko, Sanyo, Toyota, Wacoal, or any other un-Thai commodities and sundries. Its referential essence lies in mere spectral, amorphous, and undefined Thai-Thai feelings in the spirit. Once liberated, Thainess takes wing and turns into a free-wheeling, free-floating signifier. And yet, come to think of it, is it the products themselves or their representations, that is, brand names, that is at issue here? From the point of view of our lady with un-Thai bodywear and her fellow consuming compatriots, will it still be acceptable if the brand names of that

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bread and coffee and those Western dresses and Japanese cars which they consume daily are changed from fashionably foreign to commonplace Thai ones (for example, from Sony to Seni, or from Hitachi to Hatthachai)? Or, if Thai products assume exotic foreign brand or even generic names, will they be more or less palatable to the Thai national spirit? Numerous examples spring to mind in this connection. Not long ago, the Thai manufacturer of a popular but controversial stimulant drink called Krating Daeng (meaning Red Bull) marketed a new product, a sterilized refreshing tissue, under the English brand name of Red Bull. Also, during the annual Chinese Buddhist kin je (a Thai term for going vegetarian) festival in October 1994, a long-established Thai manufacturer of a variety of canned food products bearing the Tra nok phirab (Pigeon Brand) trademark launched canned, ready-cooked Chinese vegetarian food under the brand name of J-Foods, which is a fantastic linguistic hybrid consisting of the abbreviated English transliteration of 7 a Thai word whose origin is Teochew Chinese plus an English word. In addition, there are Regency brandy, Cute Press, and Oriental Princess cosmetics — all locally produced by Thai manufacturers. As to generic names, during the 1994 Chinese lunar festival, the traditional Chinese cakes consumed for the occasion had the Thai name khanom wai prajan changed simply to “moon cake”. The foregoing questions are also posed against the background of a growing trend among Thai business companies, film, and TV stars, singers, musicians, and entertainers to adopt foreign (that is, Western and 8 Chinese) names for themselves and their products and services. This is readily understandable with regard to those companies, products, and individuals with a foreign market and audiences in mind. But even when they are clearly for domestic consumption, foreign names are still widely adopted. Thus, most shopping centres in Bangkok and major provincial centres carry such names as Central, the Mall, Robinson, Pata, Welco, Wonder, Safco, Cathay, and so forth; the bigger and better-known among Thai companies adopt such names as Telecom Asia, Jasmine International, Bangkok Land and Houses, IBC, Thai Sky TV, Media of Medias, and so forth; and singers of Thai songs adopt such foreign-sounding stage names as Tik Chiro, Chen Chen Bunsungnoen, Honey Sri-isan, and so forth.9

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The reason for this, as revealed by Mr Thiraphol Phongphana-ngam, the general manager of a newly opened Thai fast-seafood restaurant located in the midst of cut-throat competition from nearby McDonald’s, Popeye’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the like in a huge shopping mall in an affluent residential area in Bangkok, is presumably fairly typical. He explains why, having pondered over more than 200 possible names, he finally chose to name his restaurant in English as Calico Jack: Although we set up our restaurant for Thai customers, it would be risky to use a Thai name. That’s why we decided to use an English name in order to create an inter [sic] image as well as to compete with ourselves. (Author’s own 10 translation)

So according to Mr Thiraphol, in order “to compete with ourselves” or, in other words, to drive our Thai selves harder, we need an inter(national) image created by a foreign brand name to prod us and prick our Thai conscience. Freedom from Thainess

The adoption of foreign brand names by Thai products aside, it has become increasingly difficult in the present age of economic globalization to determine the Thai/un-Thai nationality of a consumer product in the market through its original brand name. It is now possible, according to Milton Friedman, “to produce a product anywhere, using resources from anywhere, by a company located anywhere, to be sold anywhere” (Naisbitt 1994, p. 19). So, not surprisingly, Thailand has become, in recent years, a favourite overseas investment site and production base for exports of many Japanese, Asian NIE (newly industrializing economy), and Western multinational corporations, owing to its comparatively low labour costs and strategic geo-economic location as a gateway to Indochina and South China. Not only Toyota but also Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Honda, Nissan, Volvo, and BMW cars; not only National but also Sony, Sharp, Sanyo, Saijo Denki, and Nordmende electric appliances are now being manufactured or assembled in Thailand with increasing more local content. In the strictly economic sense, with regard to the productive process, these “foreign” products are already becoming more and more Thai despite their brand names. What

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is actually liberated so as to be united with Thainess may not be so much the products themselves as the foreign significations in their brand names. The liberating force of consumption and brand names leads to the next logical step: the liberation of identity from the national as defined by the state. Through various attempts by the royal absolutist and military authoritarian governments of the past, what have emerged are certain recognizable imaginary characteristics of Thainess, constructed out of the official nationalist ethno-ideology sponsored by the state. These I have summarized elsewhere (Kasian 1995) as: 1. The Thai nation as a harmonious village (national) community. 2. The state as an organic outgrowth of traditional hierarchy from family to community to nation. 3. Vigilance against “the political and ideological other” and “outsiders” arbitrarily misrepresented in racial or ethnic terms as “un-Thai”. 4. Deflection of the origin of social problems to the level of personal morality. 5. Thainess is culturally unique. 6. Buddhism as the national religion. Try as the state may, Thai national identity never settles into a homogeneous and unproblematic whole for the average people. In practice, what is regarded as Thai identity is more likely to be a ghostly mesmerizing by one or more of these characteristics. Nonetheless, it is against this shadowy realm of imaginary Thainess that consumption would operate. As the Thainess signified by things Thai is let loose, the meaning of Thai identity is also ruptured into multiple signifieds which people can partake of through the consumption of goods. To put it another way, the manifold freedom from the barriers imposed by national or ethnic self-identity simultaneously allows Thai consumers the possibility of consuming commodities, not for their utility value, but as cultural signs of desired identity. The alienation of the Thai people from Thainess, the distance they subconsciously assume between themselves and their supposed national/ ethnic essence, is evidently the underlying premise in the following ex-

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cerpts from the interviews of four rising young stars in the Thai entertainment industry. First, Miss Angkhana Thimdi or simply Ann, a sexy film and TV star, fashion model, and occasional singer, well-known for her voluptuous body and revealing dresses, had her attitude towards Thainess written up as follows just before the beginning of the official Pi ronnarong watthanatham thai (Year to Campaign for Thai Culture) of 1994: Does anyone know that, even though she likes to wear extremely provocative dresses, actually Ann-Angkhana Thimdi is very strict in observing Thai traditional customs, to the point of always saying a Buddhist prayer before going to sleep … She also likes to give alms to Buddhist monks regularly. Moreover, she is a very old-fashioned lady who likes to preserve Thainess … However, that Ann-Angkhana must wear such provocative dresses … is due to the fact that she has a good figure and wants to show off what she has. … And having learned a lot about the teachings of Buddha lately, Ann-Angkhana would like to take vows as a Brahmin nun sometime next year. (Author’s 11 translation, emphasis added)

In the same vein, Mr Billy Ogan, a popular young Filipino-Thai singer and film and TV star, explained the concept of his new album in relation to the official Year to Campaign for Thai Culture as follows: Although the songs that will be produced are teenage songs, Thai cultural issues will also be stressed. This is because next year will be the Year to Campaign for Thai Culture, therefore, in regard to the new songs, Thai cultural issues must be mixed in. And personally speaking, I also like Thainess a lot but don’t have much chance so far to express that. So, when there is a chance of producing songs according to my own ideas, I would like to bring out 12 what I myself am … (Author’s translation)

And last but not least, Kob-Paphassara Chutanuphong and Tui-Monreudi Yamaphai, two famous leading female TV stars, told a newspaper reporter of their special plan jointly to celebrate the 1995 Saint Valentine’s Day in a very Thai-Thai way: While most young stars who are in love take today’s opportunity (14 Feb.) to celebrate Valentine’s Day or the Day of Love according to Western custom, the young-star couple, Kob-Paphassara Chutanuphong and Tui-Monreudi Yamaphai, choose instead to observe the Thai Buddhist festival of Magha Puja (a Buddhist festival on the day of the full moon in the third lunar month to commemorate the spontaneous great assembly of the Buddha’s disciples

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Kasian Tejapira — Kasian) which falls on the same date. Kob-Paphassara states that actually she and Tui have already celebrated their Day of Love festival late last year by touring round the U.S. for two full weeks with Tui’s elder sister. “Both of us work hard and intend to save ten thousand Baht a month. When October and November come, we will spend our savings on a tour to refresh ourselves. This year, we plan to go to Italy.” However, it so happens that this year’s Valentine’s Day coincides with the Magha Puja Day. So, Kob decides on doing something special even though they have already celebrated the Day of Love. Kob says that on February the 14th, she and Tui will fly to the province of Kalasin to make merit by buying a bookcase for the Tipitaka and Pali texts for a Buddhist temple as well as wearing a white dress and observing the Buddhist precepts in that temple for a day. On the following day, they 13 will come back to work. (Author’s translation, emphases added)

So, professedly, all four of them — Ann, Billy, Kob, and Tui, like Thainess, love Thainess, and desire to remain Thai and, better still, to become even more Thai. Their common desire is premised upon the existence of Thainess as the object of desire, with themselves as the desiring subjects. Moreover, in the very act of pursuing Thainess, the four subjects concurrently reveal a split in their respective personalities and symptoms of cultural schizophrenia. Thus we have, in the same Miss Thimdi, the presumably un-Thai, sexy, exhibitionist Ann and the presumably Thai traditionalist, Buddhist Angkhana. Again, in the case of Mr Ogan, we have Billy, the embodiment of un-Thai teenage fads and Ogan, the lover of Thai culture. As for Misses Chutanuphong and Yamaphai, there are, on the one hand, Kob and Tui, who crave after foreign tourist exotica and, on the other hand, Paphassara and Monreudi, who prefer observing the Thai Magha Puja to the West’s Valentine Day. Each one’s own claim that his/her Thai self is deeper, truer, and more authentic than its un-Thai counterpart can only be taken with a grain of salt, given the context in which the statements were made, namely, right before and shortly after the official Year to Campaign for Thai Culture. Rather, his or her fragmented subjectivity seems to be flexible and selective, in response to the varying demands of the different cultural markets in Thailand which include, among others, the government, the Buddhist faithful, teenagers, soft porn fans, and so forth. None of these market segments is deeper, truer, or more authentic than the others. They are constituted by different groups of image consumers.

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Cultural schizophrenia

Lest anyone should think that Ann, Billy, Kob, and Tui are isolated individual cases, let me introduce further instances of cultural schizophrenia. When the 125 students who took the Creative Copywriting class at Ramkhamhaeng University’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations were assigned by their instructors to make a one-page advertisement to instil Thai cultural values into today’s youth on the occasion of the Year to Campaign for Thai Culture, the best twenty picked out by the instructors include the samples in the table on the following page. Over and over again, the same symptoms as in the cases of Ann, Billy, Kob, and Tui are shown here: a split personality or fragmented subjectivity, be it individual or collective, realistic or symbolic (rap dancer versus Thai dancer, screaming youths versus shouting soldiers, jeans versus a Raja Pattern dress, a skateboard versus Thai-Thai games, Singha versus Lion King); the submersion, subjectification, spiritualization, 14 interiorization of Thainess (evident in phrases like “Thai (classical) dance is not forgotten”, and “not (Thai) on the outside, but the heart is 15 genuinely Thai”); the claim that the interiorized Thai self is more authentic than the projected un-Thai self in the form of dress and behaviour (thus the Thai classical dance and the genuinely Thai heart are more authentic than the Western “rap”); and lastly, the irrepressible desire to be Thai (which is supposed to keep on haunting Thais even when they are rap dancing, screaming in a pop concert, or watching a Walt Disney cartoon). As the lyrics of one of Billy Ogan’s songs proclaims: “If you want to rap dance, let’s do it but don’t forget to preserve Thai-Thai things. Associate with Westerners but don’t forget that you are Thais”.16 After solid Thainess has been vaporized and inhaled into the psyche, it is then purged of any elements deemed unsuitable for the urgent task of surviving in the increasingly competitive economic and cultural environment of globalized Thailand. In the same manner that the manager of Calico Jack had to give his Thai fast-seafood restaurant an unThai name so as “to compete with our (Thai) selves”, Mr Patrick McGeown, an Australian creative head of EURO RSCG Ball Partnership, and one of the two instructors who taught the above students in

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Name of Student

Advertisement Picture

Advertisement Message

Maneerat Siriwong

The back view of a boy dressed in recognizable MTV black rap-singer style and the front view of supposedly the same boy in a Thai traditional dress performing a Thai classical dance

“Rap dance is acceptable but Thai (classical) dance is not forgotten; though not (Thai) on the outside! … but the heart is genuinely Thai.”

Phongmethee Saengrit

Youths making hand gestures and screaming in a pop concert and soldiers marching under the Thai national flag and the image of a national monument

“The scream in front of a concert stage should not be different from the shout for independence. Although time passes by, “Thainess” still persists, for us to cherish, along with Thai independence.”

Jumnanja Punaret

A pair of jeans and a traditional Thai dress for males known as “Raja Pattern” in a showcase

“Many jeans in the market, only one (Raja Pattern dress) in the museum. Who will carry on the style of dress which is Thai identity, if not you …”

Tachsanee Wongrach

A Thai male youth dressed in American teenage style skateboarding in an urban area

“Thai-Thai games are still in (my) memory. … Today’s world may make great progress but Thainess is never forgotten.”

Sangthian

A traditional Thai Singha (as in the logo of Singha Beer) and Walt Disney’s Lion King

“Thai Singha and Lion King. Do you know the difference?”

Pongsiam Khumsoithong A 100 baht banknote above a 20 baht banknote over a Thai citizen’s ID card

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“Thainess is not only … what you carry. Don’t let Thai culture … be only an option.”

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their Creative Copywriting class, advised his students on Thainess and their future advertising careers as follows: It’s really for the students to think that they are Thai and never forget it. They don’t have to drop it when they go into the real world of advertising; it should be something that they should always carry with them. The things that are created in Thailand — when creating an advertisement try to make it Thai, keep it Thai. It doesn’t have to be Western; they don’t have to copy. (Reeya 1994, p. 18)

So far, so good; then he continued: It’s because Thai people have this nature of being kreng jai [that is, being considerate] and always saying mai pen rai [that is, never mind]. That is why I insist that my students speak up if they don’t agree about anything. This is not because I’m trying to change Thai traditional values of always being polite and giving in, but rather I’m doing it to improve the advertising industry, ultimately, by standing up for one’s ideas. (Reeya 1994, p. 19)

And here again we have dual personalities in the same person. There is, on the one hand, Pat, a Siamophile, lover of Thai culture (“Thailand is rich in culture — so is India — but America and Australia are not”, so he averred), who repeatedly urged his students to “always carry (Thainess) with them”. Then there is, let us call him Mac, a world-class advertising guru, who regarded kreng jai and mai pen rai as a hindrance to the improvement of the advertising industry and insisted that his students had to “drop it” and thereby become more “un-Thai”. Alas, this proves that nationality and ethnicity provide no immunity to the truly infectious disorder of cultural schizophrenia, induced by the desire to be Thai amidst the un-Thai exigencies of globalization. The case of Pat Mac offers an interesting contrast to that of Calico Jack. While Calico Jack represents an attempt to become “un-Thai” under an un-Thai sign, Pat Mac makes the clarion call to his students to try desperately to become “un-Thai” in their working style under the sign of “Thainess”. One can well imagine, some time in the future, one of Pat Mac’s former students arguing in a very “un-Thai” style, that is, forcefully and assertively, without kreng jai and mai pen rai, with his/her surprised, polite, and submissive Thai copywriting colleagues in a worldclass advertising agency for his/her own idea of “Thai” advertisements. I would like to call this process the psychological sublimation of un-

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Thainess, in which un-Thai urges are expressed under more socially acceptable Thai signs. Cultural sublimation: psychological and pseudo-chemical

But Thainess is also sublimated in another sense. In the chemical process, “to sublimate” is to change a solid substance into gas by subjecting it to high heat before solidifying it again to achieve greater purification. I have already discussed how solid Thainess is melted into air, spirited into the psyche, in order to purge it of those elements that are not conducive to un-Thai globalization. The last step in the “sublimation” of Thainess is to resolidify it as a sign. To do this, we need an appropriate, readily recognizable “Thai” form for encapsulating that sign. Indeed that form has to be old, venerable, immutable, and by the same token, rather irrelevant and fossilized in present-day circumstances. Such is the form associated with almost all advertisements, official or private, related to the government’s designated Year to Campaign for Thai Culture as well as most public displays and individual expressions on this theme. This can be clearly seen in the Ramkhamhaeng students’ ThaiThai advertisements above. Most of the signs with which they chose to express Thainess in their advertisements are of this character. And it is perhaps for the same reason that, to give other examples, the Thai traditional dress and Thai classical dance are not seen anywhere else but in a museum, theatre, or Buddhist temple on special occasions. Thai-Thai games are hardly ever played by most urban Thai youths or they have stopped playing them a long time ago since their parents took them away from the rural villages. Generally speaking, a singha appears only either on a bottle of Singha Beer or on the logo of the Ministry of the Interior, “the least just and honest government agency”, according to the findings of a recent opinion poll commissioned by the Ministry itself.17 Military parades and prowess have become less and less relevant to Thai national security and political stability since the collapse of the Thai communist rural insurgency in the early 1980s, the end of the Cold War at the end of that decade, and the middle-class uprising against military rule in May 1992. In any case, symptomatic of the pseudo-chemical sublimation of Thainess is a statement by Mr Anand Praphaso, on behalf of a group of eight Thai painters named Klum Nimit (or the Creation Group), on the

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occasion of the opening of the exhibition of their collection of paintings called Thai Nimit (“Thai Creation”) at Landmark Plaza Hotel in Bangkok on 17 March 1994. Anand proclaimed: In the age of turbulent cultural currents, no one denies that every Thai has to be able to lead his life amidst the growth and prosperity of a modern society. … Modern Thai society has made us into a heartless robot. … Is not it high time that each and every one of us revived the spirit of being a Thai? Is not it high time that each and every one of us refused to lead a life of a brainless robot without any feeling for the spirit of Thainess? “The Nimit Group has created the collection of their works of art called “Thai Nimit” in order partly to contribute towards the arousing and awakening of the consciousness of being a Thai so that it may come back in the form of “Thai Mai” (“New Thai”), which is in harmony with modern society. We hope that our collection will contribute towards linking up Thainess with technology unawkwardly. We hope that the children will know what is Thai art, what is a Thai, and that a modern Thai must be “a genuine Thai”.18

A sample of their collective effort to spiritualize and project Thainess back into a solid image reportedly consisted of a young Thai male in traditional northern Lanna Thai princely dress with all the awkward trappings of ancient royalty. In these fossilized forms, Thainess has been ripped away from its traditional social contexts, deprived of its aura and turned into a freefloating signifier which can then be commodified by goods of any nationality or origin. Thus, apart from Coke — the promoter of Thai values long before the official Year to Campaign for Thai Culture, we have such Thai-Thai advertising campaigns as “Singha Beer — the pride 19 of the nation”, “Thai Life Insurance — the life insurance company of, 20 21 by, and for, the Thais”, “Central Department Store — the Thai Store”, and so forth. These commodified forms have changed Thainess willynilly into one identity option among many others in the free market of a limitless plurality of significations, in the same sense that Coke is just one option among many other brands of cola, Singha Beer is just one option among many other brands of beer, and so on. In the process, Thainess has become, alongside Chineseness, Europeanness, Englishness, and so forth, another choice among a variety of national/ethnic signifiers to be worn or shed according to the changing circumstances. Nationality and ethnicity having been loosened and unravelled thus

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far, it is now possible for commodities to take the next logical step, that is, to undo their tie with the national altogether and create an identity of their own under the sign of their respective brand name. The following are a few examples of commodity-constituted identity being offered for prospective identity consumers in a globalized world. Tri Petch Isuzu Sales Co. Ltd. presents a sports utility vehicle imported from Japan as the identity sign of its prospective buyers. Its advertisement, which appeared in Bangkok Post on 16 July 1994, includes these words: You’ve reached the top: it’s up to you to make the big decisions, the ones that count. Your achievement is the realization of everything that people think of when they hear the word success, and your position is one that everyone aspires to attain some day. Now your life is full of new and bigger challenges. And when you move out into the world to experience the special exhilaration that come with leadership, you drive a car that reflects your identity as someone who is modern, successful, and ready for anything — an Isuzu Trooper.

To the seemingly endless and meaningless collective suffering of nameless, faceless, and powerless drivers in Bangkok’s world-notorious suffocating traffic jams, Volvo offers itself as a symbolic difference and relief: Outside the Volvo it’s hot, noisy and polluted. Inside the Volvo it’s cool, very quiet and very, very comfortable. The Volvo Executive is an island of luxury and tranquillity in a sea of impatience and discomfort. Of course, everyone knows that Bangkok’s traffic is getting worse by the month. And even a Volvo, with its deep leather seats, auto air-conditioning, CD player and stretch-out legroom, cannot make the traffic jams any shorter. But they certainly seem 22 shorter. Thank goodness, I’m in a Volvo.

Last but not least, the same message is said in not so many words by this advertisement, which offers a special credit card membership to prospective or actual owners of a luxurious car: “You know who I am. Tell them who you are with the Mercedes Card.” (Bangkok Post, 15 August 1994, p. 13). No longer a Thai, a Thai-Thai, or even an unThai, but simply a Mercedes person. Conclusion

The current rapid and disconcerting changes in Thai identity have been brought about by two major forces. First, there is the pervasive process

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of economic and cultural globalization. On the other hand, there is the attempt of the Thai state to hold on to its cultural and political hegemony; to control the signification of Thainess amidst the flux of globalization and commodification. Under the pretext of conserving Thainess, the state tries to maintain and reassert its official nationalist authority over an increasingly fluid and complex society and culture. It is for this purpose that the Year to Campaign for Thai Culture project was launched in 1994, and then extended for another three years. And yet, the upshot of the official campaign for Thai culture, instead of freezing Thainess as the state intended, is to further loosen the signifieds of Thainess. It is true that in enthusiastic and energetic response to the official clarion calls, Thainess has come to be seen everywhere in the cities. But it makes its appearance as an empty, free-floating signifier which is made to refer to both un-Thai and super Thai-Thai things. The game of Thainess is an interplay between the official ethnoideology of Thainess and the popular desire to be Thai unleashed by the state. The result of this interplay is the negotiation, fragmentation, and vaporization of Thainess as an object of desire. But if Thainess has been vaporized in a truly post-modern process, how does one go about representing the unrepresentable? I have tried to demonstrate one can do this by looking, reading and perhaps voyeurizing the various images of Thainess. The crucial thing to look for is not what the images are supposed to represent, which has proven to be amorphous and imaginary. Rather, it is in the images or signs themselves, disconnected from their referents, that their true significance can be discovered. For, in the end Thainess the signifier signifies nothing beyond itself. The prior, cherished Thainess, promoted by the state and desired by the people, is nothing more than a purely empty signifier. It is in this desolate semiotic setting that global capitalism’s violent assault on Thainess takes place. NOTES A less elliptical and trendy if rather cumbersome title than the one being used here would be: “Solid Thainess Melts into Air … and then Solidifies Again into Signs: National Identity and the Consumption of Identity Commodities in the Age of Cultural Globalization”. It is perhaps a self-conscious play of post-modernism that many of the substantive details in support of my argument are in the footnotes that follow.

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1. It is a long-standing and popular Thai linguistic practice to double an adjective so as to lessen the effect or intensity of its meaning. Thus, daeng is supposed to be redder than daeng-daeng which is not very red. Likewise, whereas Thai implies a singular, pure, genuine, authentic, original, definite, narrow, and monolithic version of Thainess, Thai-Thai connotes a pluralistic, mixed, mutant, altered, simulated, indefinite, broad, and differentiated version of the same. For example, one usually applies the adjective Thai-Thai to foods, drinks, tastes, dresses, atmosphere, and so forth, but never to nation, country, people, armed forces, government, or king which remain chat thai, prathes thai, khon thai, kongthap thai, ratthabal thai, phramahakasat thai. While Thai suggests a clear-cut division, disparity and even opposition between Thainess and un-Thainess both in their material existence and ideal essence, Thai-Thai indicates internal differentiation, blurring of external borderlines and shades of Thai-Thainess. Suffice it to say that Thai-Thai seems to admit a far greater and wider membership of people and things into its club than the rather exclusive Thai counterpart. 2. Phoojadkan Raiwan, 28 April 1994, p. 22. The English version of this advertisement with basically the same message but in a more concise and less colourful rendering was published on the same day in Bangkok Post, p. 2. 3. Being shown on Thai TV at the time, these two Japanese film series were especially popular among kids and youngsters. 4. Presumably, the name of a massage parlour in Bangkok at the time. Massage parlours began to sprout in Bangkok during the 1960s and quickly gained popularity and notoriety as upgraded brothels. It was then a common practice among massage parlours’ proprietors to give their establishments an exotic Japanese-sounding name like Saburi or Sakura which by no means necessarily implied any Japanese ownership or connection. While its origin is unclear to me, I distinctly remember a contemporary strong sense of association between massage on the one hand and Japanese femininity on the other as if somehow it had been the Japanese females who excelled in the art of massage! Perhaps, this might have something to do with the stereotype of a slavishly submissive Japanese wife. 5. Supposedly, a Japanese rendering of the question in the preceding line. The name of the bohemian friend who “returned” this long-lost poem to me is Mr Suphachai Jaroensakwatthana. The newspaper article in which he found it quoted is “Khwamsamphan thai-yipun: Phapphot thi mai plianplaeng” [Thai-Japanese relationship: the unchanged image], by Banyat Surakanwit, published in Matichon, 2 May 1983. The poem itself was originally published in Thairath, 17 December 1972. 6. Between the nationalism-above-consumerism of the 1972 Khaniyom poem and the consumerism-above-nationalism of the 1993 ASA’s advertisement lay a text which most aptly captured the increasing commodification and de-referentialization of the Thai signifier, namely, a Thai folk song with the English title of Made in

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Thailand, composed and played by a highly popular folk song group named Carabao in 1984. Owing to its economic nationalist message, the song won government approval and promotion and quickly became a top hit. And yet, the jacket of the Carabao cassette tape that featured this song bore a widely recognizable trademark of the Coke soft drink in red and straightforwardly declared in print the following assuring message: “Coke and Carabao jointly promote the value of Thainess”! See cassette tape jacket information, Made in Thailand (Carabao 1984). 7. “Je n. food without fish or meat for Vietnamese or Chinese who observe a religious rite, also Jae. (Chinese)” [my own translation]. See Photjananukrom ratchabandittayasathan pho.so. 2525 [The Royal Institute’s dictionary, B.E. 2525] (Bangkok: The Royal Institute, 1987), p. 238. 8. According to Associate Professor Dr Wilaiwan Khanisthanan of the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat University, a recent survey of the brand names of products advertised on Thai television shows that over 90 per cent of them are in English. See Suphaphorn (1995, p. 5). 9. In this regard, it is noteworthy that a favourite gimmick among Thai singers is to adopt a foreign stage name (for example, Honey, Chen Chen) but keep the surname in Thai or a local dialect (for example, Sri-isan, Bunsungnoen, both of which are distinctly Laotian). As for business establishments with original names in Thai, a convenient ploy is to use the abbreviations of their English transliterations along with them. Hence, DK for Duang Kamol Bookstore, MBK for Mabunkhrong Shopping Center, CP for the Charoen Phokphand Group. Interestingly, the nominal metamorphosis of the Charoen Phokphand multinational conglomerate from Chia Tai through Charoen Phokphand into CP is indicative of the cultural and economic transformations of Sino-Thai businesses in general (Suehiro 1992). 10. “Meua fast seafood baeb thai thai ja soo ham-kai sanchat nok” [When Thai-Thai fast-seafood is going to fight ham-chicken of foreign nationality], Phoojadkan Raiwan, 1 November 1994, pp. 29–30. 11. “Ann khan rab fashion hit, anurak-buach chiphram” [Ann responds to fashionable hit, preserve Thainess — take vows as Brahmin nun], Thairath, 30 December 1993, p. 21. 12. “Khita yib chin pla mun khwa billy” [The Khita Company catches a big fish, getting Billy], Thairath, 15 December 1993, p. 21. 13. “Maghavalentine kob-tui sweet sangob khao wad tham bun-nunghom khao” [On Magha-Valentine’s Day Kob and Tui sweetly and calmly go to the temple to make merit and wear a white dress], Thairath, 14 February 1995, p. 14. A not-so-subtle insinuation of lesbianism in their relationship by the Thairath reporter is distastefully evident. 14. Emphatically not “internalization” for reasons that will soon become apparent. 15. A superb telepathic allegory of this spiritualization of Thainess emerged on a simi-

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Kasian Tejapira lar occasion, namely, a TV and radio spot contest on the theme of the Year to Campaign for Thai Culture, jointly organized by the Office of the National Culture Commission (a government agency under the Ministry of Education) and Robinson Department Store. The top award in the radio spot category was won by a team of five students from Chulalongkorn University whose entry was entitled Mun khleun phid (or “Wrong Tuning”). They explained the concept behind their work as follows (my own translation): “Suppose a kid turns on a radio, tries tuning in to every possible program and then finds only Thai classical music — That is well nigh impossible. But if we tune our mind, that is our feelings and spirit, then we can receive Thai classical music and love Thai classical music. We can be tuned in together and don’t have to depend on other things around us including mass media.” (“Seu spot thorathas lae witthayu: sing sathon watthanatham no. so. thai” [TV and radio spots: reflections of Thai students’ culture], Siam Post, 18 May 1994, p. 11).

16. From Sawaddi rap yo (or “Good Day Rap, Yo”) in the album Billy World Class, by Billy Ogan (1994). 17. The survey was conducted by Integrated Partners, a private company, among 1,200 people throughout the country from 1 to 19 November 1993. As it turned out that the overall public perception of the Ministry was strongly negative, the Ministry typically decided to suppress the findings for fear that its reputation would be further tarnished. See “Opinion Poll Without Results”, Bangkok Post, 9 June 1994, p. 1; and “Poey phol wijai mahadthai, kromthidin-to.ro. huai sud” [Opinion poll on Interior Ministry revealed, Lands & Police Depts. are the worst], Matichon Raiwan, 9 June 1994, pp. 1, 13. 18. “Nithassakan ‘thai nimit’ pluk khwam pen thai hai kheun chip” [The “Thai Nimit” exhibition: the revival of Thainess], Phoojadkan Raiwan, 22 February 1994, p. 10. 19. See the reports on the advertising and marketing campaign of Bunrod Brewery Company, the producer of Singha Beer in Phoojadkan Raiwan, 9 December 1993, pp. 25, 26; and especially the perceptive, tempting, and intoxicating comparative analysis of the advertising strategies of Singha Beer versus Carlsberg Beer by Issara (1993, p. 35). It should be pointed out in this regard that Thais are well aware of the unThainess of beer as an alcoholic drink originally brought in from the West. There is not even a Thai coinage for the word “beer”, only a foreign-sounding transliteration. It is in this cultural context that Singha Beer chooses to present itself to the public as the pioneer in beer-brewing in Thailand and therefore a proud sign of Thainess. 20. A TV advertising spot released in 1993 made the point that among the variety of insurance companies, Thai Life Insurance was chosen “well, because I am after all a Thai”, so said the male character in the advertisement to his wife. And yet, this

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Thai Life Insurance company had been founded in the 1940s by such Chinese business tycoons as Lo Tek Chuan Bulasuk, Tan Chin Ken Wanglee, and so forth. See Kasian Tejapira, “Jomphol plaek: phoonam ratthaniyom thai” [Field Marshal Plaek: Thai statist leader], Sinlapawatthanatham 15, no. 3 (January 1994): 56–59. 21. Launched on 6 July 1994 by the top executives of Central Department Store themselves, all dressed up in traditional Thai style, the campaign was said to be partly an adaptive management reform in the wake of the liberalization of Thai retail businesses as a result of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), and partly a participative response to the government’s Year to Campaign for Thai Culture. Needless to say, the Chirathiwat family, which owns this biggest chain of department stores in Thailand, is originally Hainanese of the Zheng clan. Also, this Thai-Thai store has adopted an English name since its founding. Of course, their Thai store campaign has become rather problematic in the present context of global capitals and multinational (Thai and un-Thai) business alliances in Thailand. See Phoemphol (1994, pp. 29, 30). 22. One may as well say “Thank goodness, I’m a Volvo”. Bangkok Post Economic Review, Mid-Year 1994, 30 June 1994, p. 5. REFERENCES In English Carabao. Made in Thailand. Ligo, C-27106, 1984. Kasian Tejapira. “Cultural Forces and Counter-Forces in Contemporary Thailand”. In Cultures in ASEAN and the 21st Century, edited by Edwin Thumboo, pp. 239– 50. Singapore: UniPress, Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore, for ASEAN-COCI, 1996. Naisbitt, John. Global Paradox: The Bigger the World Economy, the More Powerful Its Smallest Players. London: Nicholas Brealey, 1994. Ogan, Billy. Billy World Class. Onpa, 90-002, 1994. Suehiro, Akira. “Capitalist Development in Postwar Thailand: Commercial Bankers, Industrial Elite, and Agribusiness Groups”. In Southeast Asian Capitalists, edited by Ruth McVey, pp. 35–63. Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, 1992. Local Press and Other Sources (in English) “Coca Moon Cake”. Radio broadcast, MCOT-FM 96 MHz, 4 September 1994. “Opinion Poll Without Results”. Bangkok Post, 9 June 1994, p. 1. Reeya Chaicharas. “The Future Face of Thailand’s Ads?” Sunday Magazine (Bangkok Post) 20, 25 September to 1 October 1994, pp. 16–19.

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Local Press and Other Sources (in Thai) “Ann khan rab fashion hit, anurak-buach chiphram” [Ann responds to fashionable hit, preserve (Thainess) — take vows as Brahmin nun]. Thairath, 30 December 1993, p. 21. “Daewoo khai khwam pen europe” [Daewoo sells Europeanness]. Phoojadkan Raiwan, 28 January 1994, p. 36. Issara Choosri. “Lokanuwat nai kaew beer” [Globalization in a glass of beer]. Phoojadkan Raiwan, 17 August 1993, p. 35. Kasian Tejapira. “Jomphol plaek: phoonam ratthaniyom thai” [Field Marshal Plaek: Thai statist leader]. Sinlapawatthanatham 15, no. 3 (January 1994): 56–59. “Maghavalentine kob-tui sweet sangob khao wad tham bun-nunghom khao” [On Magha-Valentine’s day Kob and Tui sweetly and calmly go to the temple to make merit and wear a white dress]. Thairath, 14 February 1995, p. 14. “Meua fast seafood baeb thai thai ja soo ham-kai sanchat nok” [When Thai-Thai fastseafood is going to fight ham-chicken of foreign nationality]. Phoojadkan Raiwan, 1 November 1994, pp. 29–30. “Nithassakan ‘thai nimit’ pluk khwam pen thai hai kheun chip” [The “Thai Nimit” exhibition: the revival of Thainess]. Phoojadkan Raiwan, 22 February 1994, p. 10. Phoemphol Phophoemhem. “Khwam pen thai khong central” [Central’s Thainess]. Phoojadkan Raiwan, 8 July 1994, pp. 29, 30. Photjananukrom ratchabandittayasathan pho.so. 2525 [The Royal Institute’s dictionary, B.E. 2525]. Bangkok: The Royal Institute, 1987. “Poey phol wijai mahadthai, kromthidin-to.ro. huai sud” [Opinion poll on Interior Ministry revealed, Lands & Police Depts. are the worst]. Matichon Raiwan, 9 June 1994, pp. 1, 13. “Seu spot thorathas lae witthayu: sing sathon watthanatham no. so. thai” [TV & Radio spots: reflections of Thai students’ culture]. Siam Post, 18 May 1994, p. 11. Suphaphorn Assadamongkhol. “Phasa tang prathes nai phasa thai kam khwam plian pai nai sangkhom” [Foreign languages in the Thai language and social change]. Thairath, 31 January 1995, p. 5. Newspapers Bangkok Post Manager Daily (Phoojadkan Raiwan) Matichon Daily Siampost Daily Thairath Daily

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7

Cultural claims on the new world order: Malaysia as a voice for the Third World? LOONG WONG

The Cold War, as Martin Shaw (1992) has reminded us, has been “cold”; its dominating feature was the “freezing” of the domain of national politics by international considerations. With the declaration of the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the “primacy of the national” reasserts itself in international agendas. This is largely a consequence of the end of “ideological politics” and the relative decline of geopolitical posturing and reasoning especially by the major powers. Accepted theories and practices of international relations were challenged and are in the process of transition and/or transformation. New constitutive and reflexive agendas reinserted themselves into the interplay of global diplomacy and politics: human rights, the market, environment, “security”, and “rights” all now re-emerged as fundamental issues yet to be resolved within the world. Notwithstanding this flux in history, some commentators still maintained a unilinear reading of global trends (Buzan 1991a; 1991b; Fukuyama 1989). For these analysts, the end of history is nigh and the indomitable West, accompanied with its twin angels — liberal democracy and market capitalism — continues to triumph. What is remark-

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able in this reading of world events is the failure to grasp the historical effects the West has had on the “non-West” via colonization, armaments, and economic domination, processes which have subverted histories and stunted development in the non-Western world. A more fundamental question, however, remains: how far will the “West” be able to carry public opinion, both within its domestic space and without? For many in the West, a post-materialist post-modern political agenda, based no longer on the satisfaction of wants but of values, and no longer confined to representation of national interests but that of international responsibilities, is gaining salience. This has correspondingly engendered new ways of relating and different modes of sociability. The dominant cultural traditions of progress, universalism and objectivism are now interrogated and struggled over. Unlike Fukuyama’s and like-minded prosaic proclamations of the “end of history”, different histories and their fragments are being reconstituted, created, and recreated. The discussion of this chapter is set within the framework of “postcolonialism” (During 1985) and is an attempt at “re-thinking history” (Jenkins 1991). Notwithstanding Baudrillard’s post-modern assertion that in a media society it is impossible to delineate historical trajectories or political effects (1983), I contend that it is possible to offer a richer and deeper appreciation of the practices of international relations and politics as they are being constructed and rearticulated through a closer examination of the relationship between the media, culture, and the nation-state. The chapter focuses on the emergence of Malaysia within global politics and seeks to position Malaysia within the terrain in which the contestation and negotiation of strategic geopolitical space between Malaysia and the “West” takes place. Malaysia, an ex-British colony in Southeast Asia, has assiduously pressed its claims to be heard within the global arena. Expeditiously exercising its “statecraft”, Malaysia has managed to rearticulate many post-colonial concerns — human rights, sovereignty, trade, culture, and “imperialisms” — and, in the process, critique the West for its neglect and different reading of these concerns. My discussion attempts to identify, probe, and make explicit the “differences” and political considerations affecting Malaysia’s attempts to renegotiate its position with the West, in particular the

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relationship and representations of Malaysia in its “positioning” within the vectors of a new global order. Culture and international relations

In a text in international relations, Barry Buzan (1991a) made the claim that the study of international relations can only be state-centred. For him, states are inevitable and are the sole providers for security arrangements. Whilst this line of argument has been dominant and has been subjected to critique (which is beyond the purview of this chapter), a second line of criticism can be laid against Buzan. In the book and in a subsequent article, Buzan (1991a, 1991b) asserted that the centre (that is, the West) is now more dominant than ever and that the non-West is largely irrelevant in the calculus of world politics. This rather crude reading of the non-West totally negates the efficacy of culture within global political discourses and ignores the legacy associated with Western imperial violence. John Ravenhill (1993), while agreeing with Buzan’s claims in some aspects, is more circumspect. He suggests that neglecting the periphery (the non-West) within the ambit of the new world order can only be read as a new rationalization of an old realpolitik, and as something certainly counter-productive for the realization of justice and legitimacy within the world. It is apparent that notwithstanding Ravenhill’s intervention, the methodological assumptions of Buzan’s work remain relatively uncontested: the nature of states remains a vexing question for many theorists. Similarly, culture remains a neglected dimension in this worldview and is subsumed within the purview of the state. Cultural differences, in this representation, becomes solely a matter of national identity and any exploration of such differences must not transgress on state boundaries and its all hegemonic sovereignty. Clearly, such an approach to culture and its analysis is inadequate in failing to take into account the current debates on the nature of cultural discourses. “Culture”, described by Raymond Williams (1983) as one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language, defies easy definition. At its most deceptively simple, “culture” refers to the artistic and intellectual product of an élite. More generally, it refers to a system of shared beliefs or the whole way of life of a social group as

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it is structured by representation and power. Cultural analysis, therefore, also involves an examination of the relations of power and the ways in which dominance and subordination are negotiated and resisted, where meanings are not just imposed, but contested. Conceived in this manner, culture is no longer reducible to a fixed property of social groups but “something intrinsically fluid, changing, unstable and dynamic” through which social groups enact their “social and historical relationships” (Gilroy 1990, p. 206). Deleuze and Parnet (1987) have reminded us that such cultural interactions in this sense invariably bring about collisions and collusions — a combined deterritorialization which simultaneously opens up new sites of discursive possibility and reconstitution of meanings. In international relations discourse, culture read this way opens up new fields of inquiry. Such an inquiry evokes notions of cultural innovation and, in so doing, problematizes much taken-forgranted representational politics, social and racial formations, and their corresponding institutional conditions. Asia, Asia, Asia on my mind

In analysing the attributes of the West as synonymous with white hegemony, Richard Dyer (1988, pp. 45–47) has suggested that the valency and potency of the power of whiteness lies in its ability to project a seemingly natural, neutral, transcendental image, comprising the full diversity of human experiences. This “universalism”, through a series of historical conquests, connivances and betrayals, led to a global ascendancy of the “West” in which power and control were maintained through violence and coercion. The subordinated peoples and areas were written out, demarcated, and reconstituted; their situations and status were (re)defined, their ideas filtered out and/or erased. They became a “fixed reality which is at once an “other” and yet entirely knowable and visible” (Bhabha 1983, p. 33). “Asia” has always engaged the minds of Western explorers, navigators, scientists, and politicians right throughout the ages. It was adventure, glory, gold, danger, and the great unknown. For the West, “Asia” was also a pastiche of images. But as the dust of colonization settled and Western administrators and scientists consolidated their positions, “Asia” as a concept and an imaginary needed to be managed, demarcated, and

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defined. “Asia” became more derivative and more restricted; in colonial discourses, it increasingly tapered down to a separation of the pure from the impure, approximating and resembling more a closed totality — an “Us” and “Them” binary difference. Turning to contemporary Western popular imagination, Asia is a cauldron of fire, the “enemy”, the “plague”, a place teeming with “hordes” which could only be tamed by the Marines and Western technological know-how. As pointed out by Hamilton: In [these] popular representations … the Asian has been a non-individuated “native” … [It] is apparent that any Asian native can substitute for any other [in films depicting Asian natives] … [The] clothing, speech and habitations of the Asian are interchangeable, as long as the essential “atmosphere” of Asia [scenic rice fields, rivers and ranges contrasted with dirty, smelly, bustling cities] can be presented. (Hamilton 1990, p. 24)

As Hamilton goes on to illustrate, this homogenized picture of Asia is misguided. Such an image of Asia, while invoking a multitude of circuits of meaning, in the main reconfirms the notion of Western superiority. The “Asia” so conceived and generalized reflects a continuum of the Western tradition of an invented Asia incorporated “for Europe, and only for Europe” (Said 1978, pp. 71–72). This process has been aptly described by Said as “Orientalism”. “Orientalism”, Said writes, is a “closed system in which objects are what they are because they are what they are, for once, for all time, for ontological reasons that no empirical matter can either dislodge or alter” (ibid., p. 70). Any reference to direct observation and experience not cast in the terms of Orientalist discourse would endanger the whole structure of knowledge. Orientalism thus relies on its own peculiar logic, “its consistency about its constitutive will-to-power over the Orient” (ibid., p. 222). In this way, Asia (the Orient) was always given, to be constituted, known, understood, and controlled, through a Western imagining. In his critique of Western constructions of “Asia”, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, has pointed to the outmoded but still prevalent Eurocentric image of “Asia” (Mahathir and Ishihara 1995). The image of “Asia” as “romantic”, “strange”, “exquisite”, and “exotic” merely marks a continuance of a static “Western” worldview.

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Dr Mahathir goes on to point out — on this occasion in any case — that “Asia” is far more diverse and indeed, the term “Asia” has no “equivalent word in any Asian language”. Indeed, in the words of Chaudhuri, “Asia” is derived as “the inverse mirror image of geographical Europe” and “will hold over time only as long as the identity of the ‘set of sets’, Europe is intact” (Chaudhuri 1990, pp. 22–23). The imagining of “Asia” is both a process and a phenomenon through which Europe names the Other. Seen this way, Asia can be understood in a number of ways. It denotes a geographical entity (a continent), a multitude of nations, histories and societies, rather than a homogeneous bounded entity. Thus, in his interpellation of what constitutes an “Asian” culture, Roger Keesing reminds us: There is no Asian “culture” we can characterise without oversimplifying the picture: exaggerating the boundedness, discreteness and homogeneity of a way of life, glossing over internal cleavages of class and gender (and usually ethnicity as well), camouflaging conflicting interests and silencing dissenting voices; and essentialising and eternalising, thus disguising radical changes that have differentially affected rural communities and urban settings. (Keesing 1991, p. 46)

Any fetishising of simple cultural explanations, either in defiance of or sympathethic to the Western imagining is both naïve and patronizing. More to the point, in these representations, the “heterogeneity of social formations” and experiences within Asia is “submerged within a singular identity of experience” (Aijaz Ahmad 1987, p. 10), making a lie out of the rich, heterogeneous diversity of Asia. Remarkably, this reductive homogenization of “Asia” is often undertaken, not only by Orientalist scholars, but also by many Asian leaders themselves. In articulating a narrower and more restrictive “Asian” telos, Asian politicians such as Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew effectively perpetuate the stereotypical image of “Asia”, emptying it of its history and agency. It is this Janus-like dynamic in the contestatory imagining of “Asia” that has occupied the minds of diplomats, members of government, politicians, and analysts, and has rendered problematic any attempt at international dialogue in terms of such simple distinctions as that between Western universalism and Asian particularism.

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Malaysia and the West

Malaysia, like Asia as a whole, has been subjected to diverse readings. Colonial authorities have variously described the country as an Eden, a dystopia and a “living hell” (during the post-war years of communist insurgency). Contemporary Malaysia is frequently referred to in terms of its human rights abuses and its being ruled by an undemocratic government whose leaders are renowned for their dictatorial practices. The Malaysian state has responded to such criticism by adopting a dual strategy. Going on the offensive, the Malaysian state has charged Western 1 media of telling and perpetuating lies about Malaysia, while at the same time seeking to present itself as a moral force in international politics. It has championed environmental causes in the “Third World” (Far Eastern Economic Review, 27 August 1992), criticized the nature of Western involvement in the Bosnian crisis (Star, 23 April to 16 May 1994), supported the minimum wages proposal for developing countries in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) (Star, 21–23 April 1994), spoken out on human rights (Far Eastern Economic Review, 17 June 1993) and other populist issues. In so doing, the Malaysian state has sought to move laterally and encircle its critics. Positioning itself on the axis between the metropolitan position, by virtue of its developing economy, and the “colonial” geographical peripheries, it has attempted to (re)negotiate the imbalance of power existing between itself and the West. In doing so, it seeks to reinscribe at the same time a crucial national imaginary by creating a national identity, restoring national pride and reaffirming its quest for autonomy and national self-determination and, as argued by Yao in this volume, fortifying the country against the influences of modernity and globalization. When it became independent in 1958 from the British, Malaysia adopted a fairly pro-Western international position. It continued to seek security support from and economic ties with Britain and its allies. There was consistency and predictability in the relations with the West, and Malaysia’s strategic interests and economic fortunes were tied in with its old colonial masters and their friends. Economic, political, and security arrangements were kept ostensibly intact even as the sun set on the empire. As a new generation of leaders came into power, Malaysia, since

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the mid-1970s has demonstrated a more dynamic and assertive role in international politics (Datuk Abdullah Ahmad 1990, pp. 113–14). In his study of the evolution of Malaysia’s foreign policy, Johan Saravanamuttu has described it as grappling with the “dilemmas of independence”, as increasingly taking a more “radical” developing world orientation, and as “equidistancing” itself from the “Western alliance” (Saravanamuttu 1987, p. 144). In the 1990s, under Dr Mahathir, Malaysia has been steadfast and vociferous in its critiques of the West. These critiques cover a wide range of issues: the moral bankruptcy and inconsistent approaches to human rights practices and abuses in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Somalia; the intransigence of dominant “Western” powers in restructuring the United Nations; the “hypocrisy” of the position of “developed countries” on the environment and minimum labour standards practices. The Malaysian state has also taken on a pro-South position against the West. It has reproached the West on its existing trade and economic embargo on Iraq, continuing nuclear testing in the South Pacific and the approaches on issues of autonomy, and self-determination in “Third World” countries. In criticizing the West, Malaysia is seeking to mobilize support against Western hegemony and in a sense, attempting to renegotiate leadership roles for the non-West. This is perhaps most clearly manifested in the processes surrounding the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) discussions. Right from the beginning Dr Mahathir has not shown much enthusiasm for APEC. According to Vatikiotis, Dr Mahathir blocked plans in 1985 “to expand ASEAN’s discussions with its dialogue partners, the United States, Canada, Japan and Australasia in what would have been an embryonic precursor of APEC” (Far Eastern Economic Review, 31 January 1991, pp. 32–33). In floating a counterproposal, the East Asian Economic Grouping (EAEG) (subsequently known as the EAEC [East Asian Economic Caucus]), Dr Mahathir sought to exclude all Western membership and influences from an Asian grouping of nations. Greg Sheridan, writing in the Australian, has described Malaysia’s current foreign policy as displaying a “strong dose of anti-Western sentiment” which “plays on feelings of Asian solidarity” (Australian, 6 No-

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vember 1991). This is in keeping with Dr Mahathir’s preference for “Eastern” values and his corresponding distaste for “Western” values (see also Mahathir and Ishihara 1995, also Yao, Ang, Weng in this volume). Through his “frontal assaults” on the West, Dr Mahathir has managed to propel himself as a “new voice for the Third World” (Far Eastern Economic Review, 20 August 1992, pp. 16–19; Zakaria Haji Ahmad 1990, p. 127; Age, 2 September 1992), if not “the voice of Asia” (Mahathir and Ishihara 1995). Throughout the latter part of the 1980s and into the 1990s, Dr Mahathir has made political use of Western media attacks on Malaysian (and other “Third World” governments’) policy to argue that Malaysia (and other “Third World” countries generally) should not be judged by standards set by first world countries. In making public its views, the Malaysian state actively solicited support from the marginalized sections of the global community to curtail international criticisms and to manage the adverse global public agenda inconsistent with Malaysia’s internal policies. All this is especially important in the context of global “democratization” trends and the social change in Malaysia and the rest of the developing world. In challenging “First world” countries for their patronizing and condescending attitudes, Malaysia is able to muster international support from the “Third World”. A critical arena which the Malaysian state has considered salient is the area of media relationships, in particular, the reportage and representations of the “Third World” by the Western-dominated media. Dr Mahathir and his ministers have claimed that the Western media, largely through excesses and slanted reporting, sought to undermine Third World countries. They saw Western media criticisms as media excesses, insulting, insensitive, and seeking to undermine independent nations (New Straits Times, 14 August 1991; Star, 16 May 1994). It was further suggested that such “leeway granted to the Western media smacks of cultural arrogance and lacks integrity and philosophical coherence and principles” (Australian, 6–7 July 1991). In castigating the West and Western representations of Malaysia, Malaysia seeks to both renegotiate its image and affirm its own autonomy and control. This struggle for Malaysia’s own autonomy strategically capitalizes on anti-Western resentment, musters support and,

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as an ostensibly unlooked-for-consequence, advances Malaysia’s leadership role as a “new” moral political force within the “Third World”, thereby increasing its sphere of influence. Positioning Malaysia

The relative lack — or excess, in the case of Malaysia — of “cultural sensitivities”, it would seem, provides the explanation of the “cooling” of relations between Malaysia and the West. Such a monocausal explanation is, however, problematic. Jacques Derrida has cautioned the need to re-examine the concept of the “centre” (read: culture), which could be more fruitfully thought of, not in static terms, but as a “series of substitutions of center for center, as a linked chain of determinations of the center” (Derrida 1978, p. 279). Applied to the breakdown in relationships between the West and Malaysia, the central “cultural” explanation becomes problematic; the issue is far more complex than is popularly portrayed. There are many strands which can be read into the events surrounding the “stand-off ” between Malaysia and the West. Malaysia’s anti-colonial and anti-Western pronouncements, as well as its calling for a restructuring of global economic and political power are, in themselves, probably deserving of support. However, these pronouncements have to be critically dissociated from the heated intensity with which they are made, an intensity that hides the Malaysian state’s other agenda. David Calleo has advised us that any analysis lacking in a sense of history or politics “must expect many surprises” (Calleo 1982, p. 6). Any analysis of Malaysia’s position, therefore, needs to be contextualized. With a growing economy, a realization and affirmation of its own identity, Malaysia seeks to contest for power and leadership within the international arena. In Malaysia, a whole series of laws inhibit and restrict the growth of human rights. One such law is the Internal Security Act, which denies the right to trial. Under the Essential (Security Cases Amendment) Regulations, a suspect is considered guilty unless proven innocent. The media is tightly controlled, strikes and public rallies are proscribed and a plethora of legislative armaments further restrict political participation. In recent years, Malaysia’s treatment of its indigenous peoples and the degradation of its environment have also attracted much widespread

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public criticism. The logging of tropical rainforests in East Malaysia has caused massive destruction of the environment and widespread displacement of indigenous peoples. The Penans, Kenyahs, Kayans, Kelabits, and other indigenous peoples have suffered badly (Wong 1990). They have been protesting for years and have received widespread global support. This has given rise to fears in Malaysia that such publicity may result in bans on Malaysian timber exports and indirectly threaten the economic well-being of Malaysia. Currently, timber brings in M$8.7 billion in export earnings (US$3.1 billion) (Far Eastern Economic Review, 1 August 1991); losses from the sale of tropical timber would have a seriously adverse impact on Malaysia’s economic growth and development. In its Outline Perspective Plan 2, growth projections in Malaysia are premised on attracting continuing foreign investment. The maintaining of a “stable” society is crucial. Malaysia’s dependence on export markets outside the region, and the vicissitudes of the market in primary products continue to make the national economy vulnerable to downturns in the West and in Japan. The state is painfully aware that continuing adverse media criticism of Malaysia and a concomitant focus on lack of accountability, economic mismanagement, social tensions, and human rights violations may lead to an “investment strike” by foreign investors in Malaysia. Consequently, the Malaysian state has sought to control the media agenda so that it would not suffer as a result of unfavourable media treatment. In promoting a cultural relativist and an affirmative autonomous position, the Malaysian state seeks to both legitimize its record on democratic and human rights and assert its independence. In effect, it is saying that Malaysia is democratic and should not be judged by “certain particular (that is, Western) yardsticks” (Age, 20 July 1991). This geopolitical posturing and practice has enabled Malaysia to insert and “reterritorialize” itself within the global network of power. This, however, could only be achieved through a reconstruction of itself within world politics. That is why, in adopting a high profile in the global arena, Malaysia has been incessantly critical of the West, cultivating a non-Western image while limiting its exposure to the public gaze. In so doing, Malaysia has sought to map out markers which may induce, con-

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solidate, and extend its influence and power. These markers both disempower and constrain critiques of the state. The “Look East” policy, for example, promulgated by Dr Mahathir when he became Prime Minister in 1981, was oriented with reference to Japan’s all-important position as Malaysia’s major trading partner and source of foreign investment. Equally importantly, in “looking East” and in castigating the West, Malaysia re-established its “post-colonial identity” (During 1985). By enhancing its anti-colonial credentials, Malaysia graduated to acquire the mantle of Third World leadership which enabled it to regain “autonomy” and to strategically subvert Western domination. The image of Malaysia as anti-West and anti-colonial thus provides a bulwark against international pressures, helping it to take its place in the world. “(Re)Writing” Malaysia and global politics

In this regard, Malaysia’s international posture has an interesting correspondence with the ambivalence and “referential instability” of the textual practices of post-structuralism in Western academia. Malaysia’s critique of the West is akin to Derrida’s notion of deconstruction (Derrida 1978, pp. 278–93). In articulating this critique, Malaysia demonstrates the potency of the voice from the margins. In establishing itself as an important voice of the post-colonial world, Malaysia is able to mobilize collective support for its position from other nations which have similarly endured the “injustice” of Western criticism. In tackling issues relating to the environment, the nature of wealth distribution within the global community, Western hypocrisy in regard to non-military intervention in the Bosnian conflict, and Western cultural imperialism via the media, Malaysia has demonstrated the capacity for “middle powers” to influence the tenor of world politics. This has all been astutely done where the Malaysian state has posited for itself a “subaltern” (that is, national and ex-colonial) position through which it has been allowed to reinscribe itself in a different relation of power. Is it possible to comment meaningfully on the way in which Malaysia has achieved this position? Following Bhabha, it could be argued that the Malaysian state has cleverly employed the twin strategies of “mimicry” (1984) and “hybridity”

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(1985a) to invert its power relationship with the West. Via the discourses of economic growth and “Asian democracy”, Malaysia has been able to reinvent itself as a success story while criticizing the West for its sclerotic development. In mimicking the “successful West”, Malaysia subverts the identity of that which is being “imitated”. In the process, the relation with the West, if not altogether reversed, certainly begins to vacillate. As Bhabha puts it: [Mimicry is] a process by which the look of surveillance returns as the disciplinary gaze of the disciplined, where the observer becomes the observed and the “partial” representation rearticulates the whole notion of identity and alienates it from essence. (Bhabha 1984, p. 129)

Through this “partial representation”, Malaysia appears familiar and comes to resemble the — economically successful and internationally powerful — West”; yet menacingly seeks to challenge its hegemony in the social, economic, and political realms. It is thus that the mimic disrupts and destabilizes the prevailing stereotype. The process produces a loss of agency on the part of the “colonizer” as it tries to second guess the “native’s” sinister intent, enabling the “colonized” to rearticulate itself within the prevailing grids of power. In a similar vein, Malaysia has also been able to broker for itself a “hybrid” role in post-colonial world politics. Through its embrace of the “free market” and “democracy”, Malaysia embodies an “Asian democracy” which straddles and articulates colonial and native knowledges. The “success” in this project has enabled Malaysia to enact active forms of resistance against a universal inscription of international rules of conduct. This is particularly noticeable in the discussions on human rights and the Bosnia conflict, discussions which, Malaysia claims, are “Westerndriven”. With regard to Bosnia, Malaysia has attributed to the “West” a failure in leadership, and asserted that any “Western” position on human rights can only be hypocritical, as the “West” has failed to secure fundamental rights for the Bosnians. This “strategic reversal of the process of domination”, in effect, reimplicates the “colonial” authority and “turn[s] the gaze of the discriminated back upon the eye of power” (Bhabha 1985a, p. 154), calling into question the efficacy of the “West”.

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“Positioning” a conclusion

Malaysia’s political relationship and discontent with the West clearly has not arisen in a vacuum. It is a problem that affects both parties; both are prisoners of history in so far as both rely upon or are informed by received ensembles of assumptions and knowledge of each “other”. Both seek to set up an “authentic Other” — a “true East” and a “true West” which are affixed as permanent and natural antipodes, “absolutizing” each other. While Western governments’ policies have been and are informed by their imperial “pasts”, Malaysia’s position is one of a reaction to the West just as much as one shaped by the colonial past. In this context, the perception of the excesses of Western materialism, and that the “West” does not want to see the “East” developed and advanced, as such development may pose a threat to the “West”, begins to makes a special sense. This perception has seen Malaysia seeking to construct a “East” that is an antithesis to the “West”. This quest to be the obverse of the “West”, as Nandy has pointed out in his study of the “Uncolonised Mind”, only constricts choices and forces the “Eastern man” to “stress only those parts of his culture which are recessive in the West and to underplay both those which his culture shares with the West and those which remain undefined by the West”, paradoxically binding it “even more irrevocably to the West” (Nandy 1983, p. 73; see also Memmi 1967). This double bind — the cleaving to and from the West — has been very much a preoccupation of the Malaysian state under Mahathir’s leadership. In the search for an anti-Western national identity Malaysia, like other post-colonial states, has sought to reintroduce agency into the closed frameworks and representational categories inscribed by colonial powers. What Malaysia shows is that it is possible to restore a degree of autonomy and self-determination to the marginals by the twin strategy of subverting dominant (Western) discourses and mobilizing the countercurrents to these discourses. Taylor (1992) has described, in another context, this type of negotiational possibility as the “politics of recognition”. In such a politics, identity and recognition can only be forged through dialogical interactions and relations with others. Whilst the contradictions remain, and must remain, this politics enables the transgression of space within and without, leaving the historical trajectory of

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the country, its identity, and quest for recognition, open to the democratic innovations of human agency. Another strand running through Malaysian state discourse, and in particular Dr Mahathir’s ire at the “West”, is the view that there are irreconciliable differences between the “West” and the “East”. In the mind of Dr Mahathir, East must remain East and West, West. As Kwame Anthony Appiah (1992) and others have reminded us, indigenous religious, moral, and intellectual traditions were never as fully pervaded by colonialism as the colonial authorities and nationalists might have desired. What we must emphasize in our task as analysts is not that a society is necessarily enclosed within its own scaffolding of values and preconceptions; but rather that there is a partial opacity of different conceptual worlds to one another. The Malaysian case clearly demonstrates this partiality. Through “suffusing” values and ideas derived from forms first communicated by the West, Malaysia has been able to advance its own strategic interests. Notwithstanding therefore the moral vigour and righteousness of the Malaysian state’s rhetoric, the truth remains fuzzy and is not as stark as the state would have us believe. In this chapter, I have tried to demonstrate the value and import of adopting a cultural analysis approach in examining the dynamism and interacting relationships between the representations and interventions of a nation-state (Malaysia) vis-à-vis global society. I have attempted to demonstrate that a greater appreciation of Malaysia’s current positioning, problems, and discomfort in its dealings with the West are rooted in its colonial experience, its position and sense of place in the world, as well as in the search for national identity. The present role of Malaysia in global politics cannot be solely envisaged as the reworking of a particular spatial paradigm of East versus West. What takes place, instead, involves the implementation of a series of creative revisions which register the eager transition from a colonial framework to a post-colonial one. In the post-colonial space, a nationstate like Malaysia would enjoy greater freedom to engage in more equitable dialogues with other nations in an increasingly fluid global exchange. However, in attempting to unravel these representational positionings and the associated claims of the politics of difference and identity, this chapter has rejected the Malaysian polarization of “Us”

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and “Them” , “Asia” and “the West”: the differences between “Us” and “Them”, and the threat to “Us” by “Them”, may be very real in the way they are socially experienced. Nonetheless, these — real and/or imaginary — differences can also be subverted and strategically deployed in political struggle. What I have argued in this chapter is that the postcolonial stance taken by Malaysia and its aggressive cultural renegotiation of its place in the world are motivated by powerful ideological concerns. Malaysia’s incursions into the global arena illustrate the limitation of a stable and hegemonic Western discourse. They also mark, as Said (1989, pp. 222–23) has suggested, a sign of crisis within European colonialism and, one suspects, in a post–Cold War world order in which the dominant role of the West no longer goes unquestioned. The deconstructive efforts of the Malaysian state can thus be read as being a key part of the representational claims of the post-colonial world — claims which the Anglo-American West will have to take seriously. NOTE 1. See, for example, the various reports in the following: New Straits Times (NST), 28 July, 2 August, and 14 August 1991; Sunday Star, 28 July 1991; Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), 13 and 20 August 1992; Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), 4 August 1982; Australian, 6–7 July 1991. REFERENCES Aijaz Ahmad. “Jameson’s Rhetoric of Otherness and the ‘National Allegory’”. Social Text 17 (1987): 3–25. Appiah, K.A. In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. London: Methuen, 1992. Baudrillard, J. In the Shadows of the Silent Majority. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983. Bhabha, H. “The Other Question — The Stereotype and Colonial Discourse”. Screen 24, no. 6 (1983): 18–36. . “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”. October 28 (1984): 125–33. . “Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817”. In Europe and Its Others, edited by F. Barker et al. Colchester: University of Essex, 1985a.

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. “Sly Civility”. October 34 (1985b): 71–80. Buzan, B. People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post–Cold War Era. Brighton: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991a. . “New Patterns of Global Security in the Twenty-First Century”. International Affairs 67, no. 3 (1991b): 431–51. Calleo, D. The Imperious Economy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982. Chaudhuri, K. Asia Before Europe: Economy and Civilisation of the Indian Ocean from the Rise of Islam to 1750. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Datuk Abdullah Ahmad. “Malaysian Foreign Policy: A Critique”. In Malaysian Foreign Policy: Issues and Perspectives, edited by Mohammed Azhari Karim, L.D. Howell, and G. Okuda. Kuala Lumpur: Institut Tadbiran Awam Negara, 1990. Deleuze, G. and C. Parnet. Dialogues. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987. Derrida, J. Writing and Difference. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1978. During, S. “Postmodernism or Postcolonialism?” Landfall 39 (1985): 366–80. Dyer, R. “White”. Screen 29, no. 4 (1988): 44–64. Fukuyama, F. “The End of History?” National Interest 16 (1989): 3–18. Gilroy, P. “One Nation under a Groove: The Cultural Politics of ‘Race’ and Racism in Britain”. In Cultural Studies, edited by L. Grossberg et al. New York: Routledge, 1990. Hamilton, A. “Fear and Desire: Aborigines, Asians and the National Imaginary”. Australian Cultural History 9 (1990): 14–35. Jenkins, K. Re-Thinking History. London: Routledge, 1991. Keesing, R. “Asian Cultures?” Asian Studies Review 15, no. 2 (1991): 43–50. Mahathir Mohamad and S. Ishihara. The Voice of Asia. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1995. Memmi, A. The Coloniser and the Colonised. Boston: Beacon Press, 1967. Nandy, A. The Intimate Enemy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. Ravenhill, J. “The New Disorder in the Periphery”. In The Post-Cold War Order: Diagnoses and Prognoses, edited by R. Leaver and J.L. Richardson. Canberra: Australian National University, 1993. Said, E. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978. . “Representing the Colonised: Anthropology’s Interlocutors”. Critical Inquiry 15, no. 2 (1989): 205–25. Saravanamuttu, J. “Malaysia’s Foreign Policy, 1957–1980”. In Government and Politics of Malaysia, edited by Zakaria Haji Ahmad. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1987.

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Shaw, M. “Global Society and Global Responsibility: The Theoretical, Historical and Political Limits of ‘International Society’”. Millennium 21, no. 3 (1992): 421– 34. Taylor, C. “The Politics of Recognition”. In Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition”, edited by A. Gutmann. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992. Williams, R. Keywords. London: Flamingo, 1983. Wong, L. “Green Gold and Local Space”. Paper presented to the Socialist Scholars Conference, September 1990, Melbourne. Zakaria Haji Ahmad. “Malaysia’s Foreign Policy: Looking Back and Looking Ahead, or Looking Outwards and Moving Inwards?” In Malaysian Foreign Policy: Issues and Perspectives, edited by Mohammed Azhari Karim, L.D. Howell, and G. Okuda. Kuala Lumpur: Institut Tadbiran Awam Negara, 1990.

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(De)constructing the New Order: capitalism and the cultural contours of the patrimonial state in Indonesia MARK T. BERGER

The dominant international visions of political and economic change regularly represent the major trend in the post–Cold War era as an inexorable and beneficent march towards global democratic capitalist modernity under the leadership of the United States (Yergin and Stanislaw 1998; Friedman 1999). The virtuous connection between economic and political liberalism and the democratizing effect of a rising middle class continues to be emphasized by a range of commentators. Prior to the financial crisis in 1997–98 and the end of Soeharto’s rule in early 1998, the most influential approaches to the Indonesian trajectory already hoped, if not expected, that the country was winding its way towards democratic capitalist modernity (MacIntyre 1990, 1994). For example, in 1994, John Bresnan, a former long-time Jakarta-based employee of the Ford Foundation, argued that the “general direction” of political development in Indonesia (as well as in a number of other countries in the region) was “that of expanding the political élites, opening the contestation of public office, widening the process of consultation and consensusbuilding, and in other ways increasing the transparency of government”. He concluded that in Southeast Asia the civilian and military structures of the state were “on the defensive” and “the urban middle-classes” were

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“on the rise” (Bresnan 1994, p. 58). Meanwhile, in a 1996 cover story on Southeast Asia, a correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review observed that “economic growth — and the middle class it nurtures — may drum the soldiers back to barracks”; however, he conceded that 1 this would not take place “overnight” (Tasker 1996, p. 21). The 1997–98 financial crisis (which acted as a major catalyst for a looming social and political crisis centred on the rent-seeking and corruption of the Soeharto family) strengthened the expectation that authoritarianism and patrimonialism were about to pass into history under the cleansing pressure of political and economic liberalization. For example, an editorial in the Far Eastern Economic Review in late November 1997 emphasized that Soeharto’s finance minister had been able to close banks that belonged to members of the Soeharto family and that increased accountability could be expected in so far as it is “a function of the rising standards that come with emergence of a middle class” (“Suharto’s Choice: Patriarch or Patriot?” Far Eastern Economic Review, 20 November 1997, p. 5). Eighteen months later, the elections in June 1999 were heralded by most commentators, despite ready acknowledgment of the continuing influence of the legacy of Soeharto’s New Order, as the dawn of a new era in Indonesia (Murphy 1999a, pp. 8–10). Shortly before the elections, one journalist emphasized that Indonesians were “nurturing their freedom, despite economic stringency” and “if this surprisingly good start continues, if the election result is accepted as fair, if the haggling before the November presidential vote yields a stable government”, then “Indonesia has a second chance at democracy” (McDonald 1999, pp. 4–5). Not long after the election, the veteran Southeast Asian correspondent, John McBeth, observed that “civil society, becalmed for three decades by Soeharto’s exclusionary policies, is flowering into a more intrusive force that will demand the attention of the élite” (McBeth 1999, p. 20). These approaches, which are representative of the dominant Anglo-American narrative on political and economic change, rest on a unilinear and evolutionary conception of history and define democracy in minimalist terms (elections, universal suffrage, and relative press freedom). They continue to assume that Indonesia is, or at least ought to be, moving towards a universalized form of democratic capitalist modernity based on a romanticized version of the history of the United States (Berger, forthcoming).

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In contrast, this chapter argues that Indonesia cannot be expected to conform to the stylized conception of economic and political change 2 that is characteristic of influential Anglo-American narratives of progress. Of course, this is not to suggest, as defenders of both the New Order and of other authoritarian political arrangements in the region have done, that economic and political change in Indonesia follows a mysterious Eastern path and democracy represents a Western and irrelevant set of ideas and institutions (Berger 1996; Bourchier 1998). But, despite the apparent growth of a middle class in Indonesia, it constitutes a very small percentage of the country’s population and is composed of many groups that reinforce the authoritarian character of the overall polity as well as those that provide the enlightened liberal democratic leadership of popular and academic imagination (Sundhaussen 1989; Robison 1990, 3 1996). The view taken here is that the rise and demise of Soeharto’s New Order is most usefully understood with reference to historical structures and shifting relations of power, while paying close attention to the cultural and representational dynamics of state authority. The way in which Soeharto’s patrimonial state represented itself, and deployed influential cultural ideas and concepts to bolster its dominance, will be foregrounded.4 While the country’s patrimonial system was grounded in decades of impressive economic growth and a centralized and coercive politico-military apparatus, Soeharto’s rule was also bolstered by the New Order state’s sustained deployment of a panoply of cultural concepts and ideas. These cultural concepts and ideas emphasized national unity under Soeharto’s continued leadership and worked to legitimate and naturalize the hierarchical and patrimonial character of Indonesia’s political economy. Ultimately, social and political change is best understood by looking at the ongoing shifts in power relations, the emergence of new and reconfigured social forces, as well as the cultural changes that have been integral to capitalist transformation and the emergence and decline of the New Order in Indonesia. The genesis of the patrimonial state: Dutch colonialism and the social and cultural roots of the New Order

The patrimonial state which was consolidated during Soeharto’s New Order can be understood as the direct successor to the complex histori-

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cal amalgam which was the Dutch colonial state. East Timor aside, Indonesia continues to lay claim to the former Dutch colonial boundaries as they were laid down by the beginning of the twentieth century. Apart from the same boundaries, the historic connection between the New Order and the colonial era was also apparent in socio-ethnic terms in so far as the Javanese priyayi (the hereditary petty aristocracy of Java) continued to reproduce itself and play a central role in the bureaucratic (and military) structures of the modern Indonesia state. Even before the Dutch conquest, Java was heavily populated, agriculturally significant, and a regional power centre. In the context of Dutch colonial expansion, the petty aristocracy of Java was transformed into a bureaucratic élite and incorporated into the colonial state apparatus (Sutherland 1979). Already well entrenched in the colonial system, the priyayi benefited the most from the expansion of the colonial education system at the end of the nineteenth century. As a result, the Javanese élite took up most of the administrative jobs in the growing colonial state at the same time, as a number of the early Dutch-educated leaders of the Indonesian nationalist movement also came from priyayi backgrounds. The number of priyayi grew dramatically, through both birth and recruitment, as they reproduced and consolidated themselves as a relatively distinctive social class at the centre of the wider pangreh pradja. The term means “rulers of the realm” and refers to the indigenous (usually Javanese) administrative élite prior to 1945. In 1946 the post-colonial administrative élite was renamed pamong praja, “guides of the realm”. By the end of the colonial period there was a large and variegated colonial state staffed by the pangreh pradja drawn particularly from the petty aristocracy of Java. In the early nationalist period they were marginalized. However, with the support of an increasingly powerful military, the pamong praja enjoyed a resurgence in the late 1950s, which was reflected in the growing influence of organicist political ideas and culminated in a virtual restoration in 1965–66 (Bourchier 1998). While the priyayi dominated the lower and middle ranks of the Dutch colonial state, their influence was much weaker in the emerging nationalist movement. Anti-colonial nationalism did not take hold in the Netherlands East Indies until the early twentieth century, but throughout the colonial period local and regional rebellions and acts of resistance

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had shaped the wider historical trajectory in important ways (see, for example, Stoler 1985, pp. 14–92). However, they rarely threatened Dutch colonial rule as a whole. Even the emergent nationalist movement of the 1920s, over which the colony’s nascent labour movement and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) exercised considerable influence, was unable to overcome the myriad forms of accommodation and co-optation or the repressive capacity deployed by an increasingly powerful colonial state (von Albertini 1982, pp. 487–513). In 1934, by which time the nationalist movement was dominated by urban intellectuals, Soekarno (who would become independent Indonesia’s first president) and many other major nationalist leaders were banished to remote islands where they languished until the Japanese invasion in 1942. The Japanese surge into Southeast Asia in the early 1940s dealt a blow to European colonialism in Asia generally, while imperial Japan’s occupation of the Netherlands East Indies led to the release and encouragement of the jailed nationalist leaders. The pangreh pradja often did well during the Japanese Occupation (a shared enthusiasm for organicist and totalitarian political philosophy ensured common ground between many colonial officials and the Japanese occupiers). But the Japanese era also marked the beginning of widespread rivalry between the Javanese élite and other social classes for control of the emergent Indonesian state. An important element in this struggle was the struggle between the conservative and organicist ideas of the pangreh pradja and the more egalitarian, democratic, and Islamic orientation of radical nationalists. The Japanese gave Soekarno and Hatta, as well as other Indonesian nationalists, important opportunities in the form of various mass-based political organizations to reach out to the people in the rural areas. The Japanese army also set up auxiliary armies in Sumatra, Java, and Bali, using local officers, thus providing the nationalists with a future source of military power. They encouraged greater use of Bahasa Indonesia as a national language as well as providing jobs in the bureaucracy for an increased number of “Indonesians”. On the eve of the Japanese defeat a plan was promulgated by Soekarno and Hatta and the Japanese high command for Southeast Asia which laid the groundwork for an independent republic of Indonesia. On 17 August 1945, just after the Japanese surrender, Indonesia declared its independence. This led to a four-

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year battle for control of the archipelago (Anderson 1990, pp. 99–100). By the end of 1948, most of the former colonial administration was in Dutch hands as were all the main urban centres while Soekarno, Hatta, and other leading nationalists had been detained. At the same time, the Dutch still faced highly localized popular military resistance, especially on Sumatra and Java. This, combined with strong U.S. diplomatic and financial pressure and Dutch war-weariness, led to the formal transfer of power to the independent United States of Indonesia in 1949 (McMahon 1981). By 1950 the initial decentralized federal system had been replaced by a unitary republic which fell much more under direct Javanese control. Between 1950 and 1957 this fragile nation-state was governed by a number of elected administrations which sought to stabilize and unify the archipelago and reintegrate a state structure which kept alive the “collective memory” of the pre-1949 struggles. The overall coherence of the state was also undermined by the way successive administrations dramatically expanded the size of the civil service along patronage lines. At the same time between 1950 and 1957 all governments were coalition administrations, further facilitating departmental fragmentation (Anderson 1990, pp. 100–3). From 1950 to 1957 the Indonesian state under Soekarno sought to reform the economic structures of Dutch colonial rule via the encouragement of pribumi (indigenous, that is non-Chinese) capitalists. By the second half of the 1950s, as the republic lurched towards the populist authoritarianism which Soekarno called Guided Democracy, it was apparent that Indonesian capitalists were unable to compete effectively with Dutch and other foreign corporations, not to mention the powerful Indonesian-Chinese business groups. Many of the new pribumi capitalists increasingly co-operated with established Indonesian-Chinese businesses, with the former providing the political linkages rather than anything resembling business acumen. In most instances where foreign capital had left Indonesia it was Indonesian-Chinese capital that had taken its place. At the same time, very little expansion of the industrial sector had occurred (Robison 1986, pp. 42–44, 57). Between independence and the late 1950s a series of increasingly weak coalition governments grappled unsuccessfully with the new nation’s economic problems, while military and civilian officials increasingly sought to mesh their political

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dominance with wider social and economic power (Robison 1989, pp. 383–84). By the late 1950s the Indonesian state had clearly turned to an “intensified nationalist strategy” which involved increased intervention to restructure the economy and the takeover of a great deal of Dutch-owned property. By the second half of the 1950s the central government was also confronting serious rebellions in the Outer Islands, which were often coloured by ethno-religious opposition to Javanese dominance. By the early 1960s, although the Outer Islands rebellions had been contained, they had resulted in further increases in power for the Indonesian Army (ABRI). With important implications for the eventual emergence of the New Order, ABRI also assumed a dramatically expanded economic role, taking over direct control of large sectors of the economy after 1957. Apart from the military, Soekarno’s Guided Democracy rested on a complex web of political alliances which revolved around the nationalist party (Partai Nasional Indonesia, PNI), the PKI, and a major Muslim party. He played these parties off against each other at the same time as he pitted the mainly anti-communist military against the PKI. Guided Democracy, underpinned by Soekarno’s strident anti-Western nationalism and idiosyncratic socialism, represented an explicitly stateled attempt at capitalist development. The Indonesian state directed earnings from the primary export sector into the manufacturing sector mostly owned and operated by the state. Export earnings were also directed towards public works, health, food production, education transportation, and repayment of foreign debts. At the same time the state sought to attract new foreign loans in an effort to further expand the country’s industrial base and its infrastructure. By the early 1960s, however, stagnation and decline in the sugar and rubber sectors, combined with falling commodity prices, had resulted in a shortage of funds and a serious balance of payments problem. Furthermore, the nationalization of large parts of the economy had done little to attract foreign investment. By the first half of the 1960s, Indonesia’s economy was on the brink of collapse. Inflation was hitting 600 per cent annually, foreign debt was climbing rapidly and statistics on income and food intake per capita rivalled some of the poorest countries in the world (Dixon 1991, pp. 191–92).

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By mid-1964, Soekarno had become very ill and it was increasingly apparent that the country’s fragile power structure was in crisis. There were regular rumours of an impending military coup and/or a PKI-led putsch. The sequence of events during the fateful years of 1965 and 1966 are complex and many aspects are hotly debated. Although Soekarno was nominally still in charge in late 1965, the Indonesian military, with U.S. military aid and CIA support, and the direct participation of a host of paramilitary Muslim youth groups, turned on the PKI and its supporters. By mid-1966 the CIA and the State Department, to give just one estimate, calculated that anywhere between 250,000 and 500,000 alleged PKI members had been killed (in mid1965 the PKI was reckoned to have 3 million members as well as 12 million people in associated organizations). At the same time at least 200,000 people were imprisoned, with about 55,000 of them still in jail a decade later (Kolko 1988, pp. 173–85). It was out of the bloodshed, crisis, and turmoil of the mid-1960s that the New Order emerged. The rise of Soeharto’s New Order: the social and cultural dynamics of the patrimonial state

The crisis-ridden years of 1945–65 can be seen as the period in which the Javanese-led bureaucratic-aristocratic élite (the pamong praja) eventually reconsolidated their position within the wider post-colonial social formation. The administrative élite maintained its relative predominance as a result of its control over the new Indonesian Army set up in the early 1940s. Many army officers were of priyayi origin, and up to the 1960s, most were also products of the PETA, the armed forces set up by the Japanese in 1943–45. Officers and soldiers who had been trained by, and/or served the Dutch in, the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) were also integrated into the Indonesian Army (of course many thousands also went into exile in the Netherlands after 1949). For example, the Army Chief of Staff by the late 1950s, General A.H. Nasution, was a product of KNIL and married to a priyayi. The officers who entered PETA during the Japanese Occupation were strongly influenced by a Javanese cultural nationalism, at the same time as they articulated virulent anti-communism and a expressed marked hostility to the political Islam which was particularly prevalent outside of Java.

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The Indonesian army went on to preserve pamong praja dominance in the Islamic revolts in the Outer Islands in 1958–59. In the specific context of the expansion and deepening of its commitment to the politicoeconomic management of Indonesia under Soekarno (which was reflected in the promulgation of dwifungsi in 1958), the Indonesian military had become central to the process of national unification and statebuilding by the early 1960s (dwifungsi, dual function, explicitly committed the military to a socio-political as well as a military defence role). In this situation the Indonesian Army eventually emerged to guarantee wider priyayi and pamong praja dominance after 1965 (Magenda 1988, pp. 350–53). The events of 1965–66 had a particular social and cultural resonance and an important legitimating function for the new military-dominated state. From one perspective, the mass killings of suspected PKI members and supporters was the culminating battle in an escalating Javanese civil war. The élite interpretation, which was offered to the Javanese lower classes and the peasantry, emphasized that the era of civil war on Java had precipitated social polarization between classes, and by ending class conflict and returning to their “cultural heritage”, the peasants of Java could successfully avoid a recurrence of 1965 (Magenda 1988, pp. 354–55). For the country as a whole, the bloody events of 1965–66 and their official interpretation shaped the nature of post-1965 politics and the contour of the New Order itself. The official interpretation of Pengkhianatan G-3-S/PKI (the Treachery of the 30 September Movement/PKI) is central to a wider state-centred anti-communist discourse which played an important role in reorganizing the entire Indonesian social formation (Heryanto 1996, pp. 242, 259–60). In the official interpretation Soeharto and the military saved the nation from a communist takeover and remained vigilant ever after. After 1965, priyayi-led officers, with Soeharto at their head, represented the vanguard in the wider process of building the New Order state, while the pamong praja oversaw the consolidation of a more centralized bureaucratic administration (Magenda 1988, pp. 352–53; Bourchier 1998, pp. 152–57, 161– 62). The New Order marked a restoration of conservative social forces, such as the pamong praja, marginalized during the early national period.

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Soeharto’s rise to power also paved the way for the adaptation of organicist ideas and concerted attempts to represent New Order Indonesia as a Negara Integralistik (Integralist State). The official interpretation of the abortive coup of 1 October 1965 became a key cultural anchor of the New Order and reinforced the patrimonial state’s version of Indonesian nationalism emphasizing anti-communism, Pancasila, organicism (integralism), and pembangunan (development). Meanwhile, in geostrategic and politico-economic terms, Soeharto’s elimination of the PKI and his regime’s anti-communist credentials were central to the circumstances under which the United States and its allies quickly embarked on a major effort to reincorporate Indonesia into the world economy. This included generous quantities of aid and a considerable amount of debt re-scheduling. Under the guidance of a group of U.S.-trained technocrats, known as the “Berkeley Mafia”, the state actively solicited foreign investment, particularly from the United States and Japan. From the mid-1960s, until at least the early 1980s, the New Order regime pursued an import-substitution industrialization strategy financed by growing foreign investment, as well as by foreign aid and some domestic investment. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the context of a continuing commitment to an import-substitution industrialization strategy, an increasingly significant pribumi (non-Chinese Indonesian) capitalist élite appeared. Their power was based on privileged access to the state-controlled network of credit, contract distribution, trade monopolies, foreign partnership, and manufacturing licensing arrangements. Many of these rising capitalists had close links to officials ( pamong praja) who were well placed in the state. At the same time, a growing number of state officials emerged as capitalists in their own right, the most famous of whom were the “bureaucratic capitalist families” of the Soehartos and the Sutowos. However, the general cohesiveness of an emerging capitalist élite, based on preferential access to state power, was still relatively narrow because most key business people were IndonesianChinese, whose growing economic power remained dependent on the socio-political power of the state officials (Robison 1989, pp. 384–85). Until the mid-1970s, the state was heavily indebted to U.S.-backed international agencies and foreign investors. This had meant adopting macro-economic policies that were receptive to the interests of foreign

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capital. However, the dramatic increase in oil prices in the 1970s provided the New Order with the means to return to an even more statecentred capitalist model within a decade of its inception. In the first years of the 1980s, gas and oil sales were over 80 per cent of export earnings and brought in 70 per cent of the regime’s total revenue. The rise in revenue, combined with increased state investment in importsubstitution, served to bring about a dwindling of the regime’s reliance on foreign capital and foreign aid. Renewed restrictions were placed on foreign capital and overall foreign investment reached a plateau in the mid-1970s. By the early 1980s state-guided industrialization was financed primarily by oil money (Dixon 1991, pp. 195–200). However, as oil prices dropped in the 1980s the whole system came under pressure. This resulted in increasing debt and a decreased capacity on the part of the state to facilitate local capital accumulation, while greater use of foreign loans and foreign aid led to greater leverage on the part of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and foreign capital. The World Bank, for instance, was beginning to place increasing emphasis on economic liberalization and kerbing state intervention. The shift in economic policy facilitated an increase in the influx of foreign capital in the late 1980s, much of it from Japan (as well as South Korea and Taiwan), and the rapid emergence of an exportindustry sector, producing things like textiles and footwear, strengthening Indonesia’s connections to wider regional and global capital (Stubbs 1994, p. 372; Matsui 1996, pp. 39–58). Bapak pembangunan: the social and cultural (re)construction of the patrimonial state

These broad politico-economic shifts dictated in part by wider trends in the global political economy occurred in the context of the continued and growing emphasis on the social and cultural (and political) centrality of the New Order. In the second half of the 1970s, the New Order increasingly sought to reinvent and entrench Pancasila, the five principles of belief in one God, humanitarianism, nationalism, consensus, democracy and social justice as the philosophical basis for an independent Indonesia (Ramage 1995, pp. 1–44). In early 1974 the Malari Riots had signalled growing discontent amongst the populace and an increase

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in intra-élite conflict. The New Order’s response, which occurred against the backdrop of the dramatic influx of oil revenues, was to consolidate and tighten the structures of state control. By 1975 the New Order was characterized by a comprehensive surveillance and security network and a narrow and tightly controlled political system which had eliminated or completely reorganized the country’s political parties. This was complemented by a large and growing state apparatus, linked from top to bottom to the military and centred on President Soeharto. While in the immediate post-1965 period, the priorities of the New Order had been overwhelmingly economic, from 1975 until the middle of the 1980s, the regime focused on expanding the state apparatus and ideological education and indoctrination. The ideological education and indoctrination was aimed at inculcating Pancasila (especially among government employees, university students, and school children) as the “sole basis” of Indonesian national identity. Emphasizing the values of order, leadership, hierarchy, and family, Pancasila was represented as being grounded in Indonesian tradition and as offering a national alternative to pernicious foreign ideologies such as liberalism and Marxism. While the national ideology of Pancasila is backed up by a powerful state apparatus, its success also flows from the way the government was able to identify the New Order and Pancasila with what it defined as national character and national tradition. The impact of Pancasila, however, should not be exaggerated, in so far as many Indonesians are clearly aware of its contradictions and shortcomings. Nonetheless it has acted as a powerful complement to the overtly coercive aspects of state power and successfully constrained political debate in Indonesia for many years. Some New Order officials also attempted to revive the idea of Indonesia as a Negara Integralistik (Integralist State), which was seen to have its origins in Indonesia’s pre-colonial history and had informed the thinking of conservative members of the Indonesian élite for years. Integralist ideas enjoyed considerable currency in military circles, and in the late 1980s they were promoted in an attempt to reshape Pancasila in a way that preserved the role of the military in the wider Indonesian polity and to provide scientific and scholarly legitimacy as well as popular sup5 port for the New Order as a whole. Against the backdrop of an image of the Indonesian nation as a

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united and harmonious family, a related aspect of the hegemony of the New Order was the production of a powerful Indonesian development ( pembangunan) discourse. It was a discourse which exhorted Indonesians to work together to develop the nation and bring about economic takeoff, under the leadership of the “father of development” (Bapak Pembangunan) Soeharto. Significantly, what was also invoked and appropriated in this period was a pre-colonial past in which the Javanese aristocracy played a key role. Altogether, these themes, along with the complexity and hybridity of the wider post-colonial Indonesian social formation, were in evidence at “Beautiful Indonesia”-in-Miniature Park (Taman Mini “Indonesia Indah”), a key site for the New Order’s efforts to generate national unity and reconfigure the Javanese aristocratic past to fit the New Order present (Pemberton 1994a, pp. 148–235, 269– 318). Taman Mini was completed and opened in Jakarta in the mid1970s and had apparently been “inspired” by Mrs Soeharto’s visit to Disneyland in 1971. Apart from the Borobudur and Yogyakarta pavilions, a key aspect of the park was twenty-six pavilions modelled on “customary houses” and symbolizing the country’s twenty-six provinces. After 1975 there was an East Timor pavilion, which unlike the other pavilions, was air-conditioned, had an Indonesian flag flying much of the time, as well as an armed guard. The primary backers of “Beautiful Indonesia” are the Jakarta-based élite of Central Java (Pemberton 1994a, pp. 241, 246–47). A key aspect of the theme park which reflects the dominant position of the élite of Central Java is the Grand Place-of-Importance Audience Hall (Pendopo Agung Sasono Utomo). This hall, which has a Javanese rather than an Indonesian name, was constructed in a style based on the customary aristocratic dwellings of Central Java. More particularly, the model for the Grand Audience Hall was the oldest existing palace of Central Java. This is the Palace of Surakarta (Kraton Surakarta), which was built in 1745 under Dutch East India Company auspices. Under the direct influence of the Dutch, this palace came to embody “Javanese” difference, which would retrospectively be increasingly held up as typically Javanese. At the time of the founding of the Palace of Surakarta in 1745, royal Banyan trees (the Banyan tree is used as a royal symbol by Javanese sultans and is also the GOLKAR logo) were dug up

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and relocated from the old palace grounds to the new. And to ensure that the historical and aristocratic reverberations were not missed at the park’s opening in 1975 a ritual offering in which Imelda Marcos planted a Banyan tree was organized (Pemberton 1994a, pp. 247–50). Later, the state also built an important museum at “Beautiful Indonesia”. While it was built in a Balinese style, the actual contents and programme of the museum reinforced a Javanese-centred national hierarchy. The central exhibit is a “Diorama of a Traditional Wedding Ceremony for Central Javanese Aristocrats” while the wedding’s mannequin guests are, according to the official guidebook, attired in “traditional costumes from almost all areas of Indonesia” in order to “demonstrate the spirit of Unity in Diversity”. Three years after the opening of the Indonesian Museum, a real wedding was held in the Audience Hall at “Beautiful Indonesia”. On 8 May 1983 Siti Hediati, the daughter of the President married Major Prabowo Subianto, the son of Sumitro, a major economic adviser to Soeharto. The wedding was well-attended and well publicized, and Javanese tradition meshed with the contemporary administrative might and splendour of the New Order state (Pemberton 1994a, pp. 250–55). The power of the Java-centred élite and the cultural panoply of the New Order, which are celebrated and reinforced at Taman Mini, have been transformed and mediated by the wider processes of the global political economy and uneven capitalist development. While many priyayi, in keeping with the historic bureaucratic and administrative role of the Javanese aristocracy, continue to take part in private business only indirectly through Indonesian-Chinese capitalists, under the New Order a growing number of priyayi, not least the President’s children, have taken up a direct and dominant role in commerce (Sender 1996; Shari 6 1997). The patrimonial state in crisis: the decline and fall of Soeharto’s New Order

Prior to the current crisis, Soeharto and his family were already becoming a symbol of the inequalities of contemporary Indonesia and the excesses of the New Order. By the late 1980s and early 1990s a growing number of Indonesians, led by secular and Islamic intellectuals, activ-

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ists, journalists, lawyers, and students, had begun mobilizing in various parliamentary and extra-parliamentary ways against Soeharto’s rule, under the banner of demokratisasi (democratization) and around questions of economic and social justice (Chua 1993, pp. 144–45, 148–57). From the point of view of many Indonesian political activists, the most significant and slippery obstacle to democratization and political activism was to be found in the New Order’s unrelenting dissemination of an ideology which denied the legitimacy of opposition. Oppositional activity and democracy were not just represented by the New Order as politically unacceptable, but as beyond the pale of the Indonesian national character. In this context the survival and staying power of Soeharto’s New Order flowed in important ways from the regime’s reorientation of the nation’s founding ideology Pancasila. But, despite the continuing cultural and ideological offensive carried out by the New Order, by the early 1990s Indonesia was in a period of transition characterized by the decline of the New Order without a unified force emerging to displace it. For example, in 1993 the token opposition offered by the Democratic Party of Indonesia (PDI) — the smallest of three political groupings which are permitted to take part in national elections every five years — appeared to be giving way to something more genuine. The government’s intervention in the PDI’s 1993 congress failed to prevent Megawati Soekarnoputri (the daughter of Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno) from being elected to the party leadership. This was of considerable embarrassment to the regime. If nothing else, Megawati’s popularity, as the daughter of Soekarno, clearly symbolized growing popular dissatisfaction with the regime (Heryanto 1996, pp. 247, 257–58; Aspinall 1996, p. 231). Then in late June 1994 the government shutdown the Jakarta-based tabloid DëTik, and the news magazines Tempo and Editor. Opposition to the bans soon became a focus for what appeared to be a groundswell of primarily middle-class opposition. While the government was certainly not about to collapse, by 1994 the urban middle class, with the support of the urban poor and working class, began to appear more politically assertive and united than at previous times (Heryanto 1996, pp. 245–53). In response, the government again intervened blatantly in PDI in-

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ternal politics and successfully engineered the overthrow of Megawati as leader (McBeth 1996, pp. 14–15). Megawati’s ouster led to one of the most substantial, and violent, urban uprisings in Indonesia since the rise of the New Order in the mid-1960s. Although the Indonesian military soon restored order, the government’s heavy-handed approach highlighted the cracks in the sprawling edifice of the New Order (McBeth and Cohen 1996, pp. 14–16; Walters 1996, p. 8). This was apparent in the general elections in May 1997. Although GOLKAR garnered 74 per cent of the popular vote (via an electoral process which was heavily managed to ensure a GOLKAR majority), the PDI under the leadership of Megawati’s replacement (who had been handpicked by the government) saw its percentage of the vote plummet from 15 to 3 per cent, reflecting continued support for Megawati, who was not permitted to participate in the elections (Long 1997, p. 85). The final trigger for the looming crisis of the patrimonial state in Indonesia was the onset of the region-wide financial crisis in 1997. It proved to be the definitive challenge to Soeharto’s New Order, particularly since the legitimacy of Soeharto’s rule had become closely linked to 7 decades of steady economic growth. At the same time, Soeharto’s children, relatives, and associates have emerged as the main beneficiaries of an elaborate economic system centred on Soeharto’s patrimonial control of state power. By early 1998 the Indonesian economy was on the verge of hyperinflation as unemployment escalated. Then, in May 1998 major student protests broke out, demanding Soeharto’s resignation. However, the transfer of power to Soeharto’s vice-president and protege, B.J. Habibie, and the promise of new elections in 1999 was met 8 with continued political unrest and economic dislocation. The promised elections were held in June and Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) received the largest number of votes, encouraging expectations that she would be appointed president in November. But the presidency subsequently went to Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) with Megawati as vice-president. While the role of the military has been constrained somewhat, both the armed forces and the former ruling party, GOLKAR, continue to play an important role in Indonesian politics. Even with Soeharto gone, the process of democratization, and the liberalization and deregulation mandated by the IMF, are being car-

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ried out in the context of a system where political and economic activity are profoundly bound up with a centralized and patrimonial state. With Soeharto’s departure, the centralized and authoritarian system he erected has been weakened in many ways, but important elements of the system (such as the military’s mandate to play the role of guardian in politics and society and the continued influence of the Soeharto era judiciary) persist. At the same time, the crisis in Indonesia has aggravated profound vertical and horizontal socio-economic and ethnic cleavages which were already threatening the New Order and the national boundaries laid down in the colonial era (Berger 1997a; Anderson 1999). Conclusion: (de)constructing the New Order

This chapter has sought to move beyond Anglo-American narratives which see Indonesia as moving slowly, but more or less inexorably, towards a post-Soeharto era of democratic capitalist modernity. The need for an approach based on an analysis of history and structures of power, combined with attention to the particularity and strength of social and cultural processes, was emphasized. The way in which influential statedriven discourses which celebrate and reinforce hierarchy, order, national unity, and harmony were backed up by a substantial authoritarian political structure was outlined and discussed. It was argued that, apart from the bureaucratic and military coercion on which the patrimonial state relied, the overall power of the New Order derived from, and was reinforced by, the sustained use of a complex and changing amalgam of corporatist and integralist concepts and images. The way in which the New Order sought to represent itself and legitimate the day-to-day exercise of authoritarian power provided the immediate context for the formulation of counter-hegemonic ideas. Just as the history of Dutch colonialism profoundly influenced the overall character of the rise and transformation of the New Order, Soeharto’s rule has left a powerful legacy and the complex social and cultural edifice centred on the patrimonial state, which he consolidated and expanded, will continue to cast a shadow over the post-Soeharto era. The New Order has been toppled, but the forces of democracy in Indonesia continue to face important obstacles to social and economic progress in the form of powerful remnants from the Soeharto era. Ironically, they also confront influ-

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ential external actors such as the IMF which view “too much” democracy as a potential threat to liberal economic reform (Murphy 1999b, p. 11). NOTES I would like to thank Yao Souchou for his comments and criticisms. The work of, and conversations with, a number of Indonesian specialists in the Asian Studies Programme and the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University also needs to be acknowledged. This list would include Carol Warren, Paul Stange, Vedi Hadiz, and David Bourchier, as well as Richard Robison and Andrew Rosser. Conversations with, and the comments of, Ed Aspinall at the University of New South Wales have also shaped my thinking on Indonesia. For last-minute technical assistance I thank Anthony Aspden and Sarah Graham. Of course any errors of fact or interpretation are entirely my responsibility. 1. Of course, some observers, such as Michael Vatikiotis, represented Indonesia and a number of other countries in Southeast Asia as following distinctive paths, arguing that they would retain significant authoritarian characteristics for some time to come (Vatikiotis 1994; 1996, p. 136). 2. For a detailed discussion of Anglo-American theories of political change and the Indonesian trajectory, see Berger (1997b). 3. While the dominant journalistic and academic approaches to political change in Indonesia have often focused on the failure of the middle class to be more of a democratizing force, explaining the lack of democracy in terms of the shortcomings or weakness of the middle class still assumes that it is the middle class which can and should play a central role in democratization. See Berger (1997b). 4. A patrimonial state is defined here as a state in which the central government operates in a fashion that is powerfully shaped by the personal interests of the ruler. For a detailed discussion of the patrimonial state in relation to Indonesia, see Anderson (1990, pp. 46–50, 59–61). 5. While organicist and integralist ideas are represented as indigenous, their lineage can be traced to continental Europe and, to a lesser extent, Japan, combining conservative totalitarian and corporatist ideas with a romantic vision of harmonious communities in pre-colonial Indonesia (Bourchier 1998, pp. 80–83, 212–15, 222– 23, 234, 239–41, 255–57). 6. The net worth of the Soeharto family as a whole was calculated to have been A$8.2 billion at the beginning of 1997, dropping to A$5.9 billion by October 1997 (Hiscock 1997, p. 21). For a recent assessment of the Soeharto family’s wealth, see “The Family Firm: Suharto Inc.” Time: The Weekly Newsmagazine, 24 May 1999, pp. 36–48.

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7. New Order Indonesia experienced an average annual economic growth rate of 6 per cent between 1967 and 1996. For a thorough economic overview, see Hill (1996). For indicators of Indonesian economic growth and social change, see Asian Development Bank (1997, pp. 79–84). 8. While 13 million Indonesians were living on less than US$1 a day in 1997, the number had risen to at least 34 million people by 1999 (Speth 1999, p. 13). REFERENCES Anderson, Benedict. “Old State New Society”. In Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia, edited by Benedict Anderson, pp. 94–120. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990. . “Indonesian Nationalism Today and in the Future”. New Left Review 235 (1999): 3–17. Asian Development Bank. Asian Development Outlook 1996 and 1997. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Aspinall, Edward. “The Broadening Base of Political Opposition in Indonesia”. In Political Opposition in Industrialising Asia, edited by Gary Rodan, pp. 215–40. London: Routledge, 1996. Berger, Mark T. “Yellow Mythologies: The East Asian Miracle and Post–Cold War Capitalism”. Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 4, no. 1 (1996): 90–127. . “Post–Cold War Indonesia and the Revenge of History: The Colonial Legacy, Nationalist Visions, and Global Capitalism”. In The Rise of East Asia: Critical Visions of the Pacific Century, edited by Mark T. Berger and Douglas A. Borer, pp. 169–92. London: Routledge, 1997a. . “Old State and New Empire in Indonesia: Debating the Rise and Decline of Suharto’s New Order”. Third World Quarterly: Journal of Emerging Areas 18, no. 2 (1997b): 321–61. . “Battering Down the Chinese Walls: The Antinomies of Anglo-American Liberalism and the History of East Asian Capitalism in the Shadow of the Cold War”. In Local Cultures and the “New Asia”: The State, Culture, and Capitalism in Southeast Asia, edited by C.J.W.-L. Wee. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, forthcoming. Bourchier, David. “Lineages of Organicist Political Thought in Indonesia”. Ph.D. thesis, Monash University, 1996. . “Indonesianising Indonesia: Conservative Indigenism in an Age of Globalisation”. Social Semiotics 8, no. 2/3 (August/December 1998): 203–14. Bresnan, John. From Dominoes to Dynamos: The Transformation of Southeast Asia. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994.

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Chua Beng Huat. “Looking for Democratization in Post-Soeharto Indonesia”. Contemporary Southeast Asia 15, no. 2 (1993): 131–60. Dixon, Chris J. South East Asia in the World-Economy: A Regional Geography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Friedman, Thomas. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. Heryanto, Ariel. “Indonesian Middle Class Opposition in the 1990s”. In Political Opposition in Industrialising Asia, edited by Gary Rodan, pp. 241–71. London: Routledge, 1996. Hill, Hal. The Indonesian Economy since 1966: Southeast Asia’s Emerging Giant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Hiscock, Geoff. “Paper Tigers Burnt”. Weekend Australian, 1 November 1997, p. 21. “Indonesia Holds Its Breath”. The Economist, 12 June 1999, p. 27. Kolko, Gabriel. Confronting the Third World: United States Foreign Policy 1945–1980. New York: Pantheon, 1988. Long, Simon. “Suharto’s End-Game”. The Economist, 26 July 1997, pp. 3–4. MacIntyre, Andrew. Business and Politics in Indonesia. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1990. . “Power, Prosperity and Patrimonialism: Business and Government in Indonesia”. In Business and Government in Industrializing Asia, edited by Andrew MacIntyre, pp. 244–67. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1994. Magenda, Burhan. “Ethnicity and State-Building in Indonesia: The Cultural Base of the New Order”. In Ethnicities and Nations: Processes of Interethnic Relations in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, edited by Remo Guidieri, Francesco Pellizzi, and Stanley J. Tambiah, pp. 345–61. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988. Matsui, Noriatsu. “New Economic Patterns in East Asia: Direct Investments and Competition between the US and Japan”. Journal of Asia Pacific Economy 1, no. 1 (1996): 39–58. McBeth, John. “Indonesia: Political Engineering”. Far Eastern Economic Review, 4 July 1996, pp. 14–15. . “Indonesia: Changing Times”. Far Eastern Economic Review, 19 August 1999, pp. 20–24. McBeth, John and Margot Cohen. “Indonesia: Streets of Fire”. Far Eastern Economic Review, 8 August 1996, pp. 14–16. McDonald, Hamish. “Demokrasi!” Sydney Morning Herald, 27 March 1999, pp. 1, 4– 5. McMahon, R.J. Colonialism and Cold War: The United States and the Struggle for Indonesian Independence 1945–1949. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981.

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Murphy, Dan. “Baptism of Fire”. Far Eastern Economic Review, 19 August 1999a, pp. 8–10. . “The Mod Squad”. Far Eastern Economic Review, 19 August 1999b, pp. 10–11. Pemberton, John. “Recollections from ‘Beautiful Indonesia’ (Somewhere Beyond the Postmodern)”. Public Culture: Bulletin of the Project for Transnational Cultural Studies 6, no. 2 (1994a): 241–62. . On the Subject of “Java”. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994b. Ramage, D.E. Politics in Indonesia: Democracy, Islam and the Ideology of Tolerance. London: Routledge, 1995. Robison, Richard. Indonesia: The Rise of Capital. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1986. . “Structures of Power and the Industrialization Process in Southeast Asia”. Journal of Contemporary Asia 19, no. 4 (1989): 371–97. . “Problems of Analysing the Middle Class as a Political Force in Indonesia”. In The Politics of Middle Class Indonesia, edited by R. Tanter and K. Young, pp. 127–37. Clayton: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University, 1990. . “The Middle Class and the Bourgeoisie in Indonesia”. In The New Rich in Asia: Mobile Phones, Macdonald’s and Middle-Class Revolution, edited by Richard Robison and David S.G. Goodman, pp. 79–104. London: Routledge, 1996. Sender, Henny. “The Suhartos: Bambang’s Challenge”. Far Eastern Economic Review, 5 September 1996, pp. 56–57. Shari, Michael. “A Smoke-and-Mirrors Act from Tutut?” Business Week, 3 November 1997, p. 23. Speth, James Gustave. “The Plight of the Poor”. Foreign Affairs 78, no. 3 (1999): 13– 17. Stoler, Ann Laura. Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra’s Plantation Belt 1870– 1979 . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985. Stubbs, Richard. “The Political Economy of the Asia-Pacific Region”. In Political Economy and the Changing Global Order, edited by Richard Stubbs and Geoffrey R.D. Underhill, pp. 366–77. London: Macmillan, 1994. Sundhaussen, Ulf. “Indonesia: Past and Present Encounters with Democracy”. In Democracy in Developing Countries: Asia, edited by Larry Diamond, Juan J. Linz, and Seymour Marting Lipset, pp. 423–74. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1989. Sutherland, Heather. The Making of a Bureaucratic Elite. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1979. Tasker, Ronald. “The Last Bastion”. Far Eastern Economic Review, 18 January 1996, p. 21.

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Vatikiotis, Michael R.J. Indonesian Politics under Suharto: Order, Development and Pressure for Change. First published 1993. Rev. ed. London: Routledge, 1994. . Political Change in Southeast Asia: Trimming the Banyan Tree. London: Routledge, 1996. Von Albertini, Rudolf. Decolonization: The Administration and Future of the Colonies 1919–1960. New York: Greenwood Press, 1982. Walters, Patrick. “‘Authorities’ Heavy Hand Undermines Suharto’s Platform”. Weekend Australian, 28 December 1996, p. 8. Yergin, Daniel and Joseph Stanislaw. The Commanding Heights: The Battle between Government and the Marketplace That Is Remaking the Modern World. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

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The state and information in modern Southeast Asian history T.N. HARPER

From the nineteenth century onwards, communications embodied the idea of progress. The steamship, the railway, the telegraph attested to the supremacy of the West. They represented the harnessing of new forms of power; the triumph of steel over wooden construction; the conquest of time and distance; the intoxicant of industrial capitalism. They buttressed a complex of power relations that underpinned Europe’s command of modernity — power over nature, power over people and their movement, power to more adequately predict events — above all, power to change the structure of systems (Elvin 1986). Information and communications framed imperial technocracy. They blazoned across the globe a vision of Europe and sought to project a sense of her generosity. The ideal was a civilization “united not by force but by information” (Adas 1989, Richards 1993, p. 1). Communications underpinned the “psychological bluff ” of European omnipotence and prestige. It propelled the languages of the metropolis to the remoter regions of the Earth and created a new ritual speech for their inhabitants — one that would, it was hoped, turn them immutably towards the metropolis for their tutelage. Whether it was in English, Dutch, Spanish, French, or American, new vocabularies of authority were created that inculcated the keywords of European power. The Eu-

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ropeans also reconfigured the status of vernacular tongues in a way that privileged some utterances and disqualified others. The attempt to frame the state in this way was not novel in itself. Throughout Asia, pre-colonial states had sought to harness ideology to the service of the centre (Reid 1993, pp. 181–83, 192–201). Their attempts to do so were bolstered in the face of the European threat and continued into the colonial period. However, their capacity to project themselves in this way diminished dramatically in the face of the blinding new innovations that radiated from the West. Yet Europe’s command of communications was infused with anxiety. The dilemma for the European powers was that knowledge only authenticated power when it was shared. But in this way communications could also empower colonial peoples. Europeans were tormented by the danger of their technology falling into the wrong hands. The expansion of communications technology was therefore inseparable from debates about its control. Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s great tetralogy on the rise of Indonesian national consciousness begins with a vivid description of a young Javanese’s perception of modernity: One of the products of science at which I never stopped marvelling was printing, especially zincography. Imagine, people can reproduce tens of thousands of copies of any photograph in just one day: pictures of landscapes, important people, new machines, American skyscrapers. Now I could see for myself everything from all over the world upon these printed sheets of paper. How deprived had the generation before me been — a generation that had been satisfied with the accumulation of its own footsteps in the lanes of its villages. (Pramoedya 1991, p. 17)

This essay examines the diffusion and management of these new media in colonial Southeast Asia. It will show how colonial states employed new technologies of communication to bind colonial societies to the metropoles. New forms of language were central to this — the impact of Europe was registered not merely in its message, but by the manner in which it was uttered. The ideological projection of the state reached a crescendo in the late colonial period as governments sought to recruit new allies and create official nationalisms to which they could devolve power and perpetuate their influence through informal means. However, the forms and technologies of colonial state-building be-

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came tools to plague their inventors’ heads. By the turn of the nineteenth century, key networks within the popular cultures of the towns had seized on the new technologies and used them to develop alternative projections of identity. Historians of anti-colonial nationalism have long emphasized the impetus that modern communications gave to the creation of new “imagined” communities (Anderson 1991). However, they have said less about the ways in which colonial governments sought to challenge this. Their failures in this, and their partial successes, are historically important because the anxieties of Europeans resonated with parallel debates within Southeast Asian societies on the legitimate applications of technology and media. Although Southeast Asia’s “imagined communities” were to triumph over European social engineering, colonial policy went a long way to dictating the place the communications revolution would occupy within the newly independent states. These early encounters help explain why much of the vibrant media culture that pre-dated independence did not survive it. The continuities within this experience tell us much about the ways in which, in response to the renewed calls of transnational capitalism, the state in Southeast Asia sought to harness a revolution in communications at the turn of the twentieth century. Communications and the expansion of Europe

Science has moved to the mainstream of the history of empire. It has been argued that the expansion of Europe would have been impossible without decisive innovations in transportation, firepower, and medicine (Headrick 1981). This technological determinism is misleading. Many of the great territorial conquests of Europe occurred without the assistance of new technology. Moreover, there was a time lag between scientific innovation in Europe and its widespread application in an imperial context. Until the early nineteenth century — in a way that flies in the face of the myth of oriental resistance to innovation — European regimes were not alone in their desire to acquire and to control new technologies and new sources of knowledge (Waley-Cohen 1993). They did not hold the monopoly on modernity. The indigenous states of Southeast Asia sought to strengthen their central administrations and armies and stamp their imprimatur on scriptural and intellectual tradi-

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tions. Far from being a period of stagnation, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw innovations applied in a range of spheres. The full impact of Europe’s technology and modernity and the decisive shift in the balance of power, particularly in maritime Southeast Asia, came much later in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was tied to the expansion of new forms of Western capitalist enterprise and to the fashioning of a new kind of colonial state. It began in transportation, with the advent of steam and rail and the opening of the Suez canal, which, in Joseph Conrad’s words, “let in upon the East a flood of new ships, new men, new methods of trade”. This was central to political consolidation and economic expansion in the outer islands of Indonesia, the interior of the Malay peninsula, and elsewhere. The foundations of a colonial economy in Malaya, as opposed to British exploitation of the indigenous one, might be dated from 1882 with the construction of a railway track eight miles long, built at £7,000 a mile to service the mines of Perak. By 1895 the Dutch developmental regime of East Sumatra was bound together by an intricate cats-cradle of railtrack (Kaur 1985, chap. 2). In the archipelago, historians point to the growth of the great steamship companies, the pakketvaart, as much as to skirmishes with natives or marks on a treaty, to mark the beginnings of the high colonial era. Where the new colonial state had weak roots in society, it became heavily reliant on the technological dimension to its power (Campo 1994, pp. 11–29). The Indies state, for example, was not a dormant bureaucratic monolith, a Beambtenstaat. Even before the muchvaunted “ethical” reforms of the 1900s, a new generation of colonial engineers had turned the Indies into a vast experimental laboratory. Their desire to develop the Indies was stimulated not primarily by their humanitarian or socialistic consciences, but simply because it was there. “The conquest of distance” lay at the heart of Holland’s image of itself in Asia (Van Doorn 1982). Communications not only symbolized material progress; the projection of power it allowed was deeply ideological. Government newspapers and gazettes introduced a new language of law and ordinance to colonial peoples; new levels of jurisdiction and regulation and, in the tabulations of census returns, they created new categories of persons. Large private printing and propaganda operations were established.

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The lead was taken by the Christian missionaries who were responsible for many of the pioneer presses in Southeast Asia, and who created literature not only for the colonial reading public but also new material in the vernacular. Even as the missionary optimism faded in the later nineteenth century, European publishing in Malay revived in the face of robust competition from local presses, as witnessed in W.G. Shellabear’s Methodist Publishing House in Singapore in the 1890s. A common theme of this work was the reconfiguration of vernacular languages and it arose from the shared problem of identifying the method of translation that would best serve colonial power and the Christian religion. The experience of Spain in the Philippines set the tone for much of what followed. Vicente Rafael has shown how the process of translation within Christian conversion affirmed the colonial order, and how, by the introduction of key words that were untranslatable, it made Tagalog into a new language. Yet use of the vernacular could also constrain the universalizing assumptions of Christian civilization; the inner history of translation shows how it could foster evasions of the colonial project (Rafael 1988). We see similar ambiguities emerging in the Dutch East Indies in debates, from the seventeenth century onwards, on the relative merits of “High” or “Low” Malay as the medium for the colonial power’s communication with its subjects. Missionaries invested heavily in the creation of a printed standard for Malay in Western script; their principal monument was the Leydekker-Werndly Bible translation of 1731–33. Yet the question of what precisely this “High” or “Low” Malay consisted remained deeply contested. A Dienstmaleisch, or bureaucratic Malay, was favoured in a cacophony of variants by officials throughout the archipelago. Yet it was challenged by the emergence from within of other ways of speaking. For example, a “Jakarta Malay” had begun to exist as a first language rooted in Malay by the first half of the twentieth century. Colonial officials feared the persistent influence of Arabic; the extent to which vulgar everyday usage of Malay by Europeans had lowered the standard of the language, and the ways in which Malay newspapers popularized their own form of “Low” Malay. This gave new urgency to the task of standardization. Whereas, in an earlier era, linguistic heterogeneity had prevailed; by the twentieth century a more rigidly defined

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colonial hierarchy was being established of which language was a core signifier. Philologists competed to standardize Malay as a colonial lingua franca. The standard that was alighted on was an artificial one — it came from the courts of Riau, and was based on its textual rather than its oral tradition. Propagated through textbooks and grammars, “Riouw” Malay was a political invention, an artificially created form of Malay that was the mother tongue of no one. Yet, even at the height of these experiments, the arguments for language as a unifying force stimulated the linguistic sensibilities of Indonesian nationalists. Many officials had been concerned that use of a lingua franca would reduce respect for the Dutch in a way that the use of Dutch as an élite tongue would not, especially in Java where status distinctions were marked through language in a similar way (Hoffman 1979; Maier 1993). This, for the élite nationalists, was a convincing argument for the acceptance of Malay. Encouraged by Dutch Theosophists, early associations such as the Budi Utomo seized on Malay as a language that would throw aside tradition, and that would allow them to address social inferiors for the first time as equals (Anderson 1990, chaps. 4 and 6). Not just the choice of language, but the means through which it was projected could rebound in this way. Colonial propaganda was a vital catalyst to soul-searching within Southeast Asian societies. It provided an audience for a sense of modernity, a tool for communal selfanalysis that would steer the enterprise of intellectual renewal in new and different directions. In the Islamic world, print attacked the very heart of knowledge, especially the orality of the Quranic tradition — the idea that authoritative knowledge was transmitted from person to person. Despite the existence of a long textual and calligraphic tradition, lithographic print was adopted widely only in the nineteenth century in defence of the faith. It fostered ideological innovation by generating a more universal vision of the Islamic ummah and world affairs. In the long term it eroded the power of the ulama by breaking their monopoly of transmission. With this came a new conception of being a Muslim, especially in regions where secular power was in European hands (Robinson 1993). Although these currents of ideological innovation had deep indigenous origins, colonial policies and the new technology worked to accelerate epistemological change.

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In Malaya we can see how this occurred through British attempts, after key educational reforms in 1906, to create a new reading public amongst the Malays. They sought change without upheaval, to impart a sense of industry and time discipline, and to quietly blaze a path towards the modern. They celebrated the technological supremacy of the West. The reproduction of tradition was undertaken to expose its weaknesses and to provide a rationale for indirect British rule. Yet along with this came the revolutionary step of furthering the use of romanized Malay script, and colonial education, with its accent on individual reading and self-improvement, supplied a very different ethos of education from that of the Quranic system (Proudfoot 1993). The Dutch went even further in their attempts to increase literacy and convey Western modes of cognition. The Balai Pustaka was founded in 1908 as an arm of the Ethical Policy to provide quality, low-priced literature for the people. It was a reaction to the growth of an indigenous public sphere and a recognition that a more or less free audience was necessary if Holland was, in the words of the ideologue C. Snouck Hurgronje, “to follow the material annexation by a spiritual one”. Again, romanization of the script and the adaptation of tradition were keynotes of the Balai Pustaka’s work. It developed a distributive apparatus that endeavoured to reach beyond the élite and beyond Java. Its agents were also a source of intelligence of native attitudes. It had its emulators in French Indochina, such as François Henri Schneider, who, with the co-operation of the chief of the Surêté and Governor-General Sarrault, began experimenting in “colonisation by means of books”, and there were plans to create a Bureau des Publications Indigènes on the Dutch model. However, one French observer of this experiment identified a central paradox of cultural engineering — by promoting vernacular literature “they believed themselves to be forging a chain for their subjects, but they see now that they have given them a terrible psychological weapon, a common national language with which to express their common national aspirations” (Marr 1981, p. 45). The experience of America in the Philippines was unique in its emphasis on the language of the colonizer and in the scale of its achievement. English-language education was seized on instinctively by American soldiers who knew no other language, to force a clear break with the

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past that would to wean the people of the Philippines from insurrection, break down Hispanic lethargy, and instil American industry. Six hundred teachers were shipped in 1901, to educate the Filipinos to appreciate America’s achievement in her own words and to entrench her tutelage. By 1939 it was claimed that one-quarter of the indigenous population could speak English (Bernabe 1987, pp. 24–30). Yet even here, America’s faith in her developmental mission in the Philippines was illusory. Although her propaganda seemed to cement an alliance with comprador élites, these allies remained alert to other languages and to what was changed in the process of translation. They would continue to frame their utterances to a radical “other” — a continuous undercurrent of peasant radicalism and millenarian expectation deep within Philippine society (Ileto 1984, pp. 86–113). By the late nineteenth century, colonial communications had created new channels of information within the indigenous realm. Singapore is the outstanding example. It was home to the mission presses, but, more importantly in terms of what was read, it was home to a network of Muslim publishers, controlled largely by Javanese from the paisir settled in Kampong Glam. After 1840, 85 per cent of books in Malay came from the island. Peaking in the 1890s, the Muslim publishers produced a wide range of books of instruction, court chronicles, and verse. Of these, the verse form, syair, was perhaps the most important — it was closer to common speech and well-suited to being read aloud. Chains of distribution were created by mail-order catalogues, agents, vernacular school inspectors, itinerant seafarers, and traders. These, unlike the vernacular books published by the government or the missions, were commercial products sold in shops as a luxury item. They allowed courtly texts to be uprooted from their social context and distributed amongst everyone who could afford them. The new technology aided the emergence of a new idea of literature — contemporary, authored by named individuals, and read as an internal mental process, rather than uttered as a social transaction. In 1890, the fortnightly output of the Singapore Muslim presses alone eclipsed the entire production in literary manuscripts to that date of several centuries, and this does not take onto account the unregistered publications of other printers (Proudfoot 1993, “Introduction”).

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In Vietnam, the advent of colonial rule had provoked its own epistemological crisis. Access to the printed word had previously only been the privilege of the few. The growth of romanized, or quoc-ngu, newspapers provided a continuity with oral tradition whilst achieving levels of circulation unparalleled elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Around fifteen million bound publications were printed in Vietnam in the two decades before 1914 — perhaps eight or nine books per literate individual. Historians have spoken of the expansion of a new public sphere in these societies, the rise of publications that began to speak to a nation. They explained to their audience the new languages of politics and government that had been brought by the Europeans, and began also to coin their own (Marr 1981, pp. 44–53; Milne 1985, pp. 114–36, 249–51; McHale 1995, pp. 173–94). European insecurities were never far below the surface, and were expressed in unprecedented levels of censorship and control. In the Straits Settlements, as elsewhere in the region, printing from its earliest days was met with suppression and deportations. By the 1850s initial restrictions were relaxed, but after the 1886 Books Ordinance, publications were gazetted and copies submitted to the government, though not all were registered in this way (Byrd 1970, p. 1). In negotiating a relationship with these new media, imperial governments wore a Janus face. In the case of Indochina, European rule was, on the one hand, an authoritarian demonstration of French power; on the other it was a civilizing mission to export the ideals of 1789, and these ideals often stood in the way of decisive repression of hostile voices. Cochinchina was under the French press law of 1881. By playing up the Chinese threat, Governor Doumer obtained in 1898 additional powers to suspend publications. But on the whole, a more liberal regime prevailed there than in Annam and Tonkin, which were under different and more confused jurisdictions. In Vietnam, as elsewhere, repression actually forced more sophistication on writers, and led them to adopt a deeply nuanced language. The more stringent controls in Annam and Tonkin drove élites into deep reflections on their culture (Thompson 1968 [1937], pp. 307–15; Hue-Tam 1992, pp. 114–45). Indigenous presses would take advantage of confusions of intent on the part of Europeans. In the Dutch East Indies in 1906, freedom of expression was promulgated as part of the

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first wave of “ethical” policies, and preventative censorship was closed to officials. Suppression had to be pursued through the courts, or by quiet intimidation. However, the question of administrative suppression raised its head in the immediate pre-war period. “Hate-sowing” articles were incorporated within the penal code in 1914 that prevented any declarations of hostility to Dutchmen and gave new scope to officials to intervene. Censorship was not only a reflection of insecurity. It became a question of taste. The aesthetic sensibilities of the official shaped his response to the new media as much as its actual subversive content. The British, the French, the Dutch sought to wean the natives from their own popular literature; to tear them away from the scandal sheets and penny dreadfuls that were read aloud and passed around in coffee-shops and bookstalls. Indeed, early literature thrived on innuendo, salaciousness, and sensationalism. The literature of the Chinese in the Indies in Malay embodied this spirit — it was an idiom rooted in the cacophony of the port cities, sounds for which Europeans had no ear. The Dutch dismissed it — to them it was not a language of culture. The shift to typography made the content of publications even more impersonal. Literary style moved away from poetry to prose — it became closer to that of the newspaper, and this was a vital pre-condition for the emergence of modern prose fiction in the 1920s and its exploitation in the new periodicals that were appearing. Fiction was the medium for the transformation of the indigenous realm. Its style allowed it to absorb contrary cultural streams, standardize language and create narratives that envisioned a nation (Maier 1991; Rafael 1988, pp. 213–19). The propaganda wars of the end of empire

The colonial revolution in communications reached its crescendo during the “twenty-year crisis” after World War I. It was the definitive crisis of confidence for colonial authority. The new urgency with which the colonial state projected itself in these years prefigured the means by which post-colonial states would respond to information. This was felt in several ways. First, war exposed the underground networks that had been forged over the preceding decades, in particular links of education and pilgrimage with the Middle East. These had multiplied in the middle of

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the nineteenth century. Pan-Islam was a recurrent fear of imperial proconsuls — war with Turkey unleashed a flood of Pan-Islamic propaganda, some of it aided by German sponsorship. Although this was more influential in Africa than in Asia it provoked new levels of propaganda through which the British and French governments addressed the beliefs of their colonial subjects. The Revolution in Turkey accelerated the momentum of the great debates on modernism in the Malay world. It compelled colonial censorship to step up a gear to combat Islamic propaganda on the Khilafat issue. Even Reuter reports on this were censored in London and Bombay. British propagandists presented their Empire as the greatest Muslim power on earth and pressured its “loyal” Muslim subjects — the Aga Khan, the Indian Princes, the Malay Rulers — to defend the Empire as the “best friend of Islam” (Prasad 1985, p. 48). Secondly, in the 1920s the colonial revolution in communications deepened with the arrival in Southeast Asia of multiple new technologies. Their impact was felt chiefly in the towns. Radio was brought to Southeast Asia by amateur hams. In the Dutch East Indies a series of short-lived experiments were begun by enthusiasts from 1925 that by the early 1930s were repeated in a number of urban centres. Bandung in particular had a wide and lively range of programming. By 1918 radio telegraphic communication between Java and Holland began and it was the Dutch who pioneered colonial broadcasting from 1927. In Malaya in 1925 only twenty-five people owned sets, in 1935, 3,727. Roughly half of the members of the amateur radio association were Chinese, and Asian music featured prominently in their broadcasts. It was only later that the government responded to these developments. The Empire Service only came on air in 1932; local radio in 1937, and it was interpreted as unwelcome competition by the established local networks. In the Indies a national network emerged by the same period, and, unlike the local efforts which had a strongly Asian flavour, it broadcast mainly in Dutch (Sarji 1982). The cinema too rapidly rooted itself in the popular culture of the region. As a spectacle, it first appeared at the turn of the century as a novelty in the amusement parks of the towns. After 1910, permanent cinema halls were established — in British Malaya by the 1930s there were thirty to forty of them, mostly Chinese-owned; in 1927, 85 per

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cent of cinemas in the Dutch East Indies were Chinese-owned. The first locally produced films were Chinese-made. Statistics do not give the full measure of the cinema’s impact — throughout the region, travelling shows transplanted the medium to the countryside. In the Philippines by the late 1920s and early 1930s, locally produced films were already embracing themes of patriotic struggle, and presenting dramatizations of the work of writers such as Jose Rizal and Francisco Baltazar (Lent 1990, pp. 14–15). These media also opened up new possibilities for colonial governments, in particular to promote the market for European manufactured goods. In these years, advertising grew in sophistication and was, to the Singapore Straits Times in 1927, “an essential element in modern progress of every description”. Thirdly, between the wars controls were strengthened. The introduction of new media seemed to encouraged the disrespect for colonial authority that had always unnerved colonial societies — it bred idleness and mischief amongst the population of the towns. Cinema threatened to explode the myth of white prestige (Christie 1994, pp. 684–85). A Cinematography Conference in Paris in 1926 registered the concern of all the colonial powers about the moral threat the cinema presented. Europeans saw the usefulness of cinema solely in its possibilities as a didactic tool. The first propaganda film in Malaya was a 1926 short advertising the Kuala Lumpur Infant Welfare Centre. In 1936, the Indies government funded a film to encourage emigration from Java to Sumatra. The main response, however, was censorship. In 1925, 12 per cent of films entering Singapore and Malaya were banned — especially the products of Hollywood — and 90 per cent were subject to some kind of censorship (Stevenson 1974, pp. 44–68). Controls were extended in the realm of print. In the Straits Settlements a Printing Presses Ordinance was introduced in 1920, in the face of anti-Japanese agitation. It was amended in 1930 by Sir Cecil Clementi to give unparalleled ex post facto political control of the press, to an extent that left the Colonial Office alarmed at the “arbitrary suppression” it permitted. Clementi argued that the volatility of local Chinese politics made it unavoidable — a line of reasoning that would recur throughout the post-war years. In Indochina, although after the 1926 regulation was strengthened, repression was often conducted outside the law through intimidation, harass-

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ment of patrons, and by threatening printing houses with loss of contracts (Yong 1992, pp. 308–21). Yet the colonial censors did not have it all their own way. It was one thing to excise a Hollywood screen kiss, but to silence indigenous voices, one first had to understand them. Few Europeans did. In the French case, journalists such as Nguyen An Ninh and his Cloche Fêlée exploited the loopholes in French law. The “age in motion” of nationalist awakening in Java after World War I was propelled by games of cat-and-mouse with the censors and secret policemen. The utterances of nationalist leaders were so heavily laden with images from the Qur’an and the wayang that they were beyond Dutch comprehension. The local officials who did understand them, reported and itemized them to public prosecutors. It was a wearisome business and by the time one language was encoded, a new vocabulary was created. Nevertheless, colonial repression bore deep into these organizations. The “Survey of the Native Press” was instituted by the Balai Pustaka as the official’s window on the world of local journalism, and precipitated attempts to gain control of native newspapers, co-opt journalists, and publish their own, Pandji Poestaka, in 1923. After 1920 a mood of deepening reaction gathered momentum in the Indies. Closures of newspapers gave propagandists “no choice but that between propaganda and prison” and helped precipitate the desperate communist uprisings of 1926. Yet, even here the religious propaganda of the Moe’alimin movement was so politically effective “that the only thing the police had yet to do was to confiscate the Koran” (Poeze in Cribb 1994; see also Shiraishi 1990, pp. 197, 309–30). Even in the darkening 1930s, both Hatta in Holland and Soekarno in the East Indies took advantage of court trials to utter statements of nationalist commitment that could safely be reported under legal privilege (Sarji 1982; McDaniel 1994; Ingleson 1979, pp. 137–38). By this period, the transfer of technology had ceased to be monopolized by the West. The Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia created the political and cultural milieu for a massive counter-propaganda against colonial rule. Although the Japanese did not relax the colonial controls, their propaganda techniques far outstripped those of the Allies, who throughout the war found themselves responding to, rather than anticipating, Japanese innovations. The countries of Southeast Asia were sub-

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mitted to an unprecedented barrage of propaganda that celebrated the Japanese nation and the Asiatic spirit. However, the legacy of Japanese ideological education lay not so much in its content, as in the manner in which the message was projected. In the hands of the Japanese, the technological tools of the state became a consciousness-raising force. This new spirit rejected the bureaucratic élitism of colonial indirect rule. Japanese youth training schools became forcing houses of racial awareness, in which a generation of young leaders were trained as communicators and technicians. In no sense were these men and women the compliant tools of Japanese Imperial interest. What Japanese encouragement engendered amongst them was a shared sense of the possible (Advertisers Association 1971). In the archipelago, local drama, the sandiwara for instance, became rooted in local conditions, and voiced nationalist aspirations. Important political networks were formed in the war of journalists, actors, film-makers and propagandists. Their worlds cut across each other, and continued to do so after the war. In the Philippines, there was a revival of the stage, the vod-a-vil, with its double entendre and banter. In Java, the Japanese Occupation led to an infusion of national consciousness and local realism into theatre and cinema drama (Kurosawa 1987). Soekarno was allowed to speak on radio, and through skilful allusions evaded the censors and addressed a nation. By the early part of 1945, the nationalist message was increasingly direct. News of the Japanese surrender was broadcast by the staff of the Japanese station, and when they were closed down they continued to broadcast from a mobile unit as Radio Indonesia Merdeka. Radio would play a similar role in “pumping up” the Viet Minh provisional government in Vietnam. In this way, popular culture could be transformed into a new political force (Wild 1986, p. 163; Lockhart 1989). Reithism and reaction in British Malaya

The colonial regimes that survived the war were driven by technology as never before. The late colonial state was configured by counter-insurgency, and as the roots of European regimes unravelled, they became ever more dependent on technology for the prosecution of anti-guerrilla warfare. Most dramatically, and tragically in terms of its human cost,

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the Vietnam War became a projection of the technological supremacy of the United States. Yet the campaign also exposed the limits of its competence (Chandler 1981). Regimes became obsessive over their control over technology. In these years, we can clearly see how deeply embedded the legacy of the colonial management of technology had become in the process of state-building. It was perhaps where national leaders devolved power, rather than achieved it through revolutionary struggle, that we can most clearly identify the lineage of post-colonial management of communications. The British case is especially revealing. The fall of Penang and Singapore in 1942 was a direct stimulus to the formulation of a colonial public relations policy, and where previously the colonial state had been slow to grasp the possibilities of radio and film, they were now energetically seized upon. The process had begun in 1939 throughout the empire with the placing of stricter controls over programme content and the construction of loudspeaker systems in towns and villages. The BBC gave new prominence to colonial issues on its Home and Overseas — local content was swamped by relayed programmes from the metropolis. South East Asia Command capitalized on these innovations. Unable to make war in the region themselves, experts in the new field of psychological warfare used radio to encourage others to do so on their behalf (McDaniel 1994, pp. 41–48; McHugh 1965/66). The Communist Emergency diverted vast resources into the science of political communication. Communication went hand in hand with surveillance and control — the new police VHF network was perhaps the most sophisticated of its kind (Langley 1962). The Emergency was an ideological war, and propaganda and psychological warfare a key weapon for the military against the insurgents. Yet these techniques were increasingly deployed in the civil sphere in an attempt to draw active expressions of allegiance from the population, to capture, in the overworn phrase of the time, “hearts and minds”. This, in turn, developed into a much deeper project to create a healthy nationalism and a new type of citizenry that would people a multi-racial, democratic “Malayan” nation. British cultural policy in Malaya was perhaps the most ambitious of any colonial regime anywhere. The diverse ways in which this was pursued have been treated elsewhere and need not detain us here (Harper

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1999). However, two facets of this are worth emphasizing. First, it greatly facilitated the diffusion of technology. The British published an extensive range of newspapers and pamphlets. To reach illiterates they provided community listening sets for farmers and labourers, laid on travelling film shows, and even made their own movies. Secondly, they envisioned a cultural renaissance under British patronage, a fusion of the heterogeneous and polyglot cultures of Malaya. The policy was centred on an attempt to expand the place of English as the first language of the post-colonial élite, and to restrict the use of vernaculars. It was zestfully pursued by a new generation of expatriates that arrived in Malaya after the war. The anti-hero of Anthony Burgess’s Malayan Trilogy, the frustrated schoolmaster, Victor Crabbe, perhaps best exemplifies the spirit of the age. Fusion meant Anglicization. In the arts: Eliot and J.B. Priestley, and Macbeth in Malay dress. The whole was fortified by a robust antiAmericanism. To one more sceptical observer, it seemed as if the British were chasing a certain kind of society “in order to fulfil a kind of myth, the myth of Malayanization” (Kaye 1955, p. 15). Before the war, officials had argued for the unifying potential of English as a means of bringing Chinese schools into the mainstream of the colonial education system. The Protector of Chinese in Singapore, Victor Purcell, was convinced by the father of New Criticism, I.A. Richards, that the real lingua franca of Malaya was “Basic English”. The Colonial Office half-heartedly promoted it, but it became clear that Basic English could not compete with the established local patois (Purcell 1937, pp. 13, 64; Hyam et al. 1994, p. 265). However, during the Emergency, English schools took on a special role as “nurseries for the more Malayan-minded”. A vast range of English primers were produced. Publishers provided “controlled original reading material” for Malayan consumption, a magazine for the Young Malayan; retellings of Malay legends, and jungle adventures against the terrorists. In a similar vein, the British attempted to create a “Basic Malay” as an elementary lingua franca — fit only for the bazaar and rooted in rural life. Colonial educationalists were contemptuous of attempts by Malay writers to move the language away from its agrarian origins. Their textbooks inveighed against the “unnecessary” innovations of Malay-language reformers — a vocabulary of eight hundred words is enough for anybody (Dussek et al.

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1953, pp. vii–x). The dialogues in these primers are fascinating sources for European perceptions of the Malays and the conventions of race relations in the period — or rather of what they ought to be. They showed Malays cheerfully embracing agricultural improvement and join1 ing the police to avenge their race against the communists. However, the government was compelled to produce its own political vocabulary in Malay. In it the word “politics” was given as siasat, giving the sense of a policy, an investigation, rather than the more dynamic borrow-word that was gaining currency amongst Malays themselves, politik. To the British, politics was a business of administration, not struggle (McHugh 1965/66). Democratic education and censorship moved forward hand in hand. Cultural propaganda ran in parallel with the establishment of new information regimes. After the Pacific war, a liberal regime had briefly prevailed, with the relaxation of existing controls on freedom of speech and publications. A series of confrontations between the colonial government and predominantly leftist publications circumscribed freedom of speech. The Emergency Regulations of 1948 gave new powers to administrators. Yet the colonial government still voiced commitment to freedom of expression. In the policing of the printed word and culture, the “Malayan” was used as a yardstick to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate forms of public opinion. Distanced from operational concerns on the peninsula, greater leeway was afforded the media in Singapore, where the larger newspapers and foreign journalists were based. Here, future BBC Director-General, Carleton-Greene urged on administrators a more positive approach to the fourth estate and a Reithian approach to broadcasting. It was to unify the collective life of the nation, as the British envisaged it, and mark out a new public sphere 2 for Malayans to identify with. Publications were to be tolerated unless there was evidence of subversive intent. Sedition and not opposition was to be the rationale of suppression. The press were to retain the maximum independence and freedom, “but this does not release them from 3 the obligation to help on the lines of material and civic responsibility”. The role of the media was to educate, and not to hold its masters to account. However, the failure to create an Asian public opinion in the Reithian

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image undermined the credibility of this position. The old fears of urban popular culture and the cinema intensified in the twilight years of colonial society in Malaya — both were identified with American influence. The towns were an “American hell”, the cinemas “glittering temples where thousands worship everyday”. The Singapore government pressed for a 10 per cent quota of British or English Malayan films (Singapore 1954). There was a flood of students’ magazines and mosquito papers, both Chinese and Malay. Government archives hold the voluminous results of officials probing and translating them, of scouring them for evidence of obscenity and sedition. Sheet music circulating in Chinese Middle Schools and Chinese gramophone records were also vetted and many banned. In Singapore in one month only in 1953, 460 of over 1,600 packets intercepted by post were stopped — including dictionaries and primers from China, Kuomintang publications, and Chinese publications from Jakarta — even books on accounting, herbs, and pathology. There are lurid and comic examples of colonial Orien4 talists debating the finer points of translation of pornography. As elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the worlds of scandal and sedition overlapped. The periodicals that carried this material — especially Chinese mosquito papers — were deeply politicized. The British felt that the communists deliberately employed pornography to illustrate the moral bankruptcy of colonial society.5 In the face of this, the British fell back on more authoritarian arguments. Their assumption that papers were communist, and their censorship of them before publication went beyond even the Emergency Regulations. The Chinese, officials concluded, did not understand freedom of the press. They could not understand that the government itself might in some ways be committed to the principle. Liberalism was misguided. It was taken for granted that a government would seek to suppress hostile opinion; not to do so would be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Similar justifications of censorship, appealing to the peculiarity of local cultural traditions, would recur in independent Singapore and Malaysia. The official emphasis on the need for strict control was undermined by the growing ineffectiveness of action. Attempts to build up allies in the vernacular press failed, and top secret reports on the ownership and political allegiance of the Malayan press show how powerful it had be-

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come, and also the futility of attempts to suppress critical sections of it entirely. In the absence of equally strong moderate opinion, repression was futile. The colonial official responsible finally conceded that “the problem must be seen primarily in terms of the growing politics of the Federation, and not in terms of administrative convenience or anti-com6 munist activity”. Moreover, the “Malayan” project, although it had its parallel in the “EngMalChin” literary movement in the new University of Malaya, had little impact beyond the narrow Anglophone bourgeoisie. Indigenous propaganda forms flourished and were even revitalized in the last years of colonial rule. Cultural renaissance was a common theme — theatre and film continued to be integrated in a wider didactic process. There was a remarkable revival of local journalism and publishing after the war. One survey has counted fourteen books of poetry, ninety-six novels, and forty-eight books of essays in Chinese literature during a period of liberal relaxation of colonial controls after the war that became known as the “Malayan Spring” (Han 1964, p. 14). Chinese publishing was hit hardest after 1948 under the draconian Emergency Regulations. However, there was space for a gifted generation of Malay writers and propagandists to manœuvre. They may even have been abetted by censorship. It diverted them from polemic into a deeper level of engagement with social themes. They found it hard to penetrate the language of newspaper editorials. Colonial translators could not keep pace — the Malayan Civil Service exams in Malay ignored the new genres. As one Malay writer, Masuri S.N., later reflected, censorship actively fostered a new literature by forcing writers to express their ideas in “parcels so wrapped up that it became difficult to grasp their message” (Masuri 1993, pp. 13–14). This literature spearheaded a new movement towards national reconstruction through literature and the reformulation of the Malay language. It became a definitive struggle for national identity during the period of decolonization and was consolidated after independence with the establishment of literacy agencies and new programmes of cultural engineering. Information, citizenship, and the post-colonial state

The colonial experiment, like others elsewhere in the region, was frustrated. However, it had a profound impact on the character of the inde-

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pendent polity. This is not the place for a comprehensive account of the relationship between the media and the state in independent Southeast Asia. However, it is important to highlight several historical themes through which it has been shaped. Even at the height of nationalist struggle, we can discern a distinct ambivalence in the attitude of many Southeast Asian leaders to the media. In Indonesia, although radio played a major role in keeping alive the struggle of the new republic at pivotal moments such as the battle for Surabaya, it did so often in the face of political suspicions of leaders such as Soekarno (Wild 1986). One reason for this was that colonial policing of public taste had, at this early period, found its echo in parallel movements to eradicate “yellow culture” — Americanism and materialism — within Southeast Asian society. To turn again to the Malayan case, the rape of a young girl in Singapore in 1957 sparked a campaign against the imported, degenerate, “sexy culture” of the West. It was weakening local initiative, corrupting the morals of society. The “anti-yellow culture” movement attacked the colonial censorship for banning publications that carried Asian “healthy culture”. “The simplest and shortest way that is used by the colonial power to ridicule the colonized people of Malaya is to allow the unimpeded spread of yellow culture”. Therefore, it was argued, “the anti-yellow culture movement cannot be separated from the Merdeka movement”.7 The “anti-yellow culture” movement was orchestrated by the Communist United Front, but it drew support from a broad range of literary associations that had led the struggle against colonial cultural engineering — student bodies, trade unions, and radical politicians such as Lee Kuan Yew. They demanded new levels of censorship. In Indonesia the institutional development of media such as the cinema was shaped by anti-Americanism. In 1953, the Mayor of Jakarta, Sudiro, made it mandatory for first-class theatres to show Indonesian films, and there was a struggle between rival cultural agencies for the political soul of media such as the cinema (Said 1991, pp. 34–45). Communications framed the cultural authority of empire. Cultural reconstruction was the basis of one of the deepest challenges to the colonial order. Yet this struggle bequeathed an anxiety — it was precisely because culture and its transmission was seen as so central to colonial power that, after independ-

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ence, it became even more fundamental to a society’s strength, to the nation’s very survival. To defend the integrity of the national culture, it was necessary to adopt an equivocal attitude to new technology. A second theme is that, although this ambivalence existed at independence, a deepening sense of threat developed. This had different local manifestations, but it came to a head throughout the region by the middle of the 1970s. The fundamental reasons for this were social and political, as governments sought to rein in the popular forces that propelled the struggle for independence, and found new political institutions on the bedrocks of stability and development. It coincided with the beginning of a revolution in communications. It was witnessed by a new wave of assaults on “yellow culture”. They were perhaps most vehement in Vietnam. As the final stages of the revolution were accomplished, cadres inflamed with a new orthodoxy moved to extinguish much of the vibrant print culture that had emerged from the 1930s, particularly in Saigon after its fall (Tin 1995). It could be seen elsewhere. In Malaysia, there was a mounting backlash against American television shows and music. Colonial censorship laws were strengthened in 1974 after a heated public debate on the showing of sex films, couched in terms reminiscent of the crusade against “yellow culture” in 1957. Islamic resurgence gave it a new force and the government instituted stronger controls on what was not to be shown, and did its utmost to promote what it felt should be shown. By the 1980s in Malaysia, the curbs on political subversive, retrograde, or, increasingly, anti-Islamic uses of media and performance were further strengthened. A similar pattern can be traced in Indonesia (Sen 1994). This transition was perhaps most vigorously contested in the Philippines. A more liberal policy in the 1960s led to the growth of new media, most notoriously the bomba films. Even their critics acknowledged that they sustained Tagalog cinema during a period of fierce competition, and brought a more adult audience and a new candour. In pornographic magazines, as one leading critic noted, “social consciousness is the rule rather than the exception”, as publications embraced topical issues to strengthen a claim to legitimate existence that would be harder to make on aesthetic grounds (David 1990, pp. 154–57). However, by the early 1970s there was a reaction that culminated in intervention by President Marcos. After 1972, under the

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New Society, censorship was “an organic instrument of moral regeneration, social development and cultural reawakening” (De Vega 1975, pp. 34–44). The underlying rationale did not fall with Marcos, and was clearly visible elsewhere. The legitimate use of such media was measured by its educational purpose, and defined by its utility in the development of a robust national culture. As in the colonial period, it was an exercise in obliterating impurity and establishing an authentic local vision. By the 1980s, this emphasis on cultural boundaries allowed governments to reinforce their arguments for respect for national contexts, yet it acted as a yardstick for a regional approach to the problems of media management. The “Asian” approach is a political artifice, and coexists with a spectrum of variously nuanced and dissenting perspectives. However, the articulation of the common themes of the official position gathered momentum in the 1990s, and provides a point of departure for many of the essays in this collection. There was an unshaken faith in the capacity of the state to accomplish the cultural and political ambitions of independence. This is a third theme of the colonial inheritance. Its shape and intensity varies — the colonial apparatus of control has been subject to very different priorities since independence. Nevertheless, regimes drew heavily on the bureaucratic preoccupations and language of the institutions they had inherited. In many countries the fundamentals of colonial legislation still govern the media. In Indonesia, “hate-sowing” articles continue to be invoked in the final years of the Soeharto regime. In many cases continuity was underpinned by personnel. In Singapore, for example, British information moguls stayed on to serve the new state. Governments seized upon colonial methods of censure and control to develop a robust national culture and enforce new allegiances. Ironically, the very agencies — the language and literacy bureaux — that had emerged to challenge colonial cultural policy were employed to this end. The propaganda machines of counter-insurgency did not wind down — governments continued to give a high priority to the projection of the state and in promoting a public opinion for development. “Public relations” and “communications” became oversubscribed disciplines in new universities. Language remained at the heart of the projection of the state — in Malaysia and Indonesia the founders of the Bahasa Indonesia and

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Bahasa Malaysia built upon colonial projects of standardization. Where these were absent or ambiguous, such as in the Philippines and Singapore, politicians embarked on new ones. New keywords for power were created — in Indonesia as the New Order created a new vocabulary of government as part of its attempt to depoliticize society. The achievements of these projects were monumental, although not in every case was their impact uniform, nor was it unchallenged. Rich popular patois survived. Within the New Order, as within the Dutch Indies, complex processes of translation deflected the homogenizing ambitions of the state. Moreover, a new generation of Indonesians began to explore the history of the anti-colonial struggle, and to rediscover the past was to recover an entire language of politics which had been buried for thirty years (Anderson 1994, pp. 138–41). This is our final historical theme. Poachers had turned gamekeepers, but they would not have the domain all to themselves. In their moral policing of culture, governments were not merely rooting out transgressions in public utterance, but intervening in multi-layered popular cultures. In this they were inflicting on themselves many of the same dilemmas that had afflicted colonial civil servants. In the first year of self-government in Singapore, the English poet D.J. Enright warned the new leaders that it would be as futile to institute … a sarong-culture, complete with pantun competitions and so forth, as to bring back the Maypole and the Morris dancers in England just because the present monarch happens to be called Elizabeth. The important thing for Singapore and Malaya is to remain culturally open. Who can decide which seeds will fall on barren ground and which will grow? (Enright 1960, p. 4)

Older indigenous methods of transmission survived. Qu’ranic literature, for example, was reinvigorated by global movements of Islamic resurgence. Governments would invest in it for political and moral education (Federspiel 1994, pp. 25–28). In Malaysia, despite the rapid penetration of new media into the rural areas, personal contacts and media such as the wayang kulit and mak yong retained a role in public information campaigns (Hassan 1985, pp. 53–60). Old habits of self censorship and subterfuge also persisted, and counterpoints to the projects of the state had perhaps by the 1990s been amplified by new media. Governments seized upon these technologies with a renewed determination to

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define ambitious fin de siècle developmental strategies. Yet for them to succeed, the fruits of a new communications revolution had to be more widely disseminated. In Singapore, for example, technology was seen as indispensable for its survival in the competitive global market. Yet, at the same time, its leaders sought to create a “curtain of immunity” from the corrupting forces that could be beamed through by it (Yao 1994). Regimes still erupted in rage against the tyranny of “yellow culture”. In early 1996, Vietnam launched a new campaign to incinerate magazines and videotapes, and it even moved to obliterate foreign brands and lettering on shopfronts and billboards. However, the new tools of communication — faxes, video-cassette players, satellite dishes, personal computers, modems, mobile phones — were such that their broadcast content was controlled as much from the home or workplace as from any central clearing-house. Communications was a massive industry, which, no longer dominated solely by the Western media, was beginning to spawn its powerful regional magnates. One option was to control new technology as other forms of media had been controlled in the past. Yet, in Malaysia, where one million internet users were forecast by 1998, the Deputy Minister of Information admitted that “censorship or the role of gatekeepers, be they governmental institutions or media barons, has shrunk as they are not able to perform the functions they were used to”. He also assured his audience of media barons that the new technology made it easier for governments to monitor what their citizens were saying.8 The imperatives for mobilization and control continue to move in tandem: and both were apparent to the political crises that shock the region in the late 1990s. Whether it be the egalitarian forms of address of the television presenter, the cyber language of the Internet, new media continue to create new ways of speaking. The tools of propaganda can empower as much as persuade, and censorship can enrich, as much as silence, alternative voices. NOTES 1. See, for example, “Visit to Tanjong Karang” and “Time of Emergency”, in Coope and M. Ali (1952, pp. 22–25, 42–45). 2. Sir Franklin Gimson to J. Higham, 2 August 1951, CO537/7255, Public Records Office, London.

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3. J.N. McHugh to Deputy Chief Secretary, 21 February 1950, FS/12290/50, Arkib Negara Malaysia. 4. “Singapore Review of Imported Publications”, January–July 1953, PRO/Conf/153/ 53, Singapore National Archives [SNA]. For example, one file contains an account of po-faced Orientalists pouring through different translations of a scurrilous description of a striptease show, in an attempt to decipher whether the prose was suggesting that the woman involved had an orgasm. If she had, this would make the article obscene. If in doubt, the senior man recommended, adopt a “consistently Victorian attitude”. SCA/137/46, SNA. 5. “A Note of ‘Mosquito’ or Non-Daily Chinese Newspapers in Singapore”, 2 June 1955, PRO/Conf/286/54, SNA. 6. P.R.O. to A.S. “Political”, 10 August 1954, ibid. 7. “Building an Extensive Anti-Yellow Culture Movement”, an article written in Chinese, translated from The Malayan Student into Malay and published in Utusan Zaman, 19 August 1956. 8. At a conference in Kuala Lumpur on “Political Liberalization through the Internet”, reported in Asia Times, 28 March 1996. REFERENCES Adas, Michael. Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology and Ideologies of Western Dominance. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989. Advertisers Association, Malaysia and Singapore. Review of Advertising in Singapore and Malaysia during Early Times. Singapore: Federal Publications, 1971. Anderson, Benedict. Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990. . Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. Revised ed. London: Verso, 1991. . “Rewinding ‘Back to the Future’: The Left and Constitutional Democracy”. In Democracy in Indonesia: 1950s and 1990s, edited by David Bourchier and John Legge. Monash Papers on Southeast Asia, no. 31. Clayton, Victoria, Monash University, 1994. Bernabe, Emma J. Fonacier. Language Policy Formulation, Programming, Implementation and Evaluation in Philippine Education (1565–1974). Manila: Capital Publishing House, 1987. Byrd, Cecil K. Early Printing in the Straits Settlements, 1806–58. Singapore: National Library, 1970. Campo, J.A. “Steam Navigation and State Formation”. InThe Late Colonial State in

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Chandler, Robert W. War of Ideas: The US Propaganda Campaign in Vietnam. Boulder: Westview Press, 1981. Christie, C.J. “British Literary Travellers in Southeast Asia in an Era of Colonial Retreat”. Modern Asian Studies 28, no. 4 (1994): 673–737. David, Joel. The National Pastime: Contemporary Philippine Cinema. Manila: Anvil, 1990. De Vega, Guillermo C. Film and Freedom: Movie Censorship in the Philippines. Manila: Anvil, 1975. Dussek, O.T., Ahmad Murad bin Nasruddin, and A.E. Coope. A Graduated Malay Reader. 2nd ed. Singapore: Kelly and Walsh, 1953. Elvin, Mark. “A Working Definition of Modernity”. Past & Present 113 (1986): 209–13. Enright, D.J. Robert Graves and the Decline of Modernism: Inaugural Lecture Delivered on 17.11.1960 at the University of Malaya in Singapore. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, 1960. Federspiel, Howard M. Popular Indonesian Literature of the Qur’an. Cornell Modern Indonesia Project Publication no. 72. Han Suyin. “An Outline of Malayan Chinese Literature”. Eastern Horizon III, no. 6 (June 1964): 14. Harper, T.N. The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Hassan, Ahmad Mustapha. “The Mass Media as an Agent of Change in Malaysia”. In Mass Media, Tradition and Change. Singapore: AMCRIC, 1985. Headrick, Daniel R. The Tools of Empire: Technology and Europeam Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981. Hoffman, John. “A Foreign Investment: Indies Malay to 1901”. Indonesia 27 (1979): 65–92. Hue-Tam Ho Tai. Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992. Hyam, Ronald et al. A History of Magdalene College Cambridge, 1428–1988. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Ileto, Reynaldo. “Orators and the Crowd: Philippine Independence Politics, 1910– 14”. In Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine-American History, edited by Peter W. Stanley, pp. 85–113. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984. Ingleson, John. Raod to Exile: The Indonesian Nationalist Movement, 1927–1934. Singapore: Heinmann Educational Books, 1979.

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Kaur, Amarjit. Bridge and Barrier: Transport and Communications in Colonial Malaya. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1985. Kaye, Barrington. A Manifesto for Education in Malaya. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, 1955. Kurosawa, A. “Propaganda Media in Java under the Japanese, 1942–45”. Indonesia 44 (1987): 59–116. Langley, G.A. “Telecommunications in Malaya”. Journal of Tropical Geography 15 (1962): 79–91. Lent, John A. The Asian Film Industry. Bromley: Christopher Helm, 1990. Lockhart, Greg. A Nation in Arms: The Origins of the People’s Army of Vietnam. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1989. Maier, Hendrik M.J. “Forms of Censorship in the Dutch Indies: The Marginalization of Chinese Malay Literature”. Indonesia 51 (1991): 67–82. . “From Heteroglossia to Polyglossia: The Creation of Malay and Dutch in the Indies”. Indonesia 56 (1993): 37–65. Marr, David G. Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920–1945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. Masuri, S.N. “The Development of Malay Fiction in Singapore”. In The Fiction of Singapore, edited by Thumboo. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 1993. McDaniel, Drew O. Broadcasting in the Malay World: Radio, Television and Video in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Norwood, N.J.: Aplex, 1994. McHale, Shawn. “Printing and Power: Vietnamese Debates over Women’s Place in Society, 1918–1934”. In Essays in Vietnamese Pasts, edited by K.W. Taylor and John K. Whitmore, pp. 173–94. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995. McHugh, J.N. “Psychological Warfare in Malaya, 1942–46”. Journal of the History Society of the University of Malaya IV (1965/66): 48–64. Poeze, Harry A. “Political Intelligence in the Netherlands Indies”. In The Late Colonial State in Indonesia: Political and Economic Foundations of the Netherlands Indies, 1880–1942, edited by Robert Cribb, p. 238. Leiden: KITLV Press, 1994. Pramoedya, Ananta Toer. This Earth of Mankind. Translated by Max Lane. New York: Penguins Books, 1991. Prasad, Yuvaraj Deva. The Indian Muslims and World War I (A Phase of Disillusionment with British Rule, 1914–18). New Delhi and Patna: Janak i Prakashan, 1985. Proudfoot, Ian. Early Malay Printed Books: A Provisional Account of Materials Published in the Singapore-Malaysia Area up to 1920, Noting Holdings in Major Public Collections. Kuala Lumpur: Malaya University Library, 1993. Purcell, Victor. Basic English for Malaya. Singapore: Kelly and Walsh, 1937.

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Rafael, Vicente. Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society under Early Spanish Rule. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988. Reid, Anthony. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450–1680, Vol II — Expansion and Crisis. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. Richards, Thomas. The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire. London and New York: Verso, 1993. Robinson, Francis. “Technology and Religious Change: Islam and the Impact of Print”. Modern Asian Studies 27, no. 1 (1993): 229–51. Said, Salim. Shadows on the Silver Screen: A Social History of Indonesian Film. Jakarta: Lontar Foundation, 1991. Sarji, Asiah. “The Historical Development of Broadcasting in Malaysia (1930–57) and Its Social and Political Significance”. Media Asia 9, no. 3 (1982): 150–60. Sen, Krishna. Indonesian Cinema: Framing the New Order. London: Zed Books, 1994. Shiraishi, Takashi. An Age in Motion: Popular Radicalism in Java, 1912–1926. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990. Singapore. Report of a Committee Appointed by the Government of Singapore to Inquire into the Film Quota Legislation of the Colony. Singapore: Government Printers, 1954. Stevenson, Rex. “Cinemas and Censorship in Colonial Malaya”. Journal of Southeast Asia Studies 2 (1974): 44–68. Thompson, Virginia. French Indo-China. First published 1937. New York: Sloane, 1968. Tin, Bui. Following Ho Chi Minh: Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel. Honolulu: Haiwaii University Press, 1995. Van Doorn, Jacques. The Engineers and the Colonial System: Technocratic Tendencies in the Dutch East Indies. CASP no. 6. Rotterdam: E.J. Brill, 1982. Waley-Cohen, Joanna. “China and Western Technology in the Late Eighteenth Century”. American Historical Review 98, no. 5 (1993): 525–44. Wild, Colin. “The Radio War”. In Born in Fire: The Indonesia Struggle for Independence, edited by Peter Carey and Colin Wild. Athens, Ohio: Centre for International Studies, Ohio University, 1986. Yao Souchou. “Source of Our Woes and Desire”. Business Times, 26–27 March 1994, p. 11. Yong C.F. Chinese Leadership and Power in Colonial Singapore. Singapore, 1992.

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Representing the Singapore modern: Dick Lee, pop music, and the “New” Asia C.J.W.-L. WEE

I

In an implicit criticism of Francis Fukuyama, political philosopher Chantal Mouffe says, “Not long ago we were being told … that liberal democracy had won and that history had ended.” The event that matters is, of course, the collapse of communism. What caught some people offguard, however, was that “instead of the heralded ‘New World Order’, the victory of universal values, and the generalization of ‘post-conventional’ identities, we were witnessing the explosion of particularisms and an increasing challenge to Western universalism”, a universalism characterized as “rationalist and individualist (Mouffe 1993, pp. 1, 3) — the supposed culmination of the modern era ushered in by the Renaissance. Mouffe is referring to the burst of ethnic nationalisms — “the archaic” — which has erupted in Eastern Europe, and of particularistic movements such as radical feminism. Since the 1980s, similar politicocultural contestations or resistances against Western universalism have also occurred in parts of East and Southeast Asia which have experienced high rates of economic growth until the Asian economic crisis in 1997. Samuel Huntington, of Harvard’s Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, has wrongly but influentially chosen to see this challenge as a “clash

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of civilizations” between Sinic or Confucianist, Islamic and Western civi1 lizations. While the essentialist term “civilization” must be interrogated (as if the vastness of Asia could be a single, fixed cultural entity), a discourse on “East Asian modernity” has emerged, claiming the status of a counter- or alternative model of modernity — a “regional” universalism, if you like — in which “traditional” Asian values of family-centredness, self-control, frugality, and corporate identity are seen as the foundations 2 for Asian success. Within this discourse, some Asians like to believe that we have indigenized modernity, and that we might escape the cultural deracination thought to be taking place in the West — perceived to be the consequence of its supposedly extreme, individualist modernity. The discourse thus espouses a neo-traditional modernity that has a less prominent role for individualist, bourgeois democracy. (The contradictions indicated in that expression are intended.) 3 One of the focuses of transnational cultural theory has been an examination of, among other things, the way in which non-European and non–North American groups or cultures use the local to resist Western hegemonic forces of modernity. The challenge for cultural analysis, as Anna Tsing says, “is to move from situated, that is ‘local’, controversies to widely circulating or ‘global’ issues of power and knowledge and back” (Tsing 1994, p. 279). Keeping in mind such a dynamic of resistance, I suggest that some post-colonial Asian states play a game of creating “frontier identities” in order to resist Western modernity through appropriating it. This occurs even while these states remain engaged in the high-stakes, free-trade game that went on with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) — now transformed into the World Trade Organization (WTO) — and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. This context is important for understanding the regional success of a major Singapore musician, Dick Lee, who is well-known in parts of Southeast and East Asia. I will look at the way in which Lee’s musical representation of a “new” Asia is oddly related to Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership’s overall stand on Asian identity, and, in particular, what might be called ( pace Paul Rabinow) their version of a Singapore modern (Rabinow 1989). The

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PAP’s position involves culturally resisting even while being politically 4 and economically involved with “globalization” — the organization and 5 the exploitation of markets on a world scale — through the re-invention of a local identity (or what British cultural critics might call a “heritage” culture) that seeks to preserve and not to eradicate the tension between progress and restoration. Dick Lee is relevant to these issues because he is the only Asian pop artist I know of who has directly set out to depict — and, in some abstract sense, to territorialize — the vacant idea of Asia. He started off in the late 1970s, writing and performing a combination of Englishlanguage pop and light jazz music. Increasingly in the early 1980s, he inserted significant local touches to his music. Lee’s regional success really began with The Mad Chinaman (1989), in which he blended traditional Chinese and Southeast Asian music and older Chinese pop songs either to create his own compositions, or to be played on top of more contemporary rhythms. The music thus makes gestures towards being World Music, or at least to being a quasi–World Pop. What distinguishes Lee from being labelled definitely as an Oriental World Music artist is the too-knowing and sometimes (self-)parodic incorporation of the authentic, an incorporation which simultaneously questions the status or need for the authentic, while on another level proclaiming a true “Asianness”. In local markets, Lee sold fairly well with university and polytechnic students who appreciated the novelty of his hybrid pop-jazz, despite critics’ scathing assessments. Japanese youth also liked his quasi–World Pop. Lee’s sophisticated, witty, and cosmopolitan personality, and his chic Armani attire, gained in appeal as he began to foreground the Asian elements of his cultural make-up. Arguably, within Southeast Asia, only Singapore, with its specific Anglo-Asian cultural configuration, could have produced a star like Lee. Initially rejected by the usually humourless political establishment in Singapore for his populist sending-up of local life, Lee has since become part of the state’s approach to the national-popular. For instance, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra performed Lee’s music in July 1995, in a programme with the singers Sandy Lam of Hong Kong and Tracy Huang of Taiwan.

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II

I would like now to move to a discussion of the social and cultural context which frames Lee’s music. It is important to note that while there exists a generalized discourse or rhetoric on Asian modernity and the East Asian economic “miracle” (as the World Bank calls it), not all East Asian nation-states use this discourse in the same way and with the same political purposes, despite the impression one may get from the Western media (see, for example, “Asian Values: The Scourge of the West”, The Economist, 22 April 1995, pp. 24–25). Gerald Segal points out that at the 1993 United Nations conference on human rights in Vienna, Japan “distanced itself from fellow Asians’ anti-democratic views” in which national development is prioritized over individual rights (Segal 1993). And yet, some voices in Japan also express the idea of an emerging pan-Asia. Ogura Kazuo, Japan’s former ambassador to Vietnam, writes that Western “universality is not something exclusively Western but rather something that arose out of the … West’s collisions with other civilizations”. Now that places like Taiwan and Hong Kong “are becoming models of economic development … we in Asia must seriously search for values that we can present to the world as universal. In the process of this search, we must lend our ears not only to Okakura Kakuzo and Kitobe Inazo, author of Bushido, … but also to people like … Rabindranath Tagore and Sun Yat-sen” (Ogura 1993, pp. 39, 38, 40). This concept of an Asia Major propounds the plundering of Asia’s cultural pasts for the treasures which could advance world civilization. Singapore and Malaysia — the latter a largely Islamic country with a large Chinese minority which also (peculiarly) lays claim to what has been described as a neo-Confucian or “Sinic” modernity6 — despite (or perhaps because of ) their relatively small size, have emerged as two of the most outspoken champions for the traditional-modern Asia. Singapore’s former premier, Lee Kuan Yew, roams around the world spreading the good news of Asia’s arrival. Singapore would host the first WTO ministerial meeting in December 1996 because, as a journalist for Singapore’s Straits Times put it, “it would be ‘symbolically appropriate’ to host the first meeting in Asia as an acknowledgment of the region’s growing importance in the world economy” (Ngoo 1994).

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What, then, does Asian pop music have to do with the new Asia’s contestation over or demand for a space within the Western globalization project through the 1980s to the mid-1990s? In Producing Pop, Keith Negus argues that “informing the resistance to a global mass culture in various parts of the world has been the recognition that, over the last thirty years, much of this has been Anglo-American in origin and content” (Negus 1992, p. 7). Dick Lee recognizes in his and Singapore’s complex, post-colonial, Anglo-Asian identity the heritage (or baggage) of Anglo-American culture. The transnational West is part of Singapore’s national culture, but it is also something Lee is contending with. He struggles with what the exact link between “transnation” and “nation” ought to be. Lee writes of his approach to pop in the liner notes to his Asiamajor (1990): I’ve always felt this need to find a musical answer to my identity problem. You see, coming from Singapore, where east truly meets west on an island largely of immigrants, there’s always this thing about how we should dress, speak and sound. … Most Asian pop is written in the Western genre, but sung in the various Asian languages. Why not throw the traditional aspects in with the contemporary, add a few of my own touches, and mix them … to create a new kind of Asian pop.

Whether Lee manages a truly syncretic music, or stays at the level of an unabashedly commercial and gimmicky pastiche — supported by 7 outrageous costumes — as some of his detractors charge, is a real issue. Yet, although Lee’s picture of culture might look decentred, his creatively assembled version of Asiamajor never lacks a grand, combative narrative of progress in the face of anticipated Western scepticism. To him, Asia is not stuck in the past. We should not see Lee as simply a 8 product of a global process called “post-modernity”. He sings, in the suitably electro-pop title track of Orientalism (1991): “I think that it’s time to show / That all of us are no / Caricatures or stereotypes, / No token yellows! / We simply have to be / Assertive, make them see / This is the new Asian / Ready for the twenty-first century!” The new Asian is centred, dynamic, and progressive: he can be as modern as any Westerner. The song continues (in a domesticated rap style befitting Lee’s proWest resistance to the West) — we were once in “some kind of limbo”,

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but now the new Asian is both “east and west / forget the rest”. There is no need anymore to choose between the two, the either/or of the cul9 ture of late colonialism which hid the desire for the Other. The new hybrid is potentially everywhere: “Oriental — New York City / Oriental — Quezon City.” Lee has found some freedom from an earlier postcolonial subjectivity that enforced a pretend whiteness and a sense of shame at a hidden but apparently ineradicable, backward Asianness; but now, “It’s quite alright: / Be white inside”, as long as you are also “turning on to Orientalism”. I doubt that Lee is aware of how Edward Said uses the term “Orientalism”, since he gives it a positive meaning here. The question of identity forms the core of Lee’s music. The title track of The Mad Chinaman (1989) portrays an Ancient Mariner–type persona who stops all and sundry to listen to how the Mad Chinaman struggles with his “Traditional, / International” halves — the mariner asks himself “how should I react? defend with Asian pride? Or attack!” Lee’s attempts to transcend his colonial origins mark him as “postcolonial”. As Kwame Anthony Appiah has argued, “Postcoloniality is the condition … of a relatively small, Western-style, Western-trained, group … who mediate the trade in cultural commodities of world capitalism. … [T]he post in postcolonial … is the post of … [a] space-clearing gesture” (Appiah 1992, p. 149). Other Asian pop artists without Lee’s agenda, such as the immensely popular Hong Kong stars Aaron Kwok, Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, and Leon Lai — the so-called ‘Heavenly Kings’ — borrow internationalized Western forms of music and choreography without feeling the need to be “original”. Lee is dismissive of their form of Canto-pop10 precisely because of this indifference to cultural neo-colonialism. The Hong Kongers were, up to 1997, colonial subjects, but they were and are not interested in transcending coloniality. (Lee’s own work co-opts many types of musical genres — but he takes it to be a contestatory co-option.) III

My use of the term “post-colonial” is markedly different from the way it has been discussed by some cultural critics. This has to do with the fact that the Singapore musician’s anti- yet pro-West discourse does not emanate from an underdeveloped society struggling under the weight

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of a more-or-less direct neo-colonialism, as has been the case for many African peoples in the aftermath of the dismantling of colonialism proper. Gayatri Spivak has rightly argued that “in the high-growth capitalist parts of Asia the cultural sector [when compared to post-independence Algeria or India] is not that strategic because within [contemporary economic rather than territorial] neocolonialism they are run much more by ministries of finance” (Spivak 1991, p. 221). But what she overlooks is how successfully Asian governments, such as Singapore’s, generate a media-based knowledge both of the West, and of its own locally formulated national and regional cultural identities. Since 1960, PAP leaders have taken the stance that culture need not be organic — and this stance has been asserted in an aggressive, masculinist form that is a re-working of the colonial masculinity that dominated much late-imperial British life (Sinha 1995). S. Rajaratnam, the first Minister of Culture and later Deputy Prime Minister, announced in that year: “We do not regard culture as the opium of the intellectuals or as something to tickle the fancies of gentlemen or gentlewomen. For us the creation of a Malayan culture is a matter of practical politics … [and] nation-building” (Rajaratnam 1987, p. 119). Dick Lee’s pop music functions within this state-generated, instrumentalist framework of cultural knowledge production in which Western high and pop culture have been allowed to permeate Singapore on the basis that the state could always manage culture if it became troublesome. Lee himself belongs to the colonial-created, English-speaking Chinese minority that dominates the PAP government. Of financially comfortable background, he grew up in upper-middle-class Singapore. His early exposure to jazz, contemporary pop, and Stephen Sondheim-esque Broadway — a privilege for those growing up in the late 1960s and 1970s — contributed to his Asian pop style. Lee’s background is also peranakan, that is, Malayan-born Chinese who have imbibed Malay culture. He uses this Malayan background to effect, quite apart from the folk and pop Chinese music he incorporates into his work. His music contains a strong element of nostalgia for a Singapore of the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, as occasion demands, Lee will also pirate popular or folk Thai, Filipino, and Japanese tunes, sometimes arranged for contrast with a scat or bebop background. When he performs, rather than

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using standard English, he deliberately uses colloquial Singapore English (or “Singlish”), which is riddled with non-English expressions — another marker of the local. Like other pop musicians, Lee uses videos to cultivate his public persona. His parodic and campy style contributes to a persona that con11 sumes and contests the West. On the cover of The Mad Chinaman, he appears in full Chinese opera regalia but with the army-style boots that were part of a once-trendy “street-wear” or “work-wear” look. Lee’s knowing, sometimes parodic, incorporation of different elements from Asian cultures has meant that he has avoided a claustrophobic and binding notion of Asian identity in his music. Sometimes this has led to frivolity — Lee’s detractors regard him as a mere entertainer. The (self-)parodic nature of Lee’s public persona, along with his campy costumes, makes a sharp contrast with the masculinist, pure, and puritan white shirt and trousers of the PAP cadre. Contest the West Lee might, but his body is gendered along different lines from the dominant PAP masculinity. While, as I will argue, Lee may have been co-opted by the PAP government, it cannot be assumed that he is in easy collusion with the state, any more than one should assume Singapore “simply” supports late capitalism as a Western client-state. These relationships are all, in different but inter-related ways, fraught. Popularly known simply as “Dick”, Lee has written and performed in musicals, plays, and comic revues of varying quality in Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong. One of the country’s best-known personalities, he has also hosted a television talk show. His albums sell well locally, averaging perhaps 15,000 per release — high for a home-grown musician. Despite his obvious success, public opinion about Lee is ambivalent: the English-speaking middle class often finds him not serious enough, while the Chinese-speaking population sometimes feels he is using their culture inauthentically. Representations of Asia by either the PAP government or by figures like Lee obviously are not always commensurate with popular sentiment. The height of Lee’s career so far has been the 1992 staging of Nagraland, termed, perhaps grandiosely, an Oriental pop operetta. Mitsubishi spent six million Singapore dollars (just under US$4 million then) on the operetta, and it was staged in Japan, Singapore, and Hong

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Kong. The key members of the performing and production team, in keeping with the new Asia ideology, were all Asian — the choreographer was Malaysian, the director Indonesian, and the production manager Japanese. I will return later to a fuller discussion of Nagraland. In 1994, Lee staged an Oriental musical review entitled Fantasia (a contraction of “fantastic Asia”, but also, suggestively, “fantasy Asia”), once again with funding from Mitsubishi. The show opened at the Tokyo Kosei Nenkin Kaikan before going on tour in Japan. It reprised Lee’s well-known pan-Asian theme, and the mixed song and dance items — which ranged from “a Mongolian songstress in native costume, to Hong Kong singer Shirley Kwan sporting an Annie Lennox crew cut” (Foo 1994) — went down well with the Japanese audience, who evidently have shown keenness in receiving this self-consciously hybrid exoticization of Asia. The concept in Fantasia is that the “condition” of old and new co-existing in harmony is normal, not schizophrenic. The production of albums and CDs have been the mainstay of Lee’s career. Among his best-known albums are: Life in the Lion City (1984); Suriram (1984; a 12-inch single); Fried Rice Paradise (1986); The Mad 12 Chinaman (1989), arguably the most popular and creative work so far; Asiamajor (1990); Orientalism (1991); and The Year of the Monkey (1992). The titles are indicative of the pan-Asian and Singapore-Asian ideologies that he has chosen to valorize and stage. As early as 1986, when Lee was twenty-nine, he stated that he wanted “to see if we can forge some kind of [more organic] Singaporean identity [as] … the Singapore government is … trying to force culture upon the people. … It must be spontaneous” (“A Day in the Life of Dick Lee”, Asia Magazine, 29 June 1986, p. 54). Lee’s work attempts such an empowering “spontaneity” in re-forming Asian identity. In “The Windchime Song”, from The Mad Chinaman, Lee tells the listener to pay attention to the wind chimes common in many Chinese homes, as he or she will discover that “Somewhere deep inside our [racial?] memories / Lie the cultures … Our father’s father’s fathers / Handed down with hopes they’d grow” (my emphasis). Lee is not advocating an attitude towards progress that eradicates the non-rational — for this attitude is part of the negative baggage left from colonial insecurity. Lee feels that We must be as progressive as They are, if We are to be able

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Counterplayers. Presumably, he would not agree with Kant that man must emerge “from his self-incurred immaturity” (Kant 1970, p. 54). Asian mankind’s Bildung must be a more inclusive one. In “A Human Touch”, from Orientalism, Lee poses a question for unspecified Asian leaders: “So, you think you know the score … With your new highways, and the foreign praise?” There is no need anymore for self-deprecation and reliance on foreign validation, as “the old colonial ways are gone”. Now, “the future identity” will arise only from a simultaneous looking backwards and forwards — an action that will add the “human touch” to a mechanistic Asianized, rather than Asian 13 modernity. Lee’s lyrics have at times been considered offensive — the song Fried Rice Paradise, for example, was taken off the airwaves “for being too specific in its sending-up of [Singaporean] things and places” (Go Magazine, 1979). But despite his criticism of the coldness and high-handedness of the PAP government, Lee has been celebrated by the state. His musical Kampong Amber (Malay: Amber village) was a centrepiece of the 1994 Arts Festival, and he performed the penultimate number (ironically, the once-banned Fried Rice Paradise) in the 1994 National Day variety show, “Rhythm of the Nation”. Lee’s regional (and especially Japanese) success has been noted not only by critics in Singapore, but also abroad.14 The Los Angeles Times, in a 1992 special feature on the “New Asian Order”, said of Lee: “in appealing for Pan-Asian pop culture unity, Lee stands as the clearest symbol yet of an intriguing shift afoot in … the Pacific Rim: Popular culture in Asia, so long dominated by the West, is looking back East [even though the ‘West may not know Lee yet’]” (Watanabe 1992). And Vogue Paris, pretty much taking Lee at his own word, effusively (and uncritically) said of him: “the singer and actor has become a celebrity in Japan because he sings about the new Asian identity in English. He represents the upcoming generation which learned little or no Mandarin in school and assertively strives for an international Asian culture, where dances from Bali and Taiwan meet the chants of Mongolia and the pop music of Malaysia” (de Gramont 1993, pp. 26–27). The latter writer reduces the discourse on the new Asia into a simple description of “identity crisis” and the unproblematic cultural reality that is purportedly devel-

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oping out of this crisis. Both quotations reveal how Lee is treated as representative of the new, more self-confidant Asian who challenges Western cultural hegemony — this treatment suggests his place within pan-Asian discourse in Singapore. Plans were discussed for an assault on Broadway itself, possibly in conjunction with the Cameron Mackintosh group (which produced Les Misérables), a venture broadly supported by Singapore’s National Arts 15 Council. Hard as it might be to achieve, the ultimate pop cultural success would be to penetrate the metropole, repudiating Orientalist depictions of the East as an effeminate or feminized object. IV

Lee’s music espouses what might be called a “neo-traditional modernity” which, in Singapore, challenges Western progressivism of the sort that is often associated with modernization theory. He hopes for a modernity in which the tension between ethno-cultural restoration and economic progress is not eradicated. Despite Lee’s intentions, progress, as it were, remains in control of tradition rather than being in partnership with it, and this has implications when read against the PAP’s programme in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s to discipline the national economic body via the discourse on Asian (previously “shared”) values. In its own odd way, Lee’s music attempts to be “traditional” because it seeks to capture the past — the habits, customs and attitudes which form the sources of Asia’s “self ”. The music is neo-traditional, as is the ideology which informs it, because Lee also believes that the past must be recovered selectively, excising its more “atavistic” urges. The new musical forms must include the progressive — the Western — and this needs to be mixed with Asian genres. Only thus can the past be modernized to fit into the booming cities of Southeast and East Asia, where new, modernist skyscrapers reach up, a sign of Asian virility. Singapore, not surprisingly, becomes the standard bearer of such an indigenized modernity. The clearly nostalgic element in the music partly results from the economic re-making of post-War Asia. Yet, at the same time, there is a note of pride in being as modern as the Western person. In a light, jazzfusion piece entitled “ModernAsia” (in Year of the Monkey), Lee sings,

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“You’re going to enjoy the ride / Through Wonderland. … / ModernAsia / Isn’t what it used to be.” Modernity’s homogenizing forces have worked: “In this new world, we’re all the same.” Or are we? Lee adds, “A spirit deep inside me remains.” We still need the empowering recovery of our father’s culture, as this ancestral spirit can help fuel the creation of Asian commonalities: “Now the journey has begun / Into a land that once was one / But is uniting once again.” For Lee, there was once a unified, prelapsarian Asia. Conscious of the historical divisions within emerging Asia, he makes an appeal to his audience, in a note in the album: “Let us take the pain of war and strife our parents faced, accept what we did to each other in a new way.” Lee refers not only to World War II, but also to present Asian divisions. Even in “The Windchime Song”, with its optimism that deep culture can be spontaneously recovered, he sounds a warning note: “Do you feel the stirrings deep inside / When you watch your neighbours as they war? / Do you lose your roots as they guard theirs …?” The memories of various Asian pasts need to be reconstructed in the light of the needs of a reconciliatory as well as progressive pan-Asian identity, which means that parts of the past must also be jettisoned. Asia has its distinct realities which need to be connected if a unified and powerful Asia equal to the West can be formed. Lee’s strategy in attempting to represent an emerging pan-Asia is to run a number of Asian languages and musical forms together and, if context permits, to use Asian Singlish in place of standard English. One simple example is “One Song” from Asiamajor. The tune (Yin Dee) is something he picked up in Bangkok, and Lee’s version, with his own lyrics, starts with the words for “welcome” in four different languages (Thai, Malay, Chinese, and English): “Kap sawasdee kap, selamat datang, huan ying, welcome”. After this, Lee’s heroic status as the herald of a new Asian order is revealed: “I am an ambassador who brings … / A song about freedom and about peace. … / Our separate lands / Are one from now on … / And we’ll sing one song.” The back-up vocals are assembled from a variety of Asian ethnic or national groups, as might be expected; included are Ekachai Uekrongtham, Tomoko Yamaguchi, and (Singaporean) Kay Hamid. While it would be easy to dismiss as fantasy Lee’s idea of pan-Asia, I

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would argue that it is the exigencies of cultural identity formation in Singapore which feed into his discourse. From the 1960s until the early 1980s, Lee Kuan Yew and his co-leaders in the PAP tried to make industrial modernity (rather than high culture) the meta-narrative which might frame what they perceived to be an empty “Singapore” identity. They hoped that in this way the country’s extremely diverse population — the majority, but not cohesive English- and Chinese-speaking Chinese, Malays, Indians (largely Tamil), and “Eurasians” — to some extent could be homogenized and contained (Wee 1993). The inflammatory and — from the government’s point of view — “primordial” issues of race and cultural difference were to be discouraged at all cost. In 1961, Lee announced that a non-organic consumer culture, as Rajaratnam had already suggested, would be Singapore’s national culture: “We are hoping to build a modern society in which … we will have the factories to make more … of the things which make life better. … Recitation of poetry and writing of essays are important things in a civilized society. But important also is the turning of screws and lathes. They make our modern world hum” (Lee, quoted in Josey 1968, pp. 172–73). By the early 1980s, however, this meta-narrative, and its related institutions — which were thought able to be capable of containing “primordial” racial identities — were surrendered, and in their place an idea of Confucian modernity was erected, which ran the risk of alienating the minority groups. This idea was modified in the early 1990s and became more generic in its propagation of Asian values and moder16 nity. There was an appeal to and a legitimization of the primordial — or the “traditional” — that had been vilified by the same government in the 1960s and 1970s, but apparently without the elevation of the (supposed) values of a specific group: the Chinese. There was opposition, though. Some asked what had happened to the earlier idea of a society in which, as school children recited during school assembly every morning, “We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion.” Was the ideal of a universal progress, unencumbered by the baggage of different racial pasts, to be forsaken?17 While bilingualism as an educational goal continued in the 1980s, the logic which motivated it changed. In the 1960s and the 1970s, Eng-

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lish was considered the rational language of science and administration; the (so-called) mother tongues were confined to the private sphere of ethnic culture. From the 1980s on, the use of Mandarin (which is not the native language of most Singapore Chinese) was promoted as a public and rational language by the English-speaking, Chinese PAP leadership. The opening up of economic opportunities in China was one major reason for Mandarin’s elevation. While this does not in itself account for the local rise of a pan–East Asianist discourse, it does indicate the historical vicissitudes of Chinese identity formation in Singapore. Modernity in this way was joined to the primordial. As sociologist Kwok Kian Woon argues, “The instrumental learning of the Chinese language and the promotion of a rationalized and mandarinized Chinese culture now become part of a cosmopolitan identity which can claim to be both traditionally rooted and economically useful” (Kwok 1994, p. 32). V

Lee’s music is symptomatic but not directly reflective of the ongoing reformations of politico-cultural issues in Singapore. He manages to both resist as well as be complicit with the state’s position on multiracialism. Lee’s suitably popularized Singlish rap version of “Rasa Sayang” (Malay: “to feel love”), a popular folk song which appears in The Mad Chinaman, seems comfortable with the older meta-narrative of progressive national identity. The song is a small-scale version of the triumphant British Whig’s “Our Island Story”, with its celebration of commerce and the triumph of universal history. The multiracial rap team singing in “Rasa Sayang” unfolds a story where a once jungle-covered island, with “only trees / And a lion or two enjoying the breeze” has developed into an international country. The song continues: “Everything we have has to be the best / Of the fabulous East and the Wonderful West. … We can eat, eat, eat till we nearly drop / Then we all get up and we shop, shop, shop.” All are at peace with each other, and consumption binds all the races. The yoking together of progress and the past in the story of Singapore manifests itself not only in the juxtaposition created by singing a traditional folk song in the rap genre, but also in the song’s citing of both the legendary Sang Nila Utama (“The island has come very far /

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All thanks to man named Utama”) and the factual Sir Stamford Raffles (“We love that guy!”), who historically opposed the East India Company’s anti-free trade policies, as joint founders of the nation. In this song, race simply does not matter, as long as we move on. But the coherence of commercial modernity falls away (or perhaps the inherent contradictions surface) when Lee considers his Sinic — that is, racial read as cultural — heritage, the heritage that scholars like Harvard’s neoConfucian champion, Tu Wei-ming contends have fuelled the new Asian modernity (Tu 1984, 1991). How is one to regard Chinese culture now that post-colonial and largely Islamic Southeast Asia is having to come to terms with China’s re-emerging power? Until recently, to the English-educated Chinese who rejected communism’s modernity, China itself seemed a retrograde country, and one that was perceived to be far removed from Straits-born families like Lee’s, imbued as they were with the goals of imperial British reformism, which strived not to be backward-looking. But Singapore remains largely a Chinese nation, and this seems to demand new efforts at interpretation. Even in a comfortably hybrid song like “Rasa Sayang”, a Southeast Asian Chinese-ness is potentially a problem: the ending of the video of “Rasa Sayang” has Lee in Chinese opera attire standing in the centre of a circle of people, including the non-Chinese rap team, who are dressed in similar outfits. The framing of the music seems to shift from the meta-narrative of industrial modernity to one of Mandarinized Chinese-ness. In his album Orientalism, Lee explores these questions of Chinese-ness and comes up with diametrically opposite answers. The first “answer” in Orientalism to the question of local identity comes up in an arrangement of a song by He Luding and Guan Lu that is often played during the Chinese New Year, and now virtually has the status of a folk song. Lee entitles his version of the song as “Springtime” (first line: Chun-tian li-lai bai-hua xiang), and the first section is sung in Mandarin by Lee’s mother Elizabeth. A translation of the song is given — part of the first stanza goes: “In spring all the flowers are fragrant, / The warm sun shines in the sky, / Shining on my tattered clothes …” After Elizabeth Lee sings, her son sings a jazzy response in English, accompanied by a solo trombone. The idea of springtime is peculiar in

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always-humid, equatorial Singapore where only the early morning sun is tolerable. Lee is ambivalent about the relevance of the image of Chinese life that is being touted: “Will I ever see a season change in front of me? Never ever!” The Singapore experience? “Weather hot and wet outside / That’s reality!” And yet, the imagined landscape is attractive: “Cherry blossom in my mind / Blooming in suspended time / Countryside of my design / Etched in memory.” It is a China of no specific place or history, “etched in memory”. But where does this memory come from? Is it a “blood” affair, the “Really you” of “The Windchime Song”? Is this recovery of Chinese “roots” a threatening one? The call of an essentialized identity, which coincides with the acknowledgement that culture is not nature, nor is it ahistorical, remains difficult to deal with. The song that immediately follows picks up on the question of an originary Chinese identity. First, Lee sings, in Mandarin, a famous folksong, “Alishan” (A-li shan), that virtually every Chinese Singaporean of Lee’s age would know. Then, like “Springtime”, an English response follows. Alishan is a famous mountain in Taiwan, and the home of Taiwanese aboriginals, rather than the revered, truly Han Chinese. In his response, Lee completely identifies with this landscape of the mind that is not even, purely speaking, Chinese: “Mountain is calling to me. … / Alishan is my own / I’ll never leave home / Alishan is where my spirit will be free.” It seems to me that Lee’s conception here of what it means for him as an English-educated, Southeast Asian–born ChineseSingaporean, to identify with (this mis-read version of ) China, is becoming incoherent. There is a stark contrast in Lee’s depiction of Singapore. On the one hand it is a cultural entity which is part of a progressive, transnationally dynamic core, while on the other hand it is connected to a bound, static periphery — the latter being “a site of [an] autochthonous cultural formation” as Tsing (1994, p. 282) would put it. One might also say that the aesthetic configurations of realism and myth clash in Lee’s oeuvre. Perhaps restoration and progress cannot be as easily reconciled as Lee would like. VI

The contrast between realism and myth standing in for true identity is

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more apparent (and most unresolved) in Lee’s Nagraland, first staged at the Tokyo Nakano Sun Plaza. Lee played Chris, a confused, Westernized Asian journalist, who dreams of Nagraland, and visits it with his girlfriend and a friend. They are from a contemporary Asian city, obviously Singapore. The second scene of the musical depicts the charms of metropolitan life — singers in suits and hard hats cavorting in front of skyscrapers and a flashing digital clock — here is the world of the present. The island Nagraland turns out to be a version of Bali (though the island is at the same time, somewhat obscurely, also meant to be panAsian), with the natives getting about in lavish costumes designed by Paris-based Singapore designer, Yang Derong, resembling costumes of The King and I. With the gamelan in the background, the music is vaguely 18 Indonesian, and at moments possibly Japanese. When Chris and his friends arrive on the island, it is in the midst of a crisis. The Minister of the Interior is upset at the opening up of Nagraland by the government to Western-style development. The Minister’s wife appeals to Chris to publicize the danger posed by Western influence, reminding him that he hails from a formerly traditional culture: “Trust your heart.” At a folk performance, Chris learns of the legend of Nagraland. The Dragon King Nagarabashti had become infuriated with his daughter Princess Naira because she had left her heavenly home and fallen in love with a mortal outsider, Prince Nursalam. In anger, Nagarabashti killed the prince and banished Naira to Nagraland. The legend indicates the violence that lies at the heart of the island. The performance is enacted by a beautiful young woman, Lia. Predictably, our hero falls for Lia, the adopted daughter of the Interior Minister. The parallels between the real and the mythical start to unfold. After Chris meets and falls in love with Lia, a rebellion breaks out. The Minister flees into the mysterious jungle, taking Lia with him. At this point, the realistic narrative begins to break apart. A woman seer ties a sash around Chris, marking his re-nativization. Chris then sets off to search for Lia. After Lia’s rescue, Chris and Lia are transformed into Nursalam and Naira, who are confronted by the Dragon King Nagarabashti (a transfigured Interior Minister). The King/Interior Minister’s wife and a re-

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bellious son appear, appealing to him to forsake the cycle of violence that, because of the legend, has always plagued the island. The son throws himself on Nagarabashti’s sword, bringing him to his senses. The cycle of violence has finally come to an end. What one would perhaps expect, then, is for Chris as the reincarnated Nursalam to remain in Nagraland, possibly as the beneficent traditional-modern head of government. This is not what happens. The operetta begins and ends with Chris awakened from sleep by his dream: “I need to go … / Back to my dream, to Nagraland” — to the origins of the “Really you”. At the end we learn that the woman in bed with him is Lia. Thus, the entire stage action is a recapitulation of events. Despite his longings for origins, Chris has returned to the jaded, deracinated metropolis. Having reclaimed a now Othered Southeast Asian identity from the frontier, he abandons it for the charms of the modern. In the dream-like Conradian darkness of the Nagraland jungle, Chris discovered that tradition can harbour pointless, even savage, violence, resulting in a disorganized society. What we find in this operetta is an odd re-staging of the mid- to late-nineteenth century British quest for colonial kingship, rather like Kipling’s “The Man Who Would be King”, but without the warning signs of the dangers of such a kingship (Wee 1994). The rational, civilized man would be king over natives who recognize his stature because he is able to comprehend who they are and be a part of their world. What is more peculiar here — discounting the Orientalist replay of the ahistorical, exotic East — is that it is an Anglo-Asian Singaporean who occupies the white man’s civilizing role. While the people in the city that Chris hails from stand in danger of deracination, they nevertheless must still be careful of the source of rejuvenation from which they drink as the work of civilization continues. In looking at Nagraland and songs like “Alishan” and “Springtime”, it becomes clear how difficult the task is of territorializing Asia as a single cultural entity. In the case of Nagraland, Asia is a primitive and possibly uncontrollable territory; in the case of the Chinese songs, Asia might be a static entity, but one which is restrained and possesses a high civilization. To be static is also to be long-lasting. It would seem that Lee prefers the nowhere and the misread aboriginal-seen-as-Sinic landscape of Alishan to the savage dynamism of Southeast Asia. As the song

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“Alishan” goes, “The high mountains will forever be green / The valley’s water will forever be blue” (Gao-shan chang-qing, jian-shui chang-lan). The binarism of self/other is not simply to be taken as West/Asia but as a choice of either West/savage Asia or West/static Asia. And it is easier to assimilate static Asia into a workable politico-cultural model of neotraditional modernity. Perhaps this is why, in recent years, Southeast Asia is invariably referred to as being part of the “East Asian success story” — more “successful” now than ever, since China has joined the capitalist fray — rather than as part of “Southern Asia”, as it used to. It makes transparent the Singapore success story (and presumably Malaysia’s and Thailand’s as well) by lumping it together with the other miniDragons of Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Ezra Vogel, for instance, thinks that while there are specific “situational factors” that account for East Asian industrialization, we must still “consider tradition [as] … this achievement cannot be separated from the institutional practices and underlying attitude … absorbed in growing up in their culture” (Vogel 1991, p. 92). Static East Asia requires reassessment, as it is no longer as static as it used to be. An illuminating song to look at alongside Nagraland is “North and South”, from Orientalism. The first thing that strikes me is that “North” and “South” are not used to refer to “developed” and “underdeveloped” regions, but to Southern or Southeast and East or Northeast Asia, entities perceived to be too long separated: “If North and South were to be reunited once again, / We’d be the people we should be.” He is singing about pan-Asian unity. But the pan-Asian future he envisions is curiously East Asian in its make-up: “Change your ways, alter everything / Yellow people of tomorrow! … North and South, out of the dragon’s mouth / Spreading from the rising sun …”. Embedded within “North and South” is a second song in either Indonesian or Malay (they are similar languages) that broadens the idea of who is to be conjoined in the new Asia: “Ku ingin bersamamu / Kesuatu tempat / Dimana Utara dan Selatan bertemu / Maukah engkau menikah denganku / Disuatu tempat / Dimana seluruh Umat Campur / menjadi satu …” (“I desire to be together with you at a place where the north and south meet. Would you like to be married to me at a place where the mixed people [or ‘people of mixed marriages’] become one … ?”).19

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Unfortunately, the translation in the liner notes is inadequate — “Umat Campur” is more literally given as “Kingdom of Campur” rather than with the implied sense of “people of mixed marriages”. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the “Yellow people” are the primary Asians that the song refers to as making up the new Asia. The complexities in Lee’s work are in accord, as earlier argued, with the tangled history of Chinese-ness in Singapore, and with the PAP government’s deployment of the discourse on Confucian — now Asian — modernity, consensus, and communitarianism in national life: these are now argued to be the grounding values of all the ethnic groups. Although “Asian” values may indeed be Asian — that is not the concern here — in this case, the government is specifically trying to achieve two purposes by using a discourse on Asian values. The first is to maintain discipline and efficiency in the area of economic production. The second is to constantly keep Singapore in a central place in the larger Asian setting — tiny Singapore needs Asia, if not vice versa (Chua 1995b). Being a part of Asia Major gives the Singaporean nation-state the ballast it needs to keep the pressure up on the West to maintain markets open to its exports. Furthermore, incorporating Chinese-ness into its new conceptualization of Asian values also means that a re-imagined regional community with China — one in which trade and investment are important — can be encouraged, even if it is fraught with political difficulties. The fact that Singapore is such a small country means that its population finds it hard to escape the combined pressures of the (re-)invented Asian past and the demands of development that the PAP government brings to bear. There is literally very little space to move in. Lee is not free from these pressures, and his resistance to Western universalism, his neo-traditional modernity, and his espousing of a positive Anglo-Asian hybridity all seem brought under the spell of government-sponsored “Asian values”. Even in “Let’s All Speak Mandarin”, from The Mad Chinaman, a send-up of the PAP’s “Speak Mandarin” campaign of the 1980s, Lee falls into the trap of the deployed blood call of essential identity — the background refrain runs: “Mandarin — let’s all speak Mandarin. The sound that’s happening inside my heart!”

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VII

During an earlier period of cultural history, the English, like many continental Europeans, found China, and the person of Confucius, very attractive: “Confucius was the supreme apostle of the orderly status quo. It was the temper of the Augustans to find their Elysium not, as their descendants did, in the primitive innocence of the South Seas, but in the glories of a civilized past” (Appleton 1951, p. 41). It is ironic that various figures in post-colonial Singapore and in the West have returned to chinoiserie as a way of re-envisioning a national and, more ambitiously, regional selfhood. Given this restaging of chinoiserie, I do not think that we can say the modernist impulse of the Enlightenment has given way unproblematically to post-modernity. The concerns in Southeast Asia, both in the Malay Archipelago and the mainland, are “modern” — having to do with national development, free trade, and some (circumscribed) notions of progress — although these concerns are definitely complicated in a world where national barriers are harder to control. And certainly, the new “East Asia”, or alternatively the U.S. preferred term, “Asia-Pacific”, is not a clear-cut “hegemonic Euro-American production” (Wilson and Dirlik 1994, p. 7). The impact of economic competition cannot be overemphasized. One critic of new Asian discourse, Gerald Segal, is of the opinion that “for Asians to believe that they constitute a single civilization is a dangerous delusion”, as access to Euro-American markets may be jeopardized. He adds: “Americans need little persuasion to worry about the East Asian challenge.” (Segal 1993) What, then, can be said, in conclusion, of Dick Lee and the new Asian order that those such as the PAP government seek? Does it transcend the level of pastiche and become a significant site of cultural practice and transformation? Certainly, both Lee’s work and Singapore itself cannot be seen merely as pastiche, even given the comments made that “the city resembles a clean and efficient theme park” (Branegan 1993, p. 36; see also Sesser 1994), the result of a deliberate, non-organic process of nation-building. Still, at many levels, the nation coheres as a society, despite the still existent multiracial tensions inherited from the colonial period.

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Lee’s music, and the larger East Asian discourse on modernity used by the PAP government do represent, I believe, a significant site of cultural practice, though Lee’s music is itself harder to evaluate. Ideological elements are a strong component of his work, but given its witty, performative nature, his music does not always manage to be “serious” enough to uphold the pan-Asian ideology. The discourse proper is used to justify the idea of a non-individualistic democracy (Chua 1995a), and within the region, it offers potential models for a modernity that Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar might aspire to, in the hope that, whatever their socio-economic woes, they may, in the end, become a part of what the World Bank has described as “the East Asian miracle”. The actual transformative power of the East Asian discourse in the long run is, of course, not clear. The linking of the ethnic to economic survival in Singapore is a tricky game: it poses a constant problem as it is never clear when the “irrational” card of a pan-Asian, but still Sinicized, identity might be overplayed in a multiracial society. A sign of this can be seen in Lee’s Canto-pop album, Compass (Rock Records, 1995). Chinese markets beckon, and it is not incidental that Lee’s Compass is in a Chinese language in which he himself is not fluent. This fact suggests how strong the lure of emerging markets can be. Ethnic movements are perhaps always ambivalent — in Singapore, even while a countermodernity is being advocated, such movements do not forego all the ideals of progress of the Enlightenment. NOTES Thanks to Kwok Kian Woon, Bruce Robbins, Ronald Inden, Rani Moorthy, Kelvin Tan, Victor Li, and Gregory B. Lee. Thanks, too, to Lauren Berlant. Glen B.Y. Goei suggested the topic. Music and Movement Pte. Ltd. kindly gave me access to their Dick Lee materials. An earlier version of this essay appeared as “Staging the New Asia: Singapore’s Dick Lee, Pop Music and a Counter-Modernity” in Public Culture 8, no. 3 (Spring 1996). 1. Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations?” (1993) has been well received in Southeast Asia. This paper was part of an Olin Institute project on “The Changing Security Environment and American National Interests”. 2. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong recently visited France, and told a journalist that the “Confucian values” — “such as promoting the family, motivating education,

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developing a liking for hard work and a sense of thrift” — which some, such as former Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and Harvard’s Tu Wei-ming, have argued underpin Singapore’s success are universal rather than narrowly Asian, though these values seem to survive better in Asia (Clerc 1994, p. 21). 3. See, especially, Paul Rabinow (1988). Arjun Appadurai’s “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy” (1990) is also suggestive, but it emphasizes more the difficulties entailed in thinking through what the globalization of the imagination means. 4. “Globalization” is a buzzword in the business world. See Business Week’s special bonus issue on “21st Century Capitalism: How Nations and Industries Will Compete in the Emerging Global Economy”, 18 November 1994. 5. In 1988, Singapore expelled an American diplomat for allegedly meeting with antigovernment lawyers. The backdrop of this event was the detention of twenty-two activists by the government. The lawyers that the diplomats met were representing the activists. The Financial Times opined: “The fracas between tiny Singapore and the mighty US looks set to go down as one of the more improbable … diplomatic clashes. … All this is directed against a country which absorbs a quarter of Singapore’s total exports, [and] provides about a third of its foreign investments …” (quoted in Sesser 1994, p. 46). 6. Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad deploys a generalized idea of Asian values in his public discourse on modernity and human rights (see, for example, “Mahathir Blasts Western Nations’ Liberal Values on Human Rights”, Straits Times, 7 December 1994) but will also speak of “Islamic” modernization. 7. A Singapore magazine cited these two criticisms: “‘This guy’s not for real. He’s got no talent. All he’s got is money,’ says a 30-year-old accountant. … ‘He’s for show only. He’s part of that crowd of beautiful people all so covered with gloss. If that’s who he is, it’s still a bit too much. That super-duper [usage of ] Singlish [that is, colloquial Singapore English],’ says a 28-year-old secretary” (Go Magazine, September 1989, p. 79). 8. For a critique of global arguments of the post-modern, see Mitsuhiro (1989). 9. See Young (1994) and Wee (1994) for work which deals with the “consumption” of the primitive Other within the imperial homeland. 10. That is, Cantonese-Chinese pop music. 11. Keith Negus quotes David Howells, Managing Director of Peter Waterman Ltd.: “99 per cent of people give answers that relate [music] to the visual. The extraordinary thing is that you see what you hear …” (Negus 1992, p. 66). This statement holds true for Lee. During the launch of Orientalism, in 1991, he appeared at a popular dance club, Zouk, dressed in trousers with feathers at the hem, Elvis Presleystyle sideburns and striped, Gary Glitter–type platform shoes (Fernando 1991, p. 29).

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12. Of this release, one writer says: “Blending elements of Indonesian, Chinese, Indian and Malay pop and folk songs, plus adding rap and singing in English has made ‘The Mad Chinaman’ one of the most adventuresome and satisfying albums in years” (Hale 1990). The Mad Chinaman marks the moment Lee broke into the difficult Japanese market: “Dick Lee … has been given as much space in music magazines in Japan during the past six months as the Rolling Stones. Lee, 33, has won so much attention solely on the basis of his album ‘The Mad Chinaman’ …” (Shig 1990). 13. Lee’s lyrics can be read as a response to the PAP government’s policy, until recently, of consistently tearing down much of old Singapore to create more commercially viable buildings. Current “restoration” activities have been criticized as giving buildings a theme park–like appearance. 14. Lee’s photo appeared on the cover of Billboard, 18 February 1992, and he was cited in the caption as one of “the artists … who helped the Japanese music industry achieve its fastest growth in two decades”. Lee also did well in 1991 as he won Best Newcomer award in the International Music Toll organized by Radio Television Hong Kong. 15. Tommy Koh, a former ambassador to the United States, is the chairman of the Council, and has said, “I told Dick that anything I can do to help him fulfil this [Broadway or West End] ambition, I’ll do it.” The Asiaweek writer added, “[Koh] is trying to get Lee and Mackintosh together” (Koh, quoted in “It’s Glamor Time! From Rock to Musical, Top Acts Light Up the Asian Stage”, Asiaweek, 3 November 1993, p. 41). 16. On Confucian modernity, see Elegant (1990). 17. Regarding opposition to the state’s endorsement of the primordial or the traditional, S. Rajaratnam, then in retirement, protested in a letter to the press: “At this rate, there will be a long queue of Singaporean citizens proclaiming Sikh identity, Jewish identity, … Cantonese identity, Hokkien [Fujian] identity — and goodbye Singapore identity” (Rajaratnam 1990). The fear was that “communalism”, as the British called it, might again rear its ugly head. 18. In the liner notes to Year of the Monkey, Lee says that he used “(in part) the gamelan scale of Indonesia, which coincidentally is similar to the Japanese Koto Scale”. This mix-and-match is consonant with Lee’s pan-Asian theme. 19. Thanks to Wong Seng Tong at the National Institute of Education–Nanyang Technological University for help with the translation. REFERENCES Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy”. Public Culture 2, no. 2 (Spring 1990): 1–24.

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Appiah, Kwame Anthony. In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Appleton, William A. A Cycle of Cathay: The Chinese Vogue in England during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 1951. Billboard, 18 February 1992. Branegan, Jay. “Is Singapore a Model for the West?” Time, 18 January 1993. Chua Beng-Huat. Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore. London: Routledge, 1995a. . “Culture, Multiracialism and National Identity in Singapore”. Department of Sociology Working Papers 125. Singapore: National University of Singapore, 1995b. Clerc, Jean-Pierre. “Eastern Approach”. Le Monde section of Guardian Weekly, 30 October 1994, p. 21. De Gramont, Laure. “In Search of an Identity”. Supplement to Vogue Paris, no. 741 (November 1993), pp. 26–27. Elegant, Robert. “The Singapore of Mr Lee: ‘Confucian’ Ethics, Asian Values”. Encounter, June 1990, pp. 22–29. Fernando, Grace. “Birthday Boy Dick Lee Launches New Album”. Straits Times, 24 August 1991. Foo, Juniper. “Dick Lee’s New Show in Japan a Hit”. Life! Supplement to Straits Times, 30 March 1994, p. 15. Hale, James. “Singapore Singer Now Rocks Abroad”. Japan Times, 3 August 1990. Huntington, Samuel. “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3 (Summer 1993): 22–49. Josey, Alex. Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Donald Moore Press, 1968. Kant, Immanuel. Kant’s Political Writings, edited by H. Reiss and translated by H.B. Nisbet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970. Kwok Kian Woon. “Social Transformation and the Problem of Social Coherence: Chinese Singaporeans at Century’s End”. Department of Sociology Working Papers 124. Singapore: National University of Singapore, 1994. Mitsuhiro, Yoshimoto. “The Postmodern and Mass Images in Japan”. Public Culture 1, no. 2 (1989): 8–25. Mouffe, Chantal. “Introduction: For an Agonistic Pluralism”. In The Return of the Political. London: Verso, 1993. Negus, Keith. Producing Pop: Culture and Conflict in the Popular Music Industry. London: Edward Arnold, 1992. Ngoo, Irene. “S’pore Less Interested in Hosting 2nd WTO Meet”. Straits Times, 17

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Ogura Kazuo. “A Call for a New Concept of Asia”. Japan Echo 20, no. 3 (Autumn 1993). Rabinow, Paul, ed. “Anthropology and the Analysis of Modernity”. Cultural Anthropology 3, no. 4 (1988). . French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989. Rajaratnam, S. “Malayan Culture in the Making”. In The Prophetic and the Political: Selected Speeches of S. Rajaratnam, edited by Chan Heng Chee and Obaid ul Haq. Singapore: Graham Brash, 1987. . “Raja Wants Revival of a ‘Singaporean Singapore’”. Straits Times Weekly Overseas Edition, 17 March 1990, p. 3. Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979. Segal, Gerald. “This Rhetoric About Clashing Civilizations Can Only Hurt Asia”. International Herald Tribune, 6 October 1993. Reprinted in Asian Bulletin 18, no. 12 (December 1993). Sesser, Stan. The Lands of Charm and Cruelty. London: Picador, 1994. Shig. “Lee Leads World Music Boom in Asia”. Asahi Evening News, 30 June 1990. Sinha, Mrinalini. Colonial Masculinity: The “Manly Englishman” and the “Effeminate Bengali” in the Late Nineteenth Century. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Neocolonialism and the Secret Agent of Knowledge”. Interview by Robert Young. Oxford Literary Review 13, nos. 1–2 (1991). Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. “From the Margins”. Cultural Anthropology 9, no. 3 (August 1994). Tu Wei-ming. Confucian Ethics Today: The Singapore Challenge. Singapore: Federal Publications, 1984. Tu Wei-ming, ed. The Triadic Chord: Confucian Ethics, Industrial East Asia and Max Weber. Singapore: Institute of East Asian Philosophies, 1991. Vogel, Ezra F. The Four Little Dragons: The Spread of Industrialization in East Asia. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991. Watanabe, Teresa. “In the East, Pop Audience Gets Icons of Its Own”. Los Angeles Times, 19 May 1992. Wee, C.J.W.-L. “Contending with Primordialism: The ‘Modern’ Construction of Postcolonial Singapore”. positions: east asia cultures critique 1, no. 3 (Winter 1993): 715–44. . “Kipling, a ‘Primitive’ National Identity and the ‘Colonial’ Condition at

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Home”. New Formations, no. 24 (Winter 1994), pp. 51–65. Wilson, Rob and Arif Dirlik. “Introduction: Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production”. boundary 2 21, no. 1 (Spring 1994). Young, Robert. Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race. London: Routledge, 1994.

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Pictures at an exhibition: re-presenting the sugar industry at the Negros Museum, Philippines MARIAN PASTOR ROCES

The fundamental event of the modern age is the conquest of the world as picture. The word “picture” [Bild] now means the structured image [Gebild] that is the creature of man’s producing which represents and sets before. In such producing, man contends for the position in which he can be that particular being who gives the measure and draws up the guidelines for everything that is. (Heidegger 1977, p. 115)

Picturing ambiguity

Picture, if you will, a museum as a study in discursive ambiguity. Picture, then, an unsettled quality suffusing the Negros Museum, established in 1994 within a handsome 1930s provincial capitol built in the spirit of a design by the famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham for American colonial government buildings in the Philippines. One wonders if it is the building itself — resting, as it does, in neo-classical splendour and in close proximity to an open air and usually quiet wet fish/meat/ vegetable market across the street, near the busy pier of this capital city of Bacolod, in the environs of the remarkable sugar-cane plantations of this province of Negros Occidental1 — that communicates this vague sense of incongruity.

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Ambivalence, too: but this perhaps issues from seeing this stately capitol together with a museum within it that does not intone stately narratives. Five years after it opened, the museum still conveys an indeterminacy that is doubtless amplified by the very determined qualities of its architectural setting. For it may indeed be observed that any act of representation here — for instance, sounding voices stilled by the sugar industry — inevitably sounds half-hearted, perhaps annoyingly so, within the elegant ballroom of this building, emblem of the politics that guarded the immense wealth created in this province by mono-cropping. Framed by perfect acanthus-leaf capitals atop columns edifying the sixty-foothigh ceiling — uplifting this space the way sugar-cane is said to have done for this province — the museum’s critique-driven curatorial design can only appear effete or irresolute. My involvement with this museum began shortly after it was initi2 ated by a group of art patrons, led by wives of important plantation 3 owners. They wished to establish a “sugar museum” at the old capitol. This was at the end of the 1980s, which proved to be an ironically opportune time for inventive museum-building in Negros. There was vivid and traumatic recall of the near-collapse of the local sugar industry in the late 1970s, due to global economic shifts. The Negros élite could conceive the tastelessness of celebrating sugar in a region still reeling, a decade after the crisis, from the effects of radical economic downturn. On my part, hoping to seize a rare chance to sell an ambitious curatorial project, I proposed an alternative curatorial plan on the theme of migration, in as much as almost everyone who has ever lived in Negros came from somewhere else. This migration, in any case, was radically intensified by the 150-year old sugar industry, which will therefore be part of, but by no means be the single focus of, the exhibition. The group agreed to decentre (dilute) sugar thus, but could not rally the resources adequate to the complicated research and design demanded by a museum on migration. Putting this ambition on hold, we settled on the oxymoronic strategy of a temporary permanent exhibition. My limited objective was to see that the inaugural exhibition, subsequently entitled Sugar and Other Negros Tales, would provoke some curiosity about those “other tales” which heretofore did not seem to exist — or could only exist feebly — in light of the heroic capitalist fable conflating sugar,

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progress, and la dolce vita. As planned, the exhibition was to suggest rather than tell these other tales. Indeed, these histories do not form a homogeneous lot. They range from plaints sung by plantation labourers to spatial memory of archaic interior-to-sea riverine axes; to stories of recent combat between the government and the New People’s Army forces; to baffling recall (“recorded” in dance!) of raids from the Sulu seas which happened some 200 years ago. And these are not so much accounts as entries in a list of scantily researched topics — these gaps in scholarship, in themselves, 4 telling. The gaps disclose openings into untried discursive possibilities. To locate these gaps is to also suggest that sugar has over-determined the identity, the dynamics of strife, and the imagining of Negros — and hence to attempt a counter-politics. Certainly, a plural history may be proposed, breaking with the unilinear and overly dyadic frame that limits discussion to pro/con positions vis-à-vis the sugar industry. Such complexity might reckon the mammoth Negros haciendas, for instance, not as phenomena per se, but as topos sustaining the totalizing fictions of sugar. This ground has long resonated highly polarized talk (for example, the outrageously wealthy versus the severely abject) that rings true, but rings so loud that little else is audible. The new museum had to be polyvocal then. It needed to try toning down the sonorous and often strident dualisms that have, of course, contributed to social understanding in this province, but only by muting hints that Negros exceeds sugar. That Negros had better be a construct that exceeds sugar came through, in modest ways, in the exhibition. What follows in this chapter are descriptions of some sections that variously sustain this theoretical, thus political, possibility. Yet, more than anything else, Sugar and Other Negros Tales exhibited the strains of a critical project perhaps naïvely enacted within an architectural sign of power. That naïveté is mostly mine, especially the failure to foresee just how much the powerful elegance of the building would aestheticize the strains. The capitol embodies “period” architectural beauty and in it, the museum’s curatorial meditations on change, transit, loss, decay, and grief, are enveloped in nostalgia. A genteel past-ness pervades the museum, and its sections are read as attractive pictures at an exhibition, albeit ambiguous ones — of “cultural”, but not “political”, worth. Continuing as consultant of the

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museum during staff training (which involved assisting them in refining exhibition sections during the years immediately after the inauguration), I was often confronted with the project’s unresolved status. I encouraged the incoming staff to see this situation as a good place, and to seek a political education in studying the difficulties of re-presenting Negros experiences within a literally imposing site. I pressed them to analyse the lines of strain. I visit infrequently these days, however, having no clear proposal for transforming the value of this theoretical tension — this irresolution — into further refinements of exhibition design. It is probably one of “those moments when a project is faced with its own impossibility” (Visweswaran 1994, p. 98, quoted in Clifford 1997, p. 85), a moment that this chapter describes in order to foreshadow more complex, emancipatory imaginings of a future Negros. Decaying picture

In many ways, Negros is an impossible (read: absurd, preposterous, stymieing) project of construction. Sighted and “discovered” by sixteenth century Basque adventurers, it was named after its dark-skinned and diminutive aboriginal inhabitants, described as Negritos, “small black men”, who are now almost impossible to meet, much less comprehend. 5 The Negritos are hardly to be found on Negros today. The island’s name thus marks absence. It invokes and occludes a past that is impossible to retrieve or “recapture”. And while present residents of the island do recall the association of Negros with an original people, few make much of the possible meanings of this erasure. Carrying a name signalling loss and picturing decay of memory, the island is already a place of fabulation. In place of the vanished aborigines are the largely mestizo upper crust and bourgeoisie (mostly descended from Chinese and European economic migrants and their spouses from local Austronesian populations), and the brown-skinned labourers (of Austronesian descent) from many nearby islands. Together and at cross-purposes, they sustain the invention of a Negros of warring classes. So intense has this conflict been in the second half of this century, that few noticed the all-but-final disappearance of the island’s forest cover. Another loss then: the sugarcane fields mark the forfeiture of botanical diversity. What used to be triple-canopy rainforest is discerned today only as spatial absence. Negros

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is paradoxical in that its authenticity is built up of myriad disappearances, impossible to reverse. But perhaps because such is the case, Negros is, as well, a place where invention and bravura improvization has had a positive charge. 6 Fabulation is a slippery activity, of course, given such decay and impossibility in the air. To create the Negros Museum, its proponents and staff accosted and wrestled with many impossible situations arising from metaphoric and literal decay. Museum projects in the tropics are a contradictory activity to begin with. Decay is a constant, and can only be held at bay with impossibly big expenditures on climate control. They had to let go of the museological imperative to preserve, early in the planning. I advised the proponent group against collecting precious materials like old textiles, to reinvent the activity of collecting. They agreed to compose the permanent exhibition with well-made fake artefacts. “Showcasing” present-day local craftsmanship instead, the museum proposed an authentic Negros with an inflection on present-day construction: of ideas, of things, of sense of place. In foregrounding today’s skills and imagination applied to “recreating” the past, the museum raises the idea that heritage is invention. Whose invention and for whom the invention, becomes the important question of power — yet to be resolved. But this museum has already, however inadvertently, let go of a conservative museology that idealizes a scientifically truthful past, using objects rarefied in history. The need for great inventiveness was so clearly impressed upon the museum staff when they were forced by circumstances to continue working on what we came to call the “banwa corner”. We wanted a physical evocation of the word banwa, which now means “town” in the Hiligaynon vernacular. But it was not this banwa as town that we wished to translate into a “display”. It was the archaic banwa that posed the challenge, with its medley of meanings, including the notions of “mountain”, “countryside”, “terrain”, “climate”, “homeland”, and “every island from sea to sea”. This medley exists only as recorded in colonial period dictionaries 7 (Scott 1994, p. 13). What materialized at the banwa corner are woven web-like structures, chemically petrified tree trunks and painted shadows on walls, the whole completed with fake bugs and birds added for “realism”.

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In fabricating this corner, the museum staff encountered not only the predicament inherent in capturing lost meanings, but also the limitations of the conventions of media employed by museums to communicate messages. Painting, sculpture, tableaux-making and photography, they began to realize, simply affirm only their own histories as technologies of representation, and promote the conceit of the omnipotent curatorial gaze. Acknowledging this theoretical/technical quandary, the 8 curator-in-training nonetheless kept tenaciously to the (apparently mad) task of “weaving a room”. But the multiple conceptions of banwa — a space at once embracing, diffuse, and permeable — proved untranslatable physically. In hindsight, it should not have come as a surprise that this task proved elusive. It was certainly predictable that the efforts would result in an “installation” consisting of body-enshrouding, net-like structures, that would read “contemporary art”. (This was discomfiting because the intention was to produce work that would seem appropriate in a social history museum.) The apparent failure on a technical level is in fact a theoretical challenge. For it became clear that to use weaving as a technology of representation — alternative to the subjective, subjecting, indeed subjugating and distancing media available in museum pedagogy — would require that weaving be theorized and exercised as craft in ways that have not been attempted yet. There was also the tautological problem inherent in sounding out hope in a reversal of irreversible cultural loss: of archaic ideas and words and of people in a geography of displacement. Still, the impossibility of this protracted project not only is to do with the eclipse of the significations of the term banwa itself. That the past is inaccessible has stopped few of us from investing in memory, even in memories that belong to others. The problem has more to do with the complicity of museums in epic narratives of ruination. Museums resurrect ruins to conjure a romantic rarification, so that the objects, texts, and images within it are charged with other-worldly desirability. But it is also in this sense of the museum as grandiloquent ruin that its representational impotence shows up, as indeed it did in the “banwa corner”. Although rendered in three-dimensional space, the banwa in the museum remained socially, historically, and conceptually “flat”. It was flattened by the word museum (the sign and power of the building), which transforms every-

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thing in it into relics. The museum’s banwa succumbs to the pull of reverie and bourgeois delectation. And in its consignment to the rarefied domain of the nostalgia-charged relic, it contributes feebly to any social and political agenda. “Once materialized within the museum, idealist aesthetics could be expected to neutralize the possibility of art as revolutionary praxis or resistance”, writes Douglas Crimp (1993, p. 303). His observation applies to any offerings, by museums, of cultural packages for consumption. The same tension between decay and current conventions of consumption of cultural capital was exposed in relation to the creation of a tableau, based on a work in theatre. One section of the exhibition was to represent a zarzuela written, composed, produced and performed by a group of workers from the plantation Hacienda Adela — presumably an expression of how at least one group of labourers felt about social conditions in Negros. (Zarzuela is a Spanish popular musical theatre much indigenized in the Philippines.) This tableau was intended as the museum’s most important effort at drawing attention to non-dominant discourses. The zarzuela in question was one which had enjoyed great success, having won accolades in Manila and other Philippine cities. The success proved fatal, because eventually, the Adela landlords, mindful of what was finding expression, intervened in several performances (insisting on certain “stylistic” improvements). Further success alienated the landlord even more, who eventually withdrew support and made it impossible for the workers to stage this and other theatre pieces. The Adela workers’ theatre group was already disbanded by the time the museum commissioned a contemporary artist to craft the tableau. It appears that he only sought out the Adela workers cursorily, contrary to the specification of the design brief, and assumed the privilege of “speaking” on their behalf. The tableau was created using social realist iconography, demonstrating this artist’s personal vision. His reconstruction of the zarzuela drew attention his values and his own sense of advocacy as a contemporary artist. The resulting tableau effaced the specificity of the Adela workers’ perception of the happiness and hardship of life on the plantation. The artist produced an idealized image of workers’ universal oppression — ironically, a version of the picturesque. The zarzuela, as written and performed by the Adela workers, re-

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mains one of the few available records of a social history of Negros from the labourers’ perspective. This is crucial, in view of the privileged narratives that have emerged from the studious documentation of the lives of the wealthy. However, the translation of the zarzuela into the mode of social realism has had the effect of de-radicalizing this counter-narrative, because the zarzuela was absorbed into a personal artistic programme. I connect this matter to the issue of decay and the phenomenology of the ruin, on the one hand, and to the consumer-, ego-driven forces of contemporary art, on the other, because a row eventually ensued between the museum and this artist concerning real and virtual decay. The tableau was the first part of the permanent exhibition to show signs of serious bug infestation and general disintegration. It was removed for this reason, and not for ideological ones. The artist protested loudly and charged the museum of élitism. The ensuing row did not lead to discussions of whose voice? whose cultural capital? whose gain? whose loss? whose ruin? Here the matter rests at the moment. The picturesque

For more than a century and a half since imperial British entrepreneurship vouchsafed the establishment of sugar plantations on this island, the word Negros has been a signifier for decadence and excesses in the Philippines. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the numbers of limousines plying the narrow streets of Negros, bottles of champagne imbibed, European chandeliers suspended in outrageous rooms in mansions, operas consumed and diamonds worn, and happily demented offspring issued from intense interbreeding among the wealthy, compared well with the accounts of such phenomena in the court cities in other parts of the world. Significantly, the recreation of an haciendero’s9 salon is the one successful section of the exhibition. Surrounded by appointments of crystal and hardwood, a trompe l’oeil reproduces the exclusive vision enjoyed by the Negros landlord, as he beholds his plantation and workers from his mansion window. The picture summarizes possession. His gaze ravishes Negros land, workers, plants, machines, stories, the very skies. Subjugation is enacted every time the picture was enjoyed. (It is said in Negros that hacienderos were wont to provide their toilets with such windows, but this may be apocryphal.) It provided a gist of the

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spatial breadth of the plantation owner’s expansive self-consciousness, of his wealth and political importance. This rather sinister Negros version of the picturesque may be about to change — even as it was fixed on one wall of the museum. The change comes in the wake of a radically changing world, but was, specifically in Negros, accelerated by the mid-1970s crash of sugar prices on the world market, which escalated the desperation experienced by plantation labourers. The crisis continued to be played out as the Philippines attempted to renegotiate with the United States for an extension of the sugar quotas. In 1992, Time International (25 May 1992) emblazoned on its cover the picture of a Negros labourer’s malnourished child, belly distended and naked. It raised the question: Who can fix the Philippines? The Negros élite’s response was a “battle-cry” of diversification. Craft centres were established to create employment for displaced labourers, or at least their wives. Supporting crafts production was among the principal translations into action of this call to diversify. It was at this time that the Negros Museum was being established. Hence, one now looks again at the sample of the “haciendero picturesque” at the museum, and sees an image and a punto de vista whose time is quickly becoming past. Where the painted picture framed by the window at the museum is fixed, the real picture to be seen out of real windows in Negros is “morphing” into unpredictable shapes. At the museum, the tromp l’oiel effects a mausoleum-like ambience at the haciendero salon section. It may be said that the faux picture encapsulating a spatial order once thought stable is now a fragment of a ruin. This fragment can now take its place in the museum that has to be a mausoleum as well, the better to parlay this institution’s fund of symbolic cultural capital. The “haciendero picturesque” (as exemplified in the tromp l’oiel, and as metonym for a privileged vision that may shortly be passé) will be a melancholic relic and a happy contribution to the heritage industry which many quarters in Negros hope may replace sugar as a cash “crop”. The modest (and later, the remarkable) successes of small-scale crafts “factories” made it convenient for the museum to commission ceramics and earthenware representations of sugar-based delicacies, dried fish, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, and so forth. I admit to a bizarre glee in

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initiating the production of so much faux food, and choose to remain untroubled by the clash of references engendered by these objects. But then, my ability to be troubled has already been softened by encounters with many other fabulous fakes: plastic sushi in windows fronting cheap Japanese restaurants; mummified food in ethnographic and archaeological museums; media and official reports of the bogus goodies of development, on an island stripped of its forest cover and bulldozed for mono-cropping. The satire of crafting phoney food in a museum uses fraudulence as a claim to authenticity. On reflection, I was drawn to the idea of a museum like the plantations it tries to represent, producing only counterfeit food. Commissioning such “food” which imitates exotic comestibles is at least good for a laugh. But laughter in this or any museum is often hysterical or vexed, and is rarely easy. Moving picture

The picturesque is not just a pretty picture. More than simply tame, the picturesque is tamed space purposively domesticated, surveyed, and invested with meanings dear to the gazing ego. It is a visual construction of the dramatic and engaging, but not threateningly so. “Spatial historian” Paul Carter regards the picturesque as a strategy, an activity of visually claiming a geography to make it stand still for delectation, a way of consuming landscape as though it were a painting. Of an early surveyor in Australia, Carter writes that he … did not adapt the picturesque device of [Portuguese explorer] Camoes’s epic to disguise the facts, but to order and articulate them. It was not by discovering novelties but by ordering them, rendering them conceptually and culturally visible, that the great work of colonization went ahead. In a sense, it was the process of surveying itself that constituted the decisive discovery, rather than the fruits of exploration. It was the method of giving objects great and small a place in the world, the picturesque logic of connection and contrast, that ensured they could never be lost again or overlooked. (Carter 1987, p. 114)

Using Carter’s insight upon another land, it is no wonder that the section of our exhibition devoted to the development of the European view of the island took on a presence of relative solidity. It was filled with maps, machines, surveys, plant lists and foundation dates of towns, and

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with data from a nineteenth century document entitled “Erecciones del 10 pueblos de isla de Negros”. These objects of European cartography and census-keeping did not share the pervading tentativeness of other parts of the exhibition. In this section, the picturesque maintains a sense of integrity difficult to penetrate. In order to contrive a counterpoint to such fixed, claimed territory, I suggested another installation, which took the form of a jarringly lifesized front section of a steam locomotive, positioned as though jutting through a wall. The train is ubiquitous in Negros as in other sugar plantation territories: it conveys goods and people, an emblem of rationalization and regimentation of time and work. I thought of Magritte’s train, an oblique citation of James Clifford’s discussion of ethnographic surrealism (Clifford 1988, pp. 117–51) as a justification for this curatorial pretension. If nothing else, the train has become a favourite of children visiting the museum. It works to again problematize the god-like integrity of the picture-making and picture-taking genius of museums. The train has immediacy as a vision of power, of the destructive work of other engines that have transformed the supine land. The success of the section is a warning — like the sign that reads Caution, Train Passing — for the seductive and solidly picturesque qualities of such a display actually deflect attention from any consideration of the voids that exist surreptitiously in all spaces. Gary Shapiro’s summary of Robert Smithson’s engagement with the museum is relevant here. Shapiro writes: Smithson’s reading of the museum is above all a spatial reading and one that vigilantly attends to the absences that form the other side of the presences that are celebrated in the museum’s explicit ideology. (Shapiro 1995, p. 49)

In the Philippines, where hardly anyone can countenance a bare white space, museum curators ironically run the risk of mistaking the profusion of people and things for voidlessness. Not so at the Negros Museum. For between the hand of a sugar worker and the ceramic food is a vast chasm. It was my hope that the train might arouse some sense of motion in the stillness of the museum. It was an almost silly wish, for absence of movement is so thoroughly predicated in the architectonics of museums. Once installed, the train’s thrusting stance follows an axis directly

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confronting a large traditional boat, which dominates the commodious vertical shaft of a former ballroom. The boat’s relationship of tension with the train falls into a set of signifiers of conflict and degrees of mobility, becoming dangerously reductive. Moreover, trains and boats (and planes) have been installed in museums everywhere to sing odes to progress and human mobility. Yet, at the Negros Museum, the train and the boat do suggest some understanding of the specific voids in the exhibition. Local shipwrights constructed the boat inside the museum. Bearers of skills and knowledge that may be assumed to be thousands of years old, they worked as though they were inserting a miniature boat in a bottle. On completion, the huge boat was raised on slender plinths so that it appears to float in the air. I take that as a necessary but probably corrupted device to argue the validity of non-linear history. In any case, the boat is packed with various things, some cheap, some precious, some old, some new — examples of the payload of such boats in the last few centuries. The train, on the other hand, was made by locomotive engineers employed at a nearby sugar central. Neither vehicle offers the illusion of motion. What they did achieve was far more interesting. For, as I am told on every visit, both vehicles have become the locations where stories are disclosed and retold: recollections of migratory routes, of rocking movements on the way to fearsome destinations. These stories exhibit the conflation of the social with the spatial in ways that subvert mapping. Both vehicles evoke social memories. The stories and memories are more numerous than the artefacts on the boat, and sometimes produce recollections more powerful than the economic and political power represented by the train. These are tales meaningful only to those who have worked and lived on the island. The stories are lodged in memories: in a quietude different from that of the aestheticized stillness of the picturesque. The stillness in the museum seems to have succeeded in expressing the opposite — the moving dynamics of human longing in Negros, the pain and rewards of busy life in the plantations, and the sea voyages that are a part of Negro’s history. It is as if these activities came to life through their very concealment in the stillness of the museum. Although the idea of a moving picture is a release from the regime of Heidegger’s

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gebild, it is at present only an idea, which promises no more than the same illusory, hallucinatory reality of the cinema. The registration of tales in the voids of the Negros Museum took place without my planning. But the fluencies with which these stories are told are only made possible by recognizing the unpredictable nature of any political project which, like all things in life, may be undermined by unexpected contingencies. Conclusion: not in the picture

Bacolod City, home of the Negros Museum, is less than a hundred years old. Most other towns and cities of Negros Occidental were founded in the last 150 years. Like all new urban spaces, these relatively new municipalities emerge out of the trajectory of modernity. They represent spatial transformations charted by the linear logic of progress and the pull of industrial needs. That this progress has not (yet) delivered to the majority of people of Negros Occidental the promise of emancipation is obvious. This failure is visceral where people live: that is, in the lived space of the city, and not the museum, church, and less and less, farms and forests. But because the citification of human perception and physical topography is merely about a century old in many parts of this province, residents continue to invest considerable optimism in the idea of urbanization. They desire urbanity and idealize urban joys. With the fortunes of city life having been so intimately tied in with the sugar plantation economy — in this geography of social and economic connectedness between the city and the plantations — how then is the future urban to be imagined? With the passing of sugar into the fate of the vanished Negritos and vanished forest cover of Negros, can and should urbanization be dreamed as the final radical vanishing of Negros life into pictures that can be consumed by buyers of the heritage industry? Where do we find the sites that contest the reduction of the world into pictures: into the tableaux, postage stamps, flags, and museum exhibits with window-like frames? It is in this sense that museums seem to be the least likely institutions for securing a truly inventive future. My experience in working with the Negros Museum urged me to be cautious with museums. However, I did come to view the activity of establishing museums as a matter of technology transfer. Whether or

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not this technology is appropriate in given contexts depends on the thoughtfulness with which projects are effected, and a keen sense of social justice. It is best to treat museums with caution — best, I believe, to pay attention to what is not pictured, what is not in the picture. I regard museums now as a kind of laboratory for flexing the capacity to recognize the significance of the liminal, to sense the undulating presences in their voids, so to speak, rather than in their pictures. This recognition does not disavow the cultural urge to frame and to categorize, but also hopes to give full expression to the need to historicize and thus to reconfigure the past. And there may be vitality in museums that are built to create opportunities to evaluate the adequacy of all critical engagements with the social and the political. This, at least, seems to be the only way of negotiating a monumental project like that of representing the economic relations and the flow of power in relation to the sugar industry in Negros. The museum staff in Negros is unperturbed by my concerns. Perhaps their insouciance is linked with the presence of the ramshackle “wet market” across the street from the museum. In the market, the chaos of the city is signified by the busy people as much as by the fish, heads of pigs hung in hooks, and vegetables brought in, part of the way, by water buffaloes. These signs of city life reinforce the near-futility of the representational project in the museum. I think they are offered, daily, a reminder that the voids in their institution are not small-scale spectres in isolation. The voids resonate with the chaos and absences of the larger society and with the wider cosmos of significations. What comes to mind so sharply here is Michel Foucault’s notion of heteroto11 pia, which can be deployed to express the impossibility of isolating a single site from the flux of signification in modern urban life, in Negros as in other parts of the Philippines. There are real people in the market, and in the museum space where the archaic banwa is being awkwardly evoked. There is no need, it seems, for me to press my anxiety upon the museum staff. The bustling activities in the wet market are assuring enough. Recently, plans have been announced to relocate the market elsewhere, and to turn the site into a theme park. Until that happens, the staff will continue to confront all the reminders of experiences plu-

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ral and paradoxical, simultaneously utopic and heterotopic, taking place next door. At present, the museum workers have little choice but to recognize Fredric Jameson’s point, that good city form … may well involve a certain tension with purely architectural space, asking certain buildings to accept a reduced position within the perception of the whole, rather than to strive to become themselves microcosms and models of the totality (and thereby the totality of perception). (Jameson 1995, p. 203)

And as for myself, I can only take recourse in a patient study of the way things unfold and in humility in the face of impossible projects. As a postscript, I note that I have been writing this chapter on and off for about three years. I have a better sense now, I believe, of the value of the ambiguity I noted when I started. Writing of an exhibition entitled Paradise at the British Museum, James Clifford provides me, at this juncture, with a succinct synthesis: the tension would not, should not, disappear. In this spirit, I find myself wanting a more ambivalent Paradise; I look for the shadows already there to lengthen, to trouble to hopeful story of hybrid authenticity. Trouble, not erase. (Clifford 1997, p. 187) NOTES 1. Negros Occidental is roughly half of the island of Negros, in the Visayas islands that form the central section of the Philippine archipelago. Negros is bisected by a volcanic mountain range situated along a northeast-southwest axis. The dominant language in Negros Occidental is Hiligaynon, brought to this side of Negros by populations moving, across a strait, from the Iloilo side of the nearby island of Panay. On the other side of the mountain divide, Cebuano is the dominant language in the province of Negros Oriental (which faces the island of Cebu). The sugar plantation economy is more of a Negros Occidental than a Negros Oriental phenomenon. 2. The Negros Cultural Foundation, Inc. (NCFI) is a non-stock non-profit foundation which, before working to establish the Negros Museum, had already undertaken the high-profile task of restoring an ornate mansion, built at the turn of the century by a pioneering French planter. The restoration work was undertaken with the intent of converting the mansion into a “lifestyle museum”. This Balai Negrense, “Negros House”, constructs the glory days of sugar (more or less contemporary with the time this mansion was built) as a condition of unproblematic bourgeois

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refinement. Mrs Lyn B. Gamboa has led the NCFI from the time of its establishment. 3. The Negros Cultural Foundation, Inc. (NCFI) was able to negotiate to lease the central section of provincial capitol building from the provincial government for half a century, for the token amount of one peso a year. In turn, the NCFI committed to establishing and maintaining a museum within this central section of the building. 4. Academic interest in Negros topics appears to have been circumscribed by the politics of sugar. This is evidently because of the timeliness and hotness of topics such as the following: the oppressive conditions lived by plantation labourers; the heroically articulated projects to alleviate these conditions, vouchsafed by many advocates of social equality; the vainglory but also the extraordinary visions of the wealthy; the science of sugar vis-à-vis the global market-place. Greater attention is devoted to these social history topics than to topics of ethnographic, archeological, humanities (including musicology and dance ethnography) interest. 5. A few small bands of Negritos, also called ati, erstwhile nomads, still live in the mountainous spine of Negros. However, their populations are so dwindled that they are literally unseen by most of those who live on this island today. And because of centuries of intermarriage with shifting agriculturists and farm workers of Austronesian (previously known as Malayo-Polynesian) descent, the ati are in fact vanishing as a racially distinct population. 6. I considered the “aesthetics” of putrefaction in the tropics during discussions in preparation for a chapter on artist Simryn Gill, in “Slow Release” (1997, pp. 50– 55). 7. The principal source is Alonso de Metrida’s Bocabulario de la lengua Bisaya-Hiligueyna y Haria de las islas de Panay y Sugbu, y para las demas islas, completed in the seventeenth century (de Metrida 1841). 8. The curator-in-training then is now the appointed curator, Lilibeth V. LaO. She works in close collaboration with the appointed CEO, Jennifer R. Lizares. Both have altered parts of the permanent exhibition only with my advice. I ended my commission as curator of the permanent exhibition and overall adviser on museum planning, at the end of staff training. The curatorial plan for Sugar and Other Negros Tales was developed with a guest co-curator and exhibition designer, Adrian Jones. 9. The Spanish word haciendero has currency in many Philippine vernacular languages as a signifier for inordinately wealthy men, whose personalities are inflected towards cynicism and contemptuousness. 10. Handwritten manuscripts, Philippine National Archives. 11. For the use of heterotopia in urban studies and cultural studies, see Soja (1995) and Genocchio (1995).

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REFERENCES Carter, Paul. The Road to Botany Bay. London: Routledge and Faber & Faber, 1987. Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth Century Ethnography, Literature and Art. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988. . Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 1997. Crimp, Douglas. On the Museum’s Ruins. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993. De Metrida, Alfonso. Bocabulario de la lengua Bisaya-Hiligueyna y Haria de las islas de Panay y Sugbu, y para las demas islas. First published 1637. Manila, 1841. “Erecciones del pueblos de isla de Negros”. Handwritten manuscripts. Philippine National Archives, Manila. Genocchio, Benjamin. “Discourse, Discontinuity, Difference”. In Postmodern Cities and Spaces, edited by Sophie Watson and Katherine Gibson. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995. Heidegger, Martin. “The Age of the World Picture”. In The Question Concerning Technology, translated by William Lovitt. New York: Harper and Row, 1977. Jameson, Fredric. “Is Space Political?” In Anyplace, edited by Cynthia C. Davidson. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995. Roces, Marian Pastor. “Slow Release”. Art + Text 56 (Fine Arts Press, Sydney), February–April 1997, pp. 50–55. Scott, William Henry. Barangay: Sixteenth Century Culture and Society. Quezon City: Manila University Press, 1994. Shapiro, Gary. Earthwards: Robert Smithson and Art after Babel. Berkeley: UCLA [University of California at Los Angeles] Press, 1995. Soja, Edward W. “Heteropologies: A Remembrance of Other Spaces in the CitadelLA”. In Postmodern Cities and Spaces, edited by Sophie Watson and Katherine Gibson. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995. Visweswaran, Kamela. Fictions of Feminist Ethnography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. Watson, Sophie and Katherine Gibson, eds. Postmodern Cities and Spaces. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.

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12

Stars in the shadows: celebrity, media, and the state in Vietnam MANDY THOMAS & RUSSELL H.-K. HENG

Media culture in Vietnam is presently documenting a vibrant revolution in the relations between the public, the media, and the state. The social and cultural transformations that are taking place are potently manifest in the eager response of the public to an entirely unfamiliar category of public person in Vietnam — the celebrity. The public is experimenting with cultural icons that are not dictated by the ruling political party, signalling a radical shift in the ideological topography of popular culture. This chapter argues that contemporary celebrities in Vietnam mark out a terrain for unexpressed popular protest at this formative moment for media culture. Dissent is unrealizable in other domains yet occupies a crucial space for the negotiation of political and social meaning in an era of rapid social mutability. We suggest here that the popularity of the tabloids in Vietnam expresses in readers’ thirst for celebrities a will to a reconfiguration of their political and cultural power. This chapter first traces the changing relationship between the media and the state in Vietnam and then provides a portrait of the sociocultural milieu in which contemporary celebrities are positioned. Material gained from interviews about popular culture with a cross-section of Hanoi residents conducted in late 1997 and early 1998 indicates the

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precise modalities through which the role of public figures and fame are undergoing eruptive change in contemporary Vietnam. It then argues that attraction to celebrities holds the possibility of more transgressive political acts (such as the formation of crowds), in support of which we present a case study of the public reaction to the recent death of a popular icon. The metamorphosis of the media in Vietnam

Vietnam is on the brink of becoming a fully fledged media culture in which the popular narratives and cultural icons are reshaping political views, constructing tastes and values, crystallizing the market economy and, as Kellner suggests, “providing the materials out of which people forge their very identities” (1995, p. 1). If the media is, as Hartley suggests, “a visualisation of society” (1996, p. 210), then the recent foray into media culture is a dramatic turnaround from what existed previously. Until the policy of renovation (doi moi) in Vietnam began in 1986, the media had a role of spreading propaganda and focused less on reporting news than on educating the populace. As evidenced in the memoirs of the northern journalist-turnedpolitical refugee, Bui Tin, many journalists from 1954 onwards were integrated into the party, and felt honoured to be spreading its messages (Bui Tin 1995). Public criticism of the regime in the north has been mainly apparent in literature rather than in journalism, and writers examining forms of social deterioration such as Duong Thu Huong and 1 Nguyen Huy Thiep have often found themselves censured by the party. In general, however, the nationalist cause and socialist ideals were promoted by the arts, which were “to be purged of the perfidious influence of Western bourgeois culture and provided with a new focus, nationalist in form and socialist in content” (Duiker 1995, pp. 181–82). In the south after 1975, journalists and writers were singled out for particular punishment by the party, many sent to forced labour camps or imprisoned (Jamieson 1993, p. 364). Awareness of the power of the printed word has led the party to harness journalists and writers to their cause, at the same time as it harbours a tenacious suspicion and distrust. In early 1998, news in the major newspapers remains dominated by party-related events in Vietnam highlighting activities that will repre-

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sent the socialist society of Vietnam as a success. Other stories that predominate in the newspapers are those that convey moral lessons or provide information on public issues of health and safety. Although there are increasing media reports of corruption, crime, and social upheaval, these are often framed so that the information appears to be for the protection of the masses, and thus may still represent the party as a body interested in rooting out evil. While criticism may be directed at officials, the leaders of the party and the overriding system of rule never come under direct attack nor are they placed under the critical spot2 light. Since doi moi was instituted, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of newspapers and magazines. At the same time, journalists are permitted to investigate cases of wrongdoing by police and local party officials as well as high-level corruption. However, there is still a demand for greater press freedom. Journalists are in the difficult situation of serving two masters, of wanting to attract a readership at the same time as not being permitted to exacerbate political instability. The shift from a “public relations state” (Schudson 1989, p. 160) to one in which the public takes an active role in the choice of media information they receive has been bumpy and the media has on occasions reverted to 3 dictatorial state control (Heng 1997; Unger 1991). Today in Hanoi, newspapers are very widely read. Our interviews reveal that the average number of papers per day that a Hanoi resident has access to, and very often reads, is four. Most of these newspapers are not purchased but are read at work or at other people’s houses. Furthermore, the average Vietnamese newspaper has relatively few pages, typically ranging from four to eight. This, combined with its largely anodyne content, means that it takes up minimal reading time and promotes a tendency to read different papers when they are available. As a result of the variety of reading sites available, the circulation numbers are small but the readership is clearly much larger. A stroll along any Hanoi street in mid-morning reveals the popularity of this medium of information. One inevitably sees people gathered around news stalls, or sitting drinking tea or eating noodle soup ( pho), engrossed in the morning papers. Television programmes (in terms of hours and variety) and video

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tape availability have grown, particularly since 1990. Although in 1988 only one in ten Hanoi households had television (Unger 1991, p. 50), at that time enterprising cafe owners would set up television sets on the street. In the early 1990s one could see crowds of up to several dozen people sitting and gathering around the television sets watching Hong Kong videos. As private ownership of television sets has risen, one no longer sees such groups in public. In early 1998 in the survey we conducted, eighty-seven households out of 100 owned a television set and almost all had access to television. In the last decade the most dramatic decline in media interest has been in the medium of radio, which televi4 sion has almost entirely replaced. Television still devotes a noticeable proportion of programming to promoting “socialist values” educating 5 the public in matters of health, hygiene, and education. Our interviews revealed that the most popular programmes were news programmes (particularly overseas news), sports, soap operas, films, music, and cultural programmes about Vietnam as well as about other countries. It is not only popular culture generally but media culture specifically which has marked the end of global isolation for Vietnam. Even though foreign news is filtered, the cumulative effect of a liberalizing economy, foreign business investment, tourism, and the arrival of information technology has meant that state control of information is weakening. This is evidenced by the recent social unrest in Thai Binh6 province, which was reported both outside and inside Vietnam, demonstrating that political unrest cannot be hidden any longer, in spite of any effort on the part of the government to reimpose its control. Civil society or popular culture?

Civil society in Vietnam is “a short-hand term to describe the emergence of activity, including political activity, not under party control” (Thayer 1991, p. 32).7 Popular culture, on the other hand, refers to those mass cultural activities, closely bound up with the media and advertising (Strinati 1995, p. xvii), which Hebdige defines as “a set of generally available artefacts: films, records, clothes, TV programmes, modes of transport, etc.” (1988, p. 47) and Hartley (1996) as “the practice of media readership” (p. 47). It would be problematic, however, to see civil society as having to do with unofficial actions and processes and popu-

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lar culture as relating more to material culture. In Vietnam the two terms are obviously blurred, for the attraction to popular culture and celebrities has brought people onto the streets, and is drawing people into activities that are seen to be subversive of the party. As Bennett (1986) argues, popular culture is the set of practices and activities that engage the population in their material worlds but which provide a zone in which different “cultural values and ideologies meet and intermingle”, but also wrestle with each other “in their attempts to secure the spaces within which they become influential in framing and organizing popular experience and consciousness” (p. 19). It is popular culture as a battleground for values where it most strongly differentiates itself from civil society, which is always necessarily oppositional. Popular culture, by contrast, engages with both dominant and subordinate cultural forms in its generation of the popular. We will show in this chapter how the understanding that celebrity is anti-party is widespread in Hanoi and that the peaceful numbers that celebrities are attracting are indicative of a new post-communist media revolution that is, by contrast, leaving the party isolated from public appeal. The triad of the linked concepts of celebrity, media, and democracy is intensifying in the same way that “journalism … has shown a tendency throughout the twentieth century to take over and textualize the democratic function of the nation” (Hartley 1996, p. 200). This shift to media culture also represents a fading in significance of a depersonalized public sphere which has been promoted by the party, to a public sphere dominated by popular media. The media transformations in Vietnam map out social and political change and provide a cartogra8 phy of a nation passing through a phase of critical re-evaluation. Celebrity and popular culture

Hartley (1996) and Marshall (1997) have both claimed that in many areas of the globe there is historically a powerful association between democracy, celebrity, and popular readership. Hartley suggests that political revolutions such as the French and American Revolutions required journalism to set them alight and that tabloid journalism effectively has a “predemocratic role” (p. 11) scratching a “running sore in the body politic”. This irritant role of the tabloid press may in democracies lead

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to criticism of those in authority but in Vietnam there is as yet no possibility of condemning those with political power except in ways already sanctioned by the state such as in corruption trials. The media in Vietnam thus must offer up new fare for a public hungry for appraisal and commentary in the press. Journalists must direct readers’ interest onto those without political power to sustain their interest. Often articles fulfilling these functions are borrowed directly from foreign magazines such as Paris Match, Time, and Newsweek. The Vietnamese public is activated as a group of consumers through an ongoing and dynamic process of cultural production, in a lively engagement with the media. Celebrity, like other forms of popular culture, often evades formal institutional structures of power in appealing to the populace, and is almost always linked with market economies, which legitimize it (Marshall 1997, p. xii). Because the media in Vietnam is primarily viewed as a potent means to engage in class struggle and as an instrument of the party (Heng 1997, p. 1), the political institutions in Vietnam have in effect suppressed the emergence of celebrities until quite recently. Celebrities in Vietnam presently sit in the awkward position of having to be sanctioned by the power structures at the same time as being spontaneous expressions of popular appeal. While there has been a growing number of tabloids and glossy magazines since the policy of doi moi (renovation) was instituted a decade ago, the state still maintains a strict if sometimes hidden control on censorship and editorial freedom (ibid.) In Vietnam although the media is changing, the state does not see information as a marketable commodity or as entertainment. The development of celebrity in Vietnam thus requires something in addition to media support. It depends upon the engagement of consumers with tangible cultural products of the icon. The advent of market economics and globalization had brought the notion and practice of pop culture with icons and cultural products to Vietnam. Throughout Vietnam, celebrities are being memorialized in obtainable objects, the media only providing the initial catalyst for the interest in an individual. Celebrities 9 must be brought into the home embodied in artefacts. These posters, cassettes, soap operas, compact discs (CDs), videos, or even T-shirts, with the pop image or name of the celebrity emblazoned on them, are freely available in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.10 Unlike neighbour-

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ing socialist China, which has witnessed the phenomenon of Mao revolutionary paraphernalia being turned into a massive pop industry of Tshirts with slick slogans, posters with New Age images, and cover designs for rock music CDs (Barme 1996), Vietnam has not done the same with Ho Chi Minh’s heritage. The commodities associated with popular icons are usurping some old mass cultural icons like the bust of 11 Ho Chi Minh or lapel pins/badges of the emblems of the socialist state. It is evident therefore that with the rapid increase in the availability of consumer items, the attraction to celebrities is growing. At the same time, as the relationship between popular icons and commodification is intensifying there has been a corresponding decrease in the circulation and interest in the iconography of the socialist regime. Interviews with a cross-section of more than 100 residents of Hanoi about their preferences for news and their knowledge and interest in 12 public figures were conducted in December 1997 and January 1998. The results indicated that a startling change in public culture and media 13 accessibility is under way in Hanoi. Of people in the two age-group categories, the forty-six to fifty-five years old and the the fifty-six to sixty-five year olds, more than half stated that no public figures interested them, and the rest named Ho Chi Minh as the public figure that was most important. While many respondents would only have answered this way because they have been habituated to always answer in this way, when questioned further it was clear that a high number of older people were really not familiar with many other well-known people. When asked to name any foreigner at all that they had heard about, a common response was Lenin, Marx, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, and Lee Kuan Yew. Considering that many of the respondents watched television this seems a surprising result. When questioned further, many said they did see other people on television but could not remember their names because they just were not interested. How might this be interpreted? The interest in tabloid celebrities in Vietnam is widespread; however, many older people in Hanoi still feel that popular culture is an invasion of what they feel is superficial Western mass culture, and show disgust towards rather than lack of interest in these figures. This is because the regime felt in the past that Western cultural imperialism as evidenced in mass media was an attempt on the part of capitalists to

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impose Western ideologies upon their people (see also Altschull 1995, p. 234). The adult lives of these people were involved in the revolution, and this formative period deeply influenced their perception of public figures and what their role should be. Leaders were expected to exemplify impeccable moral behaviour and a social conscience (Nguyen Khac Vien 1974, p. 47). Since the revolution in the north, public figures have been described in the media and in biographies in glowing terms, and historians employed to write hagiographies of national heroes and revo14 lutionaries (Duiker 1995, p. 182). Public persons for this age-group had to combine patriotism with a socialist ideology. One respondent gave a revealing reply to the question of her perception of the role of public persons: To be famous one has to help one’s country. Being a singer or an actor does nothing to help the struggling workers here. Even a football player playing for Vietnam wins for himself not for the country. Whereas Ho Chi Minh, Vo Nguyen Giap, and others lived only for the people. I just can’t understand why people get excited about football heroes — they are not true heroes, they didn’t fight like we did.

Another respondent replied: Ho Chi Minh is my favourite because he saved our country and was such a clever politician. I’m not interested in these people who are “phenomena” that appear in magazines — they are just superficial and lack culture.

The type of individuality that has been revered in Vietnam is that of people who have been marked by a career in the service of their country 15 as moral exemplars and emblems of nationhood. Those raised in the political environment of the post-1954 socialist transformation of the north and the war for national reunification continue to be influenced by the public culture of the period.16 One older person stated: “We don’t gain anything from these famous people. The media is for education. I don’t read it when they speak about someone who is a singer or so on.” The association between the mass media and nation-building is still strongly felt by older people in Hanoi. Clearly, as Bennett has suggested: Dominant culture gains a purchase in this sphere not by being imposed, as an alien and external force, on to the cultures of subordinate groups, but by reaching into those cultures, reshaping them, hooking them and, with them,

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the people whose consciousness and experience is defined in their terms, into an association with the values and ideologies of the ruling groups in society. (1986, p. 19)

Here, the enjoyment of certain cultural forms, and the “capacities for pleasure and conceptions of pleasure” are mobilized by a configuration of cultural and historical meanings (Mercer 1986, p. 66). That is, what is considered to be “entertaining” at any given moment is contingent upon cultural systems of meanings at particular sites. So, until very recently the powerful intervention of the state upon the desires and needs of the populace was successful in implementing a regime of pleasure associated with nationalist ideals. Following Mercer (1986, p. 55), the imposition of desires upon the populace is part of a wider political arena in which there is some persuasion, some resistance, and some negotiation. So, the present popularity of football players in Vietnam, like the attraction to national figures at an earlier period, is inseparable from the dominant ideology of the moment and the everyday cultural and social worlds of the individual consumer. These celebrities, all popular icons, are meaningful because they are hieroglyphs, instantiations of worlds in the making, of tastes, ideologies, and relations of power in the wider social environment of the Vietnamese people. A provocative disconnection between older people’s stated beliefs about public personae and their reading practices was revealed in our interviews. Not one person in any age-group listed Nhan Dan (The people or People’s daily) as one of their favourite newspapers. The most popular newspaper in all age-groups was The Gioi An Ninh (World security), which presents a diverse range of information about the world outside Vietnam as well as having articles about issues in Vietnam. Other popular newspapers were Hanoi Moi (New Hanoi), specialty journals such as those devoted to sport, those for women, and those for youth, and Cong An (Police), an increasingly popular newspaper devoting its pages entirely to reports of crime and criminal trials. Unlike these papers with high readerships, Nhan Dan emphasizes the achievements of the party, the country, and individuals who espouse the ideals of Vietnamese citizenhood. Bui Tin, the former editor of Nhan Dan (until 1991), commented that “the paper has become a platform for the organs of the party and the state, in other words a heavy and depressing

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sort of official gazette reporting meetings, receptions, resolutions etc., as if to torment its readers” (1995, p. 148). Even for those over forty-five years old who are not interested in news and celebrities outside Vietnam, the paper does not have any allure. This indicates a disjuncture between the ideals that were asserted by this age-group (a commitment to Ho Chi Minh and the national revolution in Vietnam) and the reality of a wider pleasure and interest in international affairs as indicated by the popularity of reading the more cosmopolitan newspaper The Gioi An Ninh. What this hints at is the possibility of a slow change in attitude, as yet “unspeakable” but clearly present in the reading practices of this age-group, one steeped in the revolution and communist ideology. The very different responses of younger people to questions about their media interests indicate the sea change in attitude about the role of artists as public personae. Entertainment is a new phenomenon in postrevolution Vietnam. The political configuration of celebrity-watching in Vietnam is indicated by the way in which respondents answered questions about what famous people they knew of and were interested in. In the older age-group, the standard answer was either no one or “Ho Chi Minh”, whereas in the age range 36–45, only one-third of respondents answered Ho Chi Minh (or General Vo Nguyen Giap, a revolutionary hero who fought the French at Dien Bien Phu), but the remaining twothirds mentioned singers (such as My Linh), footballers (such as Hong Son), and other popular sports people and entertainers. For younger people (in the two age-groups 18–25 and 26–35), Ho Chi Minh was entirely replaced by their favourite footballers, singers, movie stars, and only occasionally was Ho Chi Minh mentioned, usually at the very end, almost as an afterthought. Here are samples of the individual replies to the question (for the age-groups 18–25 and 26–35), “Who are your favourite well-known people in Vietnam?” * * * *

Hong Son (footballer), Nguyen Van Linh (politician) My Linh (singer), Thanh Tung (musician) Nguyen Thuy Hien (female martial arts expert) My Linh, Thanh Lam, Thuy Tien, Hong Nhung (singers) Huynh Duc, Hoang Buu, Hong Son (footballers), Trinh Cong Son (entertainer)

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Lai Van Sam (programme presenter on Vietnam Television VTV3) Hong Nhung (singer), Hong Son (footballer) Tra Giang, Thu Ha, Ngoc Hiep (film stars) Thuy Dung, Hong Nhung, Thu Hien, Tran Duc (singers) Thanh Tung, Trinh Cong Son (musicians) Dang Thi Teo (athlete) Trinh Cong Son (musician) Trung Duc (singer), Do Nhuan (musician), Hong Son (footballer) Nguyen Thi Binh (female political leader) Tuan Vu, Khanh Ly (overseas Vietnamese singers), Trinh Cong Son (musician), Ho Chi Minh My Linh (singer), Vo Nguyen Giap (general, revolutionary hero) Trinh Cong Son (musician), My Linh (singer)

For young people in Hanoi the admiration of celebrities that are apolitical is, we argue, politically symbolic, an incipient political act of opposition. In choosing to admire a singer over a communist political leader individuals realized that in the past this would have been dishonourable, as indicated in the following comments of one eighteen-year-old respondent: My parents don’t think it is a good thing that my sisters and brothers like these singers and like the posters of films from Hong Kong. They think that we will lose our culture and have no values. Sometimes I hide the magazines from my mother because it would upset her so much.

This response indicates that young people may be aware that the party would not so long ago have banned what today the youth find most entertaining and appealing. It also indicated that the collective Vietnamese memory still harbours fear at the consequences of unofficial activities. The interviews with Hanoi youth revealed that their interest in and knowledge of public figures outside Vietnam was extremely diverse and 17 scattered. Here are some examples of the listed favourite Western celebrities that were listed by individual respondents in the age-group 18– 25: *

Freud, Shakespeare, Bill Gates, Darwin, Elton John, President Roosevelt

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Bill Clinton Kevin Costener, Michael Jackson, Tony Blair, Tom Cruise Ronaldo (Brazilian footballer) Hillary Clinton, Princess Diana Martina Hinggis (tennis player) and Ronaldo (footballer) Fidel Castro, Napoleon Bill Gates, Fidel Castro Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson Roberto Baggio (Italian footballer), Ronaldo (Brazilian footballer) Fidel Castro Michael Jackson, Maradona, ABBA Marie Curie, Fidel Castro

Seven others in this age-group answered that they did not know, were not interested in Americans or Europeans or could not remember their names. By contrast, in the age-group 45–65 the following answers were given by individual respondents: * * *

Einstein Marx, Lenin, Fidel Castro over ten respondents answered Fidel Castro only

More than twenty respondents answered that they did not think anything of Western public figures, could not remember their names, or were not interested. In the over-sixty age-group, no respondents answered this question. The growth of a heterogeneity of popular figures who appeal to youth is significant because of the noticeable contrast between this range of interests and significations compared with the figures that are popular with the older age-group. Here, so called “globalization” has not been a homogenizing influence, rather the reverse. For older people there was an intense narrowness of interest in public personae but for young people there was a vast array of contrasting, fluid identifications (see, for example, the answer “Bill Gates, Fidel Castro” — a seemingly irreconcilable pair of individuals). In another contrast, the choices of local celebrities by young people were much more homogeneous. The foreign celebrities are spread over a range of fields and interests and seem to vary with an unpredictability that indicates the sudden flooding of the discursive field of fame with a ready

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population of personae. This suggests that a populace newly exposed to celebrities and without having had the opportunity to build ongoing relationships with these icons over time readily identify with a diverse range of images. This is not to say that Vietnamese youth are “undiscriminating” when exposed to foreign media images, but rather indicates their intense and growing fascination for overseas celebrities and the gradual diffusion of the power of a few public figures to a larger and more diverse field of personae. Mass culture and crowds

The shift in appeal from a scattering of public political figures to a manifold set of celebrities signals the increasing influence of Western conceptions of the individual and the marketability of these conceptions (Marshall 1997, p. x). Celebrities are placed in a position of resolving the contradictions between the public and the private, of acting as mediators between larger imagined communities and individual lives (ibid., p. 25). Emerging public figures in Vietnam offer a set of tropes through which transgressive ideologies and desires may have an outlet. These permissible forms of transgression are responded to by the state with a nervous disquiet until they erupt into public space, where they are suppressed. Political dramas were the only ones which drew masses until recently. Ho Chi Minh’s declaration of Independence in Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi in September 1945 is perhaps the emblematic national crowd in Vietnam.18 Over the last decade Hanoi inhabitants note a gradual decline in interest in public political events like party celebrations and funerals. It is only in the last few years that crowds have been evident for what appear to be entirely non-political activities. Here, it is social drama that draws a crowd, and out of these events are created a sense of com19 munity and shared emotion. The crowd in Hanoi has had a huge semantic shift since the 1940s. Clearly, although never stated blatantly, crowds have for the party been the most splendid instantiation of state power in the past, but now signify the possibility of a most terrifying subversion. Memories of the crowds that tore down the Berlin Wall and of the crowds in Tiananmen Square would add to the concern that officials have for the power of the crowd to overturn and to threaten. The party has seen the impact of the

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potent mix of a public desire for reform, crowds and media interest in Eastern Europe as well as in China and elsewhere in Asia. The evidence for this is manifold. Recent rural uprisings, particularly in Thai Binh province in the north, have clearly been of continuing concern for the regime. The party has to devote considerable effort to arrest declining membership and has not been successful in promoting attendance at state-organized public events. Yet religious festivals are attracting larger gatherings of people every year and undergoing a resurgence in popularity with a rather dramatic flourishing of popular festivals and pilgrimages. Football crowds are also of concern to the party. When Vietnam’s soccer team beat Indonesia in the South East Asian Games in 1997 there was a spontaneous mass outpouring onto the street. The disruption of public order was stressed in newspapers reporting the response to this match, as a number of people had died in traffic accidents that night as a result of both alcohol and youth racing their motorcycles 20 (Ashley Carruthers, personal communication). Mass mourning and mass celebration both open up sites of communal activity that express “non-state” opinion. Popular culture here again reveals itself to be resisting the politics of the state, albeit indirectly. The state funerals for important cadres used to attract thousands of people who lined the streets to see the funeral party pass by. Now, it is only people who live along the route who would bother to be present. The fear that the party has for crowds is indicated by the actions of censors in gluing together the pages of a glossy magazine that had published photos of the funeral procession of the soap opera star, Le Cong Tuan Anh (Ashley Carruthers, personal communication). Three weeks after the funeral, the Ministry of Culture and Information also publicly reproached the media for giving excessive coverage to the event.21 It was the reaction to this death that provided an unprecedented example of the possibilities for disruption in the triangulated relationship between the media, the public, and the state. On 17 October 1996, the suicide of a young movie actor, Le Cong Tuan Anh, in Ho Chi Minh City produced an unprecedented media and public response. He was not really a star in the sense that he was enjoying vast fame and fortune, as the Vietnamese film industry was rather small and had been in the doldrums in recent years. His career

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was only just picking up momentum but his death transformed him into a popular icon. Overnight, serious papers like Tuoi Tre (Youth) and Thanh Nien (Youth) were competing to run background stories on him and the suicide and increasing their print-run in anticipation of increased readership. Readers’ letters poured into newsrooms and one newspaper, Nguoi Lao Dong (The Worker) received forty calls on one day from the public wanting to talk about the late actor. Street entrepreneurs swung into action and brought out photocopied copies of old magazine/newspaper articles about him which sold in large numbers at his funeral procession, and tens of thousands of Saigonese turned out to pay their respect at his wake and on the funeral day, causing massive traffic jams. Among those who went to the funeral parlour at all hours of the day and night were homeless streetkids, pedicab drivers, and the ordinary working people of the city, a spontaneous turnout which would have been the envy of any state mobilization of grassroots participation. The reasons for this were not just that he was young and handsome or that he was suddenly seen as a person who had been destined for greater things. The personal story of Le Cong in the press revealed that he had been discarded as a child by his parents who separated, and spent part of his childhood as a bui doi (streetkid) until his aunt (father’s sister) rescued him from a reform centre. Somehow this combination of public image and personal trials and tribulations had struck a chord with the 22 population. In Hanoi we interviewed a group of twenty university students about 23 Le Cong’s death. Although it was Saigon where the funeral was held and where the public responded with greatest intensity, the youth of Hanoi paid close attention to the events. All those interviewed knew about his death and the details of his life. One young woman reported that her cousin had been to the funeral in Saigon and was asked to repeat the description of it over and over to her friends. After finally arranging a meeting, the cousin admitted that although she had been in Saigon her parents had forbidden her to attend the funeral. She said: I really wanted to go to his funeral because I felt so sad for him — My parents didn’t let me go because they thought it would be dangerous, there might be bad people attracted there, you know, with the crowd of people from all over, they worried that people might come and steal things when nobody was

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Such sentiments were echoed by many of those interviewed, which indicates that the death of Le Cong Tuan Anh reverberated with the many contradictions that exist in contemporary Vietnam. It also reveals the passage of information through Vietnam and some of the differences but also the inseparable connections between north and south. As a young man told us: I think we’ve been through different things — the north and the south — but it’s the whole nation that has been through difficult times. We’re still Vietnamese though … Le Cong had a story familiar to everyone, so we sort of cried for ourselves.

Although it could be said that the south has a much more developed media culture for historical and cultural reasons, the movement of people, information and ideas between different regions in Vietnam has accelerated dramatically in the last few years. In the north the emotional response to the death of this popular icon represented to many young people their shared sense of belonging to the imagined community of all Vietnamese youth and resonated with a national mourning that has been to some degree “unspeakable” in purely political domains. The cultural currency gained by being associated with the crowd of the funeral was also notable. The young woman who had been refused permission to go to the funeral said: I wish I had been at the funeral. I had never heard of something like that, all those people coming together for somebody that was special and meant something important to them.

The sense that Le Cong triumphed over adversity was part of his attraction but his early death turned the success into a poignant tragedy from the perspective of Vietnamese youth. His girlfriend of many years (a famous Saigon model) wanted a separation. The rumour mill had it

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that she was going to marry a more wealthy man (a foreigner), and that her mother did not like Le Cong. She and close friends of the couple, however, rejected these allegations. At Le Cong’s wake, the press photographed her in the traditional mourning dress of a bereaved wife, which added to the poignancy and spectacle of the event. The fact that he had had an unhappy love affair fed into the romantic narratives that appeal to the Vietnamese psyche. The public mourning for a figure few knew personally reflects a resonance between the public and the signification of the celebrity because that person is an embodiment of a larger trag24 edy which affected them personally. In the case of Le Cong, the transition from streetkid to star did not lead to happiness, nor did his talent conquer difficulties in his emotional life. In this way Le Cong embodied a self-abnegation, a quality which has historically been revered as an essential element of the Vietnamese spirit, exemplified in many national 25 legends as well as in the story of Kieu. In a country where mass mourning has been almost entirely stage (state)-managed, the death of Le Cong provided an exemplification and a reaffirmation of what for many is imagined as the “national character” of Vietnam, of self-sacrifice combined with social conscience and desire for love and family. At the same time, the construction of Le Cong as a popular hero, allowed the public to transcend the constraints of official, authorized and legitimate codes of behaviour. His death thus contained a bittersweet aspect to it. Here, the triumph of compassion and social conscience in the public’s response was also a claim for a return to values that are often thought to be lost in present-day Vietnam. This is exemplified in the comments of one young student: The papers mentioned that Le Cong did not own anything and had not spent all his money on foreign goods and things to show others how successful he was. He spent his money helping other people who had problems. I think he was a very good person who realised that money is not important after all.

The ascetic lifestyle of Le Cong that was emphasized in the press fundamentally supports the state’s ideology of deriding so-called “Western bourgeois capitalist values”. Yet it could also mount an insidious attack on the doctrinaire version of rectitude because Le Cong’s meagre circumstances stood out in relief against an increasing public awareness of corruption and profligacy in high places. The anti-materialist message

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was, however, eclipsed by the fact of his death signifying the impotence of principles in the face of emotional suffering, but reassured Le Cong of the position of hero. That the details of his life were revealed to the public is in sharp contrast to the lives of party figures, where there is a overwhelming desire to cover up all personal details or to sanitize these 26 for public consumption. The desire of the public for a shift to the confessional mode in representations of public figures was evidenced in the efflorescence of tabloids that narrated in detail events from Le Cong’s life and included interviews with those who knew him. Le Cong’s death was polysemous and represented many of the contradictions and ambiguities in contemporary Vietnam. His travails as a child were also emblematic of the socio-economic privations which almost all Vietnamese have experienced. The phenomenon of the streetkid continues to be an indication of the failure of the country’s socialist tradition of welfare for the poor. Even with a promising movie career, Le Cong was not leading a life of affluence. His residence was a rented shabby room which belied the glamorous image of a handsome moviestar. This captured some of the ambiguities of the country’s reform programmes which, although holding much promise, have failed to live up to expectations. The rumour of the gold-digging girlfriend, even if untrue, fed into another dark undercurrent of contemporary Vietnam where foreigners are viewed ambivalently as bringing prosperity and opportunities at the same time as inflicting a sense of inequality and inadequacy on the Vietnamese. Le Cong’s appeal was mostly to the youth who were expressing their sense of marginality to the dominant political processes. Le Cong was the ultimate outsider to the orthodoxy because of his streetkid past as well as through the nature of his work as a soap opera star, not something valorized by the state but seen as conveying false value. Wyshogrod (1990) has argued that popular saints signify both a disordering of institutional codes and association with outsiders.27 His “saintliness” was evident through his transgressions and by his being the inversion of a national hero (young, a streetkid, having died by love instead of war), as well as the redemptive quality of his death. But the most significant aspect of the response to the death and subsequent involution of state power was that the scale of public reaction required the mediation of a media that were ready and willing to respond.

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Conclusions

Tony Bennett has written about the political nature of popular culture: Oppositional cultural values are formed and take shape only in the context of their struggle with the dominant culture, a struggle which may borrow some of its resources from that culture and which must concede some ground to it if it is to be able to connect with it — and thereby with those whose consciousness and experience is partly shaped by it — in order, by turning it back upon itself, to peel away, to create a space within which contradictory values can echo, reverberate and be heard. (Bennett 1986, p. 19)

Examining the creation of, and responses to, celebrities in Vietnam can assist in making sense of the chaotic engagement of Vietnam in the processes of modernity. The trope of the public figure in Vietnam formulates and maps the sets of relations between the public and the state, making these relationships visible, although fraught with contradictions and anomalies. The coalescence of popular culture and journalism with modernity releases a storm of desire for objects associated with democratic capitalism exemplified in the figure of the celebrity (see Hartley 1996, p. 8). The inkling of an unravelling of state control on the media in Vietnam has opened a crack onto popular culture during a period of political liberalization. There is an unusual dynamic in Vietnam where celebrities occupy a borderland between popular interest bordering on “uprising” and state control. The state has effectively delimited public criticism, yet a fragile but assertive form of Vietnamese democratic practice has arisen at the margins of official society in the media at a time of accelerating social change. Celebrities exist without democratic capitalism, but in a site such as Vietnam their power is still delicate — even though it has undergone breathtaking growth in the last decade. This configuration means that in the future the place of the celebrity is likely to symbolically register political unrest and social instability. Despite a history of immersion in media propaganda, the Vietnamese audience is highly discriminating and critical of the mass culture that they consume and are not passive manipulated consumers of cultural products. As Strinati (1995) has pointed out, there is a danger in arguing that consumers of popular culture are “self-conscious, active subversives, exploiting media culture for their own ends, and resisting and reinterpreting messages circulating by cultural producers” (p. 258). This is a cari-

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cature of audiences and does not take into account the social and historical forces involved in the production of both mass culture and audiences. There is also a problem in suggesting that people have little knowledge of the processes of globalization or the wider relations between the media and politics which might influence their tastes and perceptions. In the case of Vietnam, consumers are neither “active subversives” nor “passive victims” of media imagery, but fall between these poles. Their consumption of media products and popular icons often generates “agency” (Appadurai 1996, p. 7) as audiences have been made explicitly aware of the political and social forces at work in the production and in the banning of images and information from them. In this way, it is clear that in consuming celebrities, the Vietnamese populace are not unmeditative masses undertaking an unthinking act. Rather, the contemporary icons of popular culture in Vietnam are being engaged in the social lives of the audiences in all their diversity. These acts are personally pleasurable but also politically expressive while not being politically motivated. Celebrities will attract crowds, and those crowds may often express an “excess” which both symbolizes and exacerbates already strained relations between the state and the people. There is potential for the new communities of feeling that arise at these moments to be revolutionary, as the new publicly known person in Vietnam no longer symbolizes a nation (as did the pre-eminent public figure Ho Chi Minh). By extending Bourdieu’s analysis of the nature of charisma and power (Bourdieu 1984) to the relationship between celebrities and power, Marshall suggests that a “celebrity’s formative power rests with the people as an expression of popular culture and will” (Marshall 1997, p. 56). Here, popular culture is, as both Fiske (1989) and Hall (1981) argue, reconfigured into a cultural battlefield in which differing representations of the popular imagination are fought over. The close scrutiny applied to foreign celebrities particularly marks them in this battle as being “icons of democracy and democratic will” (Marshall 1997, p. 246). The contemporary celebrity in Vietnam thus signals for the nation a loss of ideological purpose and an unravelling of images of a political struggle in which a public is being shaped but is also itself constructing political and cultural meaning.

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NOTES 1. The phenomenon of a critical political literature has historical roots in the colonial period when in the 1930s in the north a group Tu Lc Van Doan (Self-Reliance Literary Group) wrote novels that critically assessed the inequities arising from colonization (Duiker 1995, p. 179). 2. This has also been reported in China, which has similar political institutions (Polumbaum 1990, pp. 59–60). 3. See Polumbaum (1990) for an analysis of the relations between the media and the state in China. 4. Although we did not conduct extensive interviews outside of Hanoi, in Yen Bai and Vinh Phu provinces several informal interviews were conducted to ascertain the levels of exposure to the media. These indicated that television is watched much less than in Hanoi, with fewer than 50 per cent of households owning television sets. Newspapers are not widely available; when available they are often out of date. Families going to Hanoi occasionally bring back magazines, which are also left by passing truck drivers. Information is much more local and interest in celebrities is almost always focused upon Vietnamese talent. 5. In prime time television in January 1998, in addition to news, soap operas, and films, there were education programmes such as “Washing your new baby and other principles of hygiene” and a two-hour video of a lecture at Hanoi University on physics and electronics. 6. Rural unrest and violence in Thai Binh province erupted because of economic difficulties and villagers’ disgust with the corruption of local party officials. This has been reported in an official Vietnamese state newspaper Nhan Dan (The People) (for example, 3 December 1997). However, similar political instability in Dong Nai province in the south of the country was not reported in any national newspaper (Bangkok Post, 3 December 1997, p. A8). 7. Others have defined civil society more narrowly. McCormick (1995), for example, defines it as being related to the “organisations that are autonomous from but linked to the state” (p. 2). In this definition the media would not necessarily be a potential site for the foundations of civil society which is a formation playing “an essential role mediating between state and society, uniting citizens in voluntary organizations that can shape or resist power, but at the same time providing a means of communication and legitimation that provides the state a stable foundation in society” (ibid.). The focus in this definition upon formal state-linked “organisations” (like Solidarity in Poland) rather than activities means that spontaneous gatherings of people around popular, religious, or political ideas would not come under the rubric of “civil society”, a notion we dispute. 8. See Hall (1986) for a theoretical overview of the relations between popular culture and political leadership.

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9. It is worth commenting here that it is only the Vietnamese and regional products that are affordable and accessible. As yet, the availability of products associated with European and American celebrities is minimal. An integral component of the new appeal of celebrities in Vietnam is that they signify a consumer world beyond Vietnam, and are a material representation of capitalist democracies. In this way, the cultural products associated with fame have become a visualization of modernity, or as Hartley suggests, “of the promise of comfort, progress and freedom” (1996, p. 200). Because of the lack of non-Asian consumer items, it has been East Asian popular culture in Vietnam which has most clearly symbolized the possibilities and desires for affluence, accumulation, and personal freedom and, in so doing, has conjured up new forms of society for the Vietnamese populace. 10. Examples of this type of celebrity are the Hong Kong “Cantopop” stars Jacky Cheung, Leon Lai, Andy Lau, and Aaron Kwok, who have a very large following in Vietnam. 11. The mass culture icons of the socialist era were not really products in a marketplace but units in a socialist distribution system which also indicates a differentiation between what was the “mass” culture of the past and the “pop” culture of today. 12. We would like to thank Tran Dang Tuan for conducting some of the interviews for this survey. 13. Undoubtedly this change is felt even more strongly in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) but the southern media phenomenon is not within the scope of the present research. The south is clearly a society with a different history, cultural life, and political culture from the north but also has experienced a different media culture prior to 1975, which is in the living memories of many individuals. 14. As an example of the way in which a foreign public figure was represented in the press during the 1950s it would be worthwhile to quote Bui Tin, the northern exiled journalist, at length: “During the 1950s in Vietnam, Stalin — just like Mao Tse-Tung — was excessively praised. The mass media created an extraordinary picture of a hero who had saved mankind from the disaster of fascism and paved the way for more than a dozen countries in Europe and Asia, including Vietnam, to stand up and gain their independence. … At that time teachers were specially trained to explain to their pupils that it was Stalin who brought rice and clothes, and smiles to the faces of the children. I have to admit that I too was absolutely shattered and heartbroken when I heard of his death.” (Bui Tin 1995, p. 18). 15. On this subject of the relationship between public artists and the socialist regime, Duiker writes: “Under party rule, the creative arts were thus dedicated to two major objectives: to stimulate a sense of national identity and commitment through the encouragement of indigenous forms of art, music, and literature and to promote the growth of a socialist ethic through the creation of a new culture based on the principles of socialist realism. In order to promote national pride, traditional

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forms of art, music, and dance were revived and transformed to serve modern purposes. The ca dao and other forms of literary and musical expression were transformed into a medium for serving the cause of social revolution and national reunification. In novels, plays, and poems, northern Vietnamese writers portrayed in romantic terms the glorious struggle of their countrymen to bring about socialist culture in the north and in achieving reunification with the south”. (1995, p. 182) 16. Attitudes not just about public figures but also about Western music in the postreunification period is indicated in the national newspaper Nhan Dan [People’s daily] which in 1979 reported an official’s comments on the youth in Ho Chi Minh City. He argued that “some of the youths who are influenced by neocolonialism and the old social system have been infected with such bad habits as laziness, selfishness, parasitism, vagabondism, pursuing a good time etc”. Another official argued that Western music would encourage people to “turn their backs on our people’s life of labour and combat, regret the past and idolize imperialism” (Nhan Dan, 5 September 1979 reported in Duiker 1995, pp. 185–86). The cultural life of the period was completely dictated by the party — “Radio, television, newspapers, journals, poetry, songs, novels, motion pictures, all were transformed into high volume, high redundancy transmitters of selected themes, new values and new role models” (Jamieson 1993, p. 362). 17. Vietnamese youth are not a homogeneous group, as is also shown by Marr (1997) in his study of Vietnamese youth in the 1990s. This research supports Marr’s findings of a diversity of opinion, attitude, and orientation among young people. 18. This mass gathering is mentioned in the opening introduction to Bui Tin’s autobiography — “Bui Tin stood among the crowd in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square on 2 September 1945 and witnessed Ho’s historic proclamation of independence” (Thayer 1995, p. vii). Being a spectator of this formative national moment assured many individuals of a lifelong commitment to the social revolution. 19. The tragedies of both personal tragedy and the Vietnamese national tragedy of war and post-war crises are also reconstituted in the everyday dramas of both soap operas and real-life soap operas. The most popular programmes are ones which have strong moral messages and are psychological dramas. For example, America’s Little House on the Prairie, a series of stories from mid-western United States containing strict moral and religious codes is very popular, as is Justice Pao (Bao Cong) from Taiwan. The pleasures of watching such dramas are that they engage the Vietnamese audience in tales that are already familiar to them from Vietnamese literary and legendary genres. 20. Ashley Carruthers, a post-doctoral fellow in the Centre for Advanced Studies at the National University of Singapore, is also one of the contributors to this volume. 21. Nha Bao va Cong Luan [The journalist and public opinion], no. 19, 11–17 November 1996, p. 6: “Ve giai quyet cac vu viec tren bao chi” [Solving the problem of the media].

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22. The details of Le Cong Tuan Anh’s death were gathered from issues of Tuoi Tre [Youth], Thanh Nien [Youth], and Cong An Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh [Saigon police] from the time of his death to the end of October 1996. 23. Most Hanoi people residents over thirty years old who were interviewed only very vaguely knew the story of Le Cong. 24. The response to the death of the Princess of Wales exemplifies the notion of the strong identification between the public and a cultural icon (Re:Public 1997). Note also the Vietnamese response to the death of Diana in Thomas (1997). 25. The story of Kieu was written by Nguyen Du (1765–1820) and all 3,000 lines of the poem are known by heart by most Vietnamese people over the age of about forty. Kieu is a tale of much significance to Vietnamese people as it sets out many of the moral precepts that have guided the lives of many older Vietnamese people. Filial piety, the virtue of women, and the ideals of womanhood are central themes. The story also deals with two questions that are of concern to many Vietnamese people: how can love and duty be fulfilled at the same time? and can one’s talent and one’s strong sense of morals overcome a poor destiny? 26. The life of Ho Chi Minh is such an example. Always said to be single because of his devotion to the nation of Vietnam, in 1991 when a newspaper in Saigon (Tuoi Tre — Youth) reported that he had married twice, the editor was sacked (Bui Tin 1995, p. 17). 27. See also McPhillips (1997), who discusses Wyshogrod’s ideas in relation to Mother Teresa and Princess Diana. REFERENCES Altschull, J. Herbert. Agents of Power: The Media and Public Policy. New York: Longman, 1995. Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalisation. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. Barme, Geremie. “The Irresistible Fall and Rise of Mao Zedong”. In Shades of Mao — The Posthumous Cult of the Great Leader, by G.R. Barme, pp. 3–112. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1996. Bennett, Tony. “The Politics of the ‘Popular’”. In Popular Culture and Social Relations, edited by T. Bennett, C. Mercer, and J. Woollacott, pp. 6–21. Philadelphia: Open University, 1986. Bourdieu, Pierre. “Legitimation and Structure Interest”. In Distinction: The Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Bui Tin. From Cadre to Exile: Memoirs of a Vietnamese Journalist. Also published as Following Ho Chi Minh: Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel. London: Hurst,

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1995; and Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1995. Duiker, William, J. Vietnam: Revolution in Transition. Boulder, San Francisco, and Oxford: Westview Press, 1995. Fiske, John. Understanding Popular Culture. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989. Hall, Stuart. “Notes on Deconstructing the ‘Popular’”. In People’s History and Socialist Theory, edited by R. Samuel. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981. . “Popular Culture and the State”. In Popular Culture and Social Relations, edited by T. Bennett, C. Mercer, and J. Woollacott, pp. 22–49. Philadelphia: Open University, 1986. Hartley, John. Popular Reality: Journalism, Modernity and Popular Culture. London, New York, Sydney, and Auckland: Arnold, 1996. Hebdige, Dick. Hiding in the Light: On Images and Things. London: Routledge, 1988. Heng Hiang-Khng, Russell. “Media in Vietnam and the Structure of Its Management”. Mimeographed. 1997. Jamieson, Neil J. Understanding Vietnam. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Oxford: University of California Press, 1993. Kellner, Douglas. Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics between the Modern and the Postmodern. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. Marr, David G. “Vietnamese Youth in the 1990s”. Vietnam Review, no. 2 (Spring/ Summer 1997). Marshall, P.D. Celebrity and Power: Fame in Contemporary Culture. London and Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. McCormick, Barrett. “Society and the State in Vietnam and China: The Political Consequences of Economic Reform”. Paper presented to the Vietnam-China Workshop, Australian National University, 1995. McPhillips, Kath. “Postmodern Canonisation”. In Planet Diana: Cultural Studies and Global Mourning, edited by Re:Public, pp. 87–91. Sydney: University of Western Sydney, 1997. Mercer, Colin. “Complicit Pleasures”. In Popular Culture and Social Relations, edited by T. Bennett, C. Mercer, and J. Woollacott, pp. 50–68. Philadelphia: Open University, 1986. Nguyen Khac Vien. “Confucianism and Marxism”. InTradition and Revolution in Vietnam, edited by D. Marr and J. Werner. Berkeley: Indochina Resource Centre, 1974. Polumbaum, Judy. “The Tribulations of China’s Journalists after a Decade of Reform”. In Voices of China: The Interplay of Politics and Journalism, edited by Chin-Chuan Lee, pp. 33–68. New York and London: Guilford Press, 1990. Re:Public, eds. Planet Diana: Cultural Studies and Global Mourning. Sydney: Univer-

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Schudson, Michael. “Toward a Comparative History of Political Communication”. Comparative Social Research 11 (1989). Strinati, Dominic. An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. Thayer, Carlyle. “Renovation and Vietnamese Society: The Changing Role of Government and Administration”. In Doi Moi: Vietnam’s Renovation Policy and Performance, edited by D. Forbes, T. Hull, D.G. Marr, and B. Brogan, pp. 21–33. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, 1991. . “Introduction”. In From Cadre to Exile: Memoirs of a Vietnamese Journalist, by Bui Tin, pp. vii–xiv. Also published as Following Ho Chi Minh: Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel. London: Hurst, 1995; and Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1995. Thomas, Mandy. “Diana at the Cultural Interface: The Appropriation of Diana’s Story in Vietnam and in the Vietnamese Diaspora”. In Planet Diana: Cultural Studies and Global Mourning, edited by Re:Public, pp. 149–54. Sydney: University of Western Sydney, 1997. Unger, Esta S. “Media and Society: Sociocultural Change in Vietnam since 1986”. In Doi Moi: Vietnam’s Renovation Policy and Performance, edited by D. Forbes, T. Hull, D.G. Marr, and B. Brogan, pp. 46–53. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, 1991. Wyshogrod, Edith. Saints and Postmodernism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Newspapers and Magazines Tuoi Tre [Youth] Thanh Nien [Youth] The Gioi An Ninh [World security] Hanoi Moi [New Hanoi] Cong An Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh [Saigon police] Nha Bao va Cong Luan [The journalist and public opinion] Nhan Dan [The people] Nguoi Lao Dong [Workers] Bangkok Post

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On the expressway, and under it: representations of the middle class, the poor, and democracy in Thailand JAMES OCKEY

“Piak can’t possibly be trusted … he’s a servant.” I raise an eyebrow. “Besides,” she says, “it involves technology, and you know that they can’t operate electronic machinery …” I’ve never seen Piak have any trouble. … I wonder why my aunts persist in the delusion that there are certain things the servant classes simply don’t have the brains to do. 1 (Somtow 1995, p. 151)

In May of 1992, demonstrators succeeded in overthrowing the military government of General Suchinda Kraprayun and restoring democracy. One academic described these events in his newspaper column almost exultantly, “It has never happened that a mob anywhere has been so full of automobiles, mobile phones, hand-held radios, and workers of the ‘white collar’ type” (Sayamrat sapda wichan, 14 June 1992, p. 12). Early in the demonstrations, the protestors were dubbed by the press the “automobile mob”, and the “mobile telephone mob”, a depiction retained in academic works and retrospectives on the May uprisings. Many protestors arrived at the demonstration site in their large cars, carrying their hand phones. … Local newspaper [sic] reported that the majority

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James Ockey of the demonstrators were “middle class”. The typical member of the “mob” was a well-off, well-educated, white-collar worker. (Sungsidh and Pasuk 1993, pp. 27–28)

Representations thus prominently feature automobiles, mobile phones, the “middle class”, and democracy, tying these concepts together in a way that has important implications for viewing their role in Thai society and the democratic state. Yet these representations, constructed by middle-class academics and journalists, are not an objective or accurate portrayal of the events. In order to illuminate the discrepancies in this middle-class constructed representation, and to locate the aspects that have disappeared, a closer look at representations of the middle class, the poor, the rich, and democracy is necessary. This chapter begins by examining the development of the middleclass lifestyle in Thailand. I look at those consumer goods linked to this lifestyle in the various representations of the 1992 protests, namely, the mobile phone and the automobile. I also consider the expressways constructed for the automobiles, as they link the middle class to the urban poor. I will then look at the ways that the poor are represented in relation to democracy, by focusing on a community that has fallen victim to an expressway ramp, and then by examining the selling of votes in Thai society. I then turn to some contradictory representations of rich politicians in relation to democracy and their practices of corruption. Finally, I attempt to explain the contradictions in the middle-class representations of democracy, and trace out some of the implications. On the expressway: automobiles, mobile phones, the middle class, and democracy

Automobiles are one of the most visible signs of increasing wealth and changing class formations in Thailand. In 1960 there were only 33,105 2 automobiles in Thailand. During the 1980s, expressways began to crisscross Bangkok as the number of automobiles grew to over a million by about 1990. In 1982 the first full year after the first expressway opened in Bangkok, over 9 million trips were made on that expressway and over the next decade, the figure increased to nearly 160 million expressway trips. Still, traffic worsened, as construction failed to keep pace with the number of new automobiles that came on the roads. The traffic jams

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played an important role in the popularity of mobile telephones. With many people spending hours in traffic each day, mobile phones became necessary to call clients to apologise for late arrivals at appointments, or to call home about evening meals. Chatting with friends on mobile phones has became a way to overcome the boredom of being stuck in traffic. With fierce competition in the telecommunications industry, the mobile phone — a symbol of prestige and of middle-class status — became accessible to even the less wealthy of the middle class. In 1987, there were fewer than 10,000 mobile phones in Thailand. By 1993, there were over 200,000 mobile phones in use, and a year later, after a price war, there were nearly 800,000 (Bangkok Post Year End Economic Review, 30 December 1994, p. 71). During the demonstrations of 1992, it quickly became clear that the mobile phone could serve another function. When the military government sought to censor television and press reports of the demonstrations, the mobile phone became an important means of disseminating information among callers and beyond. The middle-class owners of mobile phones, and middle-class journalists and academics had the opportunity to represent the events as they saw them. The middle class were represented as the primary force in the demonstrations, as well as the main reason for the success of the overthrow of the government in 1992. Indeed, almost without excep3 tion, the demonstrations were depicted as “the middle class” rising up in the demand for democracy. For evidence of middle-class participation, a survey of demonstrators done by the Social Science Association of Thailand is frequently cited (Sungsidh and Pasuk 1993, p. 28). According to the survey, some 52 per cent of demonstrators claimed a monthly income of over 10,000 baht (then US$400). Yet even if the survey is accurate, by implication, the 48 per cent of demonstrators who made less than 10,000 baht have been erased from the representations of the uprisings. Rarely is it mentioned that, in fact, almost half of the demonstrators were from the lower classes, that the poor were as strongly committed as their middle-class counterparts in their demands for democracy. This erasure of the role of the poor persisted despite the reported fact that nearly all of those injured or killed were from the lower classes.4 In these representa-

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tions written by middle-class reporters and academics, the lower 5 classes apparently do not care about the struggle for democracy. Under the expressway: the poor, expressways, and democracy

In the 1980s, expressways were rapidly constructed in Bangkok for the increasing numbers of automobiles used for business, for public transport, and by the growing middle class who own and drive them. Expressway construction is generally on public land, and through the leastdeveloped and poorest communities where land compensation costs are low. In 1996, the population living in Bangkok’s slum communities was estimated at about 1.5 million, 15 per cent of the total population of the city. In order to build these expressways, poor residents are being evicted from their homes, and are forced to occupy a dwindling amount 6 of land, in increasingly crowded conditions. In a way, the class structure of Thai society can be found in the expressways: the wealthy getting wealthier from their construction, the poor evicted from beneath them, and those in the middle driving on them. For those facing eviction, the parliamentary system allows many methods of resistance for those who understand its structures. Despite the apparent belief of many in the middle class, my research on one community, Bankhrua, demonstrates just how quickly and how well the poor understand democracy when it is useful and necessary (Ockey 1997). Bankhrua was settled by Cham Muslims in the early nineteenth century. Originally on the outskirts, Bankhrua was absorbed into the city as Bangkok expanded, eventually becoming the busy, densely populated community it is today. Later, ethnic Chinese and Northeastern Thai moved in, creating a fascinating social and cultural mix. A few residents became rich by co-operating with Jim Thompson in the silk trade; most remained poor. In the late 1980s, the Express Transit Authority (ETA) decided to build an expressway ramp through the community, which would require the eviction of many people. Residents, convinced the ramp was being built to benefit a shopping centre, set out to oppose it democratically. In February 1988, they sent a petition to the Prime Minister requesting that the building of the ramp be stopped. This was the first of

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twenty or so petitions written and sent to various politicians. Later that same year, Bankhrua residents convinced a member of parliament (MP) to raise the issue in parliament. When a vote was called, the opposition proposal to reroute the ramp was passed. The government called for a recount and won the vote. But when a third and final count was requested, the government agreed instead to reconsider the proposal and later announced that the ramp would be eliminated. Nevertheless, the ETA soon renewed efforts to build the ramp. The response of the Bankhrua leaders was to open the issue for public debate, certain that their cause would prevail. In April of 1993, the Minister of Interior agreed to hold public hearings before a committee of experts not related to the government, the first such hearings in Thailand. In October 1993, in a close vote, the committee agreed that the ramp should not be built. The report stated that the ramp was not economically viable, might increase traffic problems, and would cause tremendous damage to the Bankhrua community. However, the ETA continued to demand that the ramp be built. Faced with this situation, Bankhrua residents decided that the next step would be to stage a peaceful protest. In April 1994 they marched to Government House. For three days their representatives negotiated with the government, eventually gaining agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU committed the government to a decision within six months, based on the evidence, and taking into account the decision of the public hearing. The ETA continued to push for the expressway ramp. It was at this stage that the Bankhrua community again turned to elected politicians. Residents supported a candidate in the 1995 election who promised that his party would stop the ramp. He won the seat, and then joined the cabinet, but conceded responsibility for traffic in downtown Bangkok to another minister of a rival party in the coalition cabinet. At the behest of Bankhrua leaders, the issue was raised by a friendly MP in the House Environment Committee, which passed a resolution calling on the ETA to stop the ramp project. Another supporter in parliament argued that the canal where the ramp would be built was a historical site that had to be preserved. In response, the ETA simply moved the ramp a few metres away from the canal. Bankhrua

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residents then pointed out that by law an environmental impact statement was required. Ultimately, all their efforts to work through the parliamentary system failed when the cabinet approved construction. Residents, however, continue to insist they will not move. Nevertheless, they remain firm supporters of democracy. One community leader proudly informed me that he had been in the forefront not just in 1992, but in earlier uprisings, in 1973 and 1976 as well. Press coverage of the residents’ peaceful resistance to eviction has been generally favourable. However, there was an underlying theme in many reportings: that Bankhrua protestors were hot-tempered and stubborn, and unwilling to compromise or sacrifice for the good of all — even though they opposed only the ramp and willingly moved out of the path of the expressway itself. So, for example, while Bankhrua leaders were in the midst of difficult negotiations with the government, one young woman leader was reported to have slammed a hand down on a table during a meeting, declaring that Muslims world-wide would support them. This minor incident received prominent play in almost every 7 report on the demonstrations. Meanwhile, the ETA began claiming that the construction of the expressway was being delayed by the community, and that community residents were to blame for steadily wors8 ening traffic in Bangkok. The actions of Bankhrua residents clearly demonstrate that the poor can function effectively within the parliamentary system, though their efforts may be ignored. This, together with the participation of the lower classes in the May events, suggest that they are willing to fight for democracy, and based on casualties, they are more willing than the middle class to die for it. Yet the middle class “persist in the delusion that there are certain things the servant classes simply don’t have the brains to do” (Somtow 1995, p. 151). Closer examination reveals that the role of the lower classes has been erased not only from depictions of the May 1992 uprising, but also the earlier October 1973 uprising (Ockey 1999). Curiously the role of those middle-class actors who opposed the various uprisings has also been erased. Occasional positive representations of the ability of the poor to function in a democracy, such as Bankhrua’s resistance to eviction, are overwhelmed by the near constant assertions that the main problem with the parliamentary system is the willingness

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of the poor to sell their votes, a fact attributed to the lack of education of the poor. How can these discrepancies in the representations of the poor be resolved? Perhaps we can start by examining vote-buying among the lower classes. Representations of democracy: the lower classes and vote-buying

The poor are often blamed by the media for the vote-buying in elections in Thailand. But the real problems lie elsewhere. In my interviews with slum community residents, a consistent pattern emerged. Politicians come during the campaign, give speeches, make promises, buy votes, and then disappear until the next election. It is unusual for the poor to receive assistance from their representatives. Bankhrua is no exception. As we have seen, their representative promised to do everything possible to eliminate the expressway ramp. Although he was head of a political party that joined the government, and became a cabinet 9 minister, he did not assist in any discernible way. Once in parliament, MPs promote policies that serve their wealthy constituents, often at the expense of the poor. Rather than cite other specific examples, it may be more useful to look at the change in the distribution of income under the parliamentary regime. The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), which draws up Thailand’s five-year plans, has included the distribution of income by quintiles for selected years in their assessments (see Table 1). Due to the rapid economic growth in Thailand, the incidence of poverty declined during this period while the gap between rich and poor consistently widened. This is particularly evident for the bottom 40 per cent of income earners. In contrast, only the top 20 per cent have increased their share. Thus many of those who believe themselves to be middle class also face a widening gap between their income 10 and that of the wealthy. Since the income gap continues to widen no matter which parties are in government, the focus on the ability of individual candidates to deliver specific benefits prior to the election — cash, donations to temples, road or bridge building — makes perfect sense. In fact, one can easily argue that the lower classes understand parliamentary rule all too

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James Ockey Table 1 Distribution of Income by Quintiles, Selected Years

1st Top 10% Second 10% 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Second 10% Bottom 10%

1975/76

1980/81

1985/86

1988/89

1990

49.26 33.40 15.86 20.96 14.00 9.73 6.05 3.62 2.43

51.47 35.44 16.04 20.64 13.38 9.10 5.41 3.28 2.13

55.63 39.15 16.48 19.86 12.09 7.87 4.55 2.75 1.80

54.98 37.85 17.12 20.30 12.20 7.98 4.51 2.74 1.76

56.48 n.a. n.a. 20.11 11.92 7.43 4.05 n.a. n.a.

Sources: NESDB, National Urban Development Policy Framework v. 2:47, TDRI Quarterly Review 9 (March 1994), p. 6.

well. What the middle classes perceive as “corruption” can be seen as one small benefit that parliamentary rule has brought to the poor. Representations of democracy: the upper classes and corruption

But vote-selling among the poor is also presented as the underlying cause of much wider practices of corruption in Thai politics. Anan Panyarachun, former (non-elected) prime minister and then chair of the constitution drafting committee once remarked: “[Under the new constitution], [t]he fraud in elections will decrease and more honest politicians will enter politics … I am sure it will get better” (Asiaweek, 10 October 1997, p. 23). The remark implicitly refers to the practice of vote-selling among the poor, and blames this form of “election fraud” for the state of Thai politics. The shifting of the blame to the poor is subtle, but pervasive. In accordance with this representation, politicians are forced to spend money to buy votes if they are to win. They then have no choice but to recoup their investments through corruption. Yet corruption by cabinet ministers was also common under authoritarian regimes, without elections (Skinner 1958; Riggs 1966). Vote-buying has been the result of corruption, not the cause. The opportunities for corruption are so lucrative, that politicians are willing to invest money

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in buying votes in the hope of gaining a seat and thus ensuring a return on that investment. Although the lower classes have come in for a heavy share of the blame in media representations, some wealthy politicians have also been the focus of blame. Here, too, the discrepancy in the representation of various politicians is fascinating. A comparison of two rather different types of wealthy politicians is instructive. Both have made their fortunes, in large part, through government contracts and concessions. The first, a former prime minister, is almost invariably represented as corrupt — he has been dubbed “ATM” [automated teller machine] by the press because of his alleged propensity to distribute cash for support. He is a provincial politician who has turned his province into one of the most developed areas outside of Bangkok, through the allocation of large amounts of development money. Naturally he is extremely popular in his home province, and, since the middle class see this as evidence of his corruption, he is also very unpopular in Bangkok. 11 A self-made tycoon, he dropped out of school at the age of seventeen to work in the family business. Not long thereafter, he travelled to Bangkok where he worked as a waiter in his uncle’s coffee shop near the Department of Public Works, and got to know many civil servants there. Eventually he was able to take advantage of an opportunity to act as an agent in supplying chlorine to the department. When this venture proved successful, he began supplying pipes, and later established a construction company that relied heavily on contracts with the department (Matuphum, 5 July 1988, p. 12; Anan 1988, pp. 56–57). Later he began to play a role in provincial politics. He eventually built up his fortune based on expanded ties to government departments and his growing political power. In spite of his success, his lack of education sparked controversy. It was alleged that he was not eligible for office, as his father was Chinese and he had not completed the minimum level of education required of a child of a foreigner to run for office. He enrolled at Ramkhamhaeng University and completed a Bachelor’s degree, and then a Master’s degree, studying part time. The second controversy arose when he was accused of plagiarizing his MA thesis. For the most part, he retains the manners of his province, of his Sino-Thai ethnicity, and even of his former class. He has not adopted

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the manners of the aristocracy, or even the middle class. For his middleclass detractors, despite the fact that he was prime minister, he still resembles a provincial yokel. The impact of press representations has been clear in surveys taken by academics. An academic study, reported in the press, found that most respondents believed his party was the “most corrupt” (Pasuk and Sungsidh 1994, p. 144). Early in his term as prime minister, another survey, taken in Bangkok and widely cited in both the English- and Thai-language press, found that two-thirds of respondents wanted a reshuffle, with his party left out of a new government. Interestingly, journalists most wanted the reshuffle, and farmers wanted it least (Bangkok Post, 2 November 1995, p. 3). The former deputy prime minister also built up much of his fortune through government contracts. In contrast with the ex-prime minister, he is invariably represented as a role model for the successful entrepreneur. For example, there is a hagiography published by the publisher Matichon, which also publishes a widely read middle class–oriented newspaper (Sarakun 1993). (The former prime minister, by way of contrast, has had a book written specifically to oppose him [Anan 1988]). The 12 ex-deputy prime minister came from a wealthy family in Chiang Mai. After graduating from the police academy, he went to the United States where he earned his Master’s degree and later a Ph.D. degree in criminal justice. His career with the police department was brief, and included a stint attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, where he came into contact with politicians. A few years after obtaining his Ph.D., he left the police department and went into business. He had had courses in computer science while earning his Ph.D., and decided to move into the computer industry, and then into telecommunications generally. Here, the careers of the two man begin to resemble each other. The ex-deputy prime minister’s uncle had been the Deputy Minister of Communications, and he could also call on his politician friends from his days at the Prime Minister’s Office. He obtained a concession for a mobile telephone frequency and began to sell mobile telephones. Later he obtained a concession for a cable television channel, perhaps with the help of a fellow former police officer who then chaired the Mass Communications Organization of Thailand (Khao phiset, 3 May 1989, p. 12). The telecommunications mogul soon became one of the wealthiest people

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in Thailand. He then joined a Bangkok-based middle class–oriented “clean” political party. He was immediately granted a cabinet post in recognition of his financial contribution to the party. He later took over the party, and won election in Bangkok. Bankhrua residents insist that his party bought votes in their electorate. Curiously, the former prime minister is always represented as a corrupt politician, while the former deputy prime minister is generally represented as a financial genius, and a role model for entrepreneurs. He has twice been brought into the cabinet to improve the image of the 13 government. Again, how can we explain this discrepancy? The middle class and representations of democracy

Before attempting to resolve all of these contradictory representations, it may help to summarize them. First is the insistence that the middle class was responsible for bringing about democracy, not only in 1992, but also earlier in 1973, and the associated erasure of both the middleclass actors who opposed the uprisings and the participation of the lower classes in those uprisings. Secondly, despite the occasional positive representations of the democratic activities of the poor, there is the pervasive conception that they do not understand democracy, as allegedly demonstrated by their practices of vote-selling. Again this is despite the fact that the poor use their votes to gain concrete benefits for themselves in perhaps the only way possible in the current system. Finally, we have the strikingly different representations of two politicians who got wealthy through privileged access to the state and its resources. The one, a provincial politician with limited education and “sophistication” is portrayed negatively, the other a “sophisticated” high-technology-oriented entrepreneur with a Ph.D. from the United States is portrayed positively. Of course there is no reason to assume that representations should be logical. Yet by examining these lacunae through the lenses of theory and history, we may learn something about the relationship between the middle class and democracy. In looking at the way that classes form, there have been two main approaches in the literature: structural and historical. Structural approaches define class according to specific criteria, such as education, or status, or relations of production, or, in the case of the survey of Thai

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demonstrators in 1992, level of income. While this approach has the advantage of establishing concrete criteria, it fails to include the circumstances that influence the attitudes of classes. It ignores the element of community, the sense of belonging that is necessary if a class is to become anything like a coherent actor. In addition, the focus on structure effectively confines understanding of the interests and attitudes of classes to the economic sphere. The historical approach, exemplified by E.P. Thompson (1968), focuses on the way a class creates itself historically, by examining the circumstances that cause it to coalesce into a coherent and conscious group. This historical approach has been applied to the middle class by Frykman and Lofgren (1987). According to Frykman and Lofgren, the middle-class constructs a distinct “lifestyle” to set itself apart from both the aristocracy and the lower classes. They identify that lifestyle with particular attitudes and characteristics that they believe only they properly value. The middle class then claims superiority for its lifestyle and may attempt to impose that lifestyle on other classes. In Thailand, that lifestyle has come to include the elements linked together in representations of the 1992 demonstrations: mobile telephones, automobiles, and a particular vision of democracy. The Thai middle class expanded so rapidly in the late 1950s and the 1960s (Anderson 1977) that a new set of attitudes, a new “lifestyle”, had to be constructed to incorporate the new members. Understanding this lifestyle requires an examination of the distinguishing characteristics of the regime of the time. The Sarit regime (1957–63) was the first government since the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932 that did not seek legitimacy through an appeal to democracy. Instead, it appealed to development, to security, and to the monarchy. Each of these would have an impact on the formation of the middle-class lifestyle. Development was responsible for the sudden increase in size of the middle class. The particular type of development pursued was based on private enterprise, and on foreign investment. This, along with the arrival of U.S. soldiers and advisers, meant that the growing middle class was widely exposed to Western military, economic, and political ideas. Sarit’s emphasis on security and U.S. interest in Thailand were both rooted in Cold War ideology. According to this ideology, the main threat

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to security was communism, a foreign ideological import which would 14 flourish among “the masses” who were vulnerable to its seductive lure. Thus the masses were seen as gullible, incapable of understanding the true nature of communism, and not to be trusted. Only those who knew better could be trusted with political power. Finally, Sarit elevated the status of the monarchy to a new level. He restored its prestige, but not power, so that the monarchy became a symbol of goodness. It is within this climate that the new middle-class lifestyle was constructed. Cold War ideology was supported by a prevalent approach at the time — modernization theory. According to this approach, the greatest threat to development was instability (Huntington 1968), and a large educated middle class was necessary for stable democracy (Lipset 1959). Therefore, authoritarian-led development was necessary until a middleclass democracy could come about. All the elements of this academic theory were in place by the late 1960s, the period when large numbers of middle-class students began to study in Thai universities (Anderson 1977, pp. 16–17). This framework not only reinforced the Cold War ideology, but it provided justification for the legitimizing formula of the Sarit-initiated regime: stability, security, and development. The rapidly expanding middle class was thus getting the same message from government propaganda, from U.S. propaganda, and from many educators, a message which included the idea that the masses could not be trusted, that only an educated middle class could sustain democracy. The middle class and the political divide

The shape of the new middle-class lifestyle coalesced slowly. The consumer goods associated with the middle-class lifestyle were soon standardized. However, the ideology, or, more broadly, the set of attitudes, that would represent a middle-class “lifestyle” were strongly contested. On the one hand were those who accepted the Cold War ideology, complete with its fear of communism and the masses, and its acceptance of the U.S. security blanket and U.S. aid and investment. Many in the middle class could trace their prosperity to this aid and investment and were inclined to believe in the associated ideology. This set of attitudes became pervasive and the mainstream, as Sarit and his successors used it to legitimize military control. On the other hand, however, was a smaller

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group of mostly young people who rejected the Cold War ideology and the heavy U.S. influence. These young people had in common a recent Western education, or were at least aware of the anti-establishment movements of the 1960s in the West, and a dissatisfaction with American influence and military rule. Among this group, there was also more willingness to trust the masses under proper leadership. This group presented an alternative set of middle-class attitudes, one that would rely on the masses to support future government. The 1973 uprising which overthrew the military government is often 15 identified with the emergence of the middle class on the political scene. In fact, the uprising was mass-based, including people of all classes (Flood 1975). It was led primarily by university students who had rejected the attempts of Sarit’s successor, Thanom, to justify continuation of authoritarianism in the name of security, stability, and development: young intellectuals who subscribed to the alternative middle-class attitudes. It is thus not surprising that this group sought change through mass demonstrations. Significantly, the demonstrators appealed to the monarchy, and the monarchy supported the uprising, placing it on the side of democracy in 1973. Thus all classes supported this uprising, and the military itself became the representative of authoritarianism, the “antidemocratic” force. After the 1973 uprising, the two sets of middle-class attitudes began to diverge quite rapidly, and the point of divergence was over the role of the masses in politics. Those with mainstream attitudes based on security, stability, growth, and a distrust of the masses, found their values at risk. With the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, American aid diminished, and when American bases in Thailand were returned in 1975, the security blanket was also withdrawn; this in the same year South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos all fell to the communists. Worse yet, the Laotian monarchy was eliminated when the communists took over. At home, the 1973 oil crisis had thrown the country into recession, a crisis exacerbated by the decline in American aid. And, providing an easy scapegoat for economic concerns, peasant and workers unions had formed, and strikes and demonstrations had become commonplace. As the Communist Party of Thailand began to be associated with these demonstrations, fear of the masses mounted. In this context the 1976

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events took place, casting the competing sets of middle-class attitudes into conflict. Those who subscribed to the alternative set of middle-class attitudes spent the years between 1973 and 1976 trying to build a more independent and democratic society. They got involved in rural development, in teaching democratic principles to the lower classes, and in organizing labour and peasants. They provided support for opening relations with China and for the retrocession of the American bases. And they resisted what they saw as a return to authoritarian values in government (Morell and Chai-anan 1981, pp. 150–234). These values were at the heart of the October 1976 demonstration for those who led it. For those who opposed it, however, the demonstration was communist-inspired, a threat to the monarchy, security, stability, and development. Thus members of the middle class, divided by the competing attitudes, were on both sides of the 1976 massacre. This time, however, the monarchy provided support for the suppression which brought about a return to authoritarianism. After the 6 October 1976 massacre, the alternative — and more radical — middle-class set of attitudes was marginalized. Some of those who had been promoting it fled overseas, or to join the communist party. Some were jailed. Many abandoned politics. However, the victory of the mainstream set of attitudes was not complete. That required the return of democracy, a different sort of democracy, carefully controlled to ensure security and stability. In 1978, this process was initiated by factions within the military, most of them mid-level officers, who by structural measures, were middle class. Many of these officers had fought in Vietnam and the lesson they took from that experience was the necessity of winning over the hearts and minds of the people. This, they believed, could best be achieved through democracy (Chaianan 1982). These officers set out to destroy the communist party by establishing democracy. However, it was a democracy carefully hedged about by military control. The prime minister was the military commander, the senate was dominated by officers, and a range of transitional provisions in the constitution ensured that democracy would not mean power for the masses, or even the middle class (Ockey 1992, chap. 2).

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During the 1980s, this transition initiated by the military brought about a new type of democracy. This democracy developed simultaneously to the collapse of the communist party and the decline of the left, so that many believed it was an effective means of suppressing communism. This time, democracy brought rapid economic growth. And it had strong visible support from the monarchy, most obviously during the attempted coup of 1981 (Chai-anan 1982). So stability and development began to be associated with democracy. Eventually, politicians outmanœuvred the military officers and took over control of the system. However, no effort was made to mobilize the masses into politics. Instead, vote-buying became common, as mass participation was effectively bought off. Frykman and Lofgren (1987) argue that the middle class creates a lifestyle that sets it apart from both the lower classes and the aristocracy. During the 1980s, the middle-class lifestyle began to clarify into something like a consensus of what it meant to be middle class. Rapid development had led to a close association between the middle class and consumerism, accounting for the mobile phone and the automobile as middle-class symbols. These symbols are also closely associated with modernity. Westernization played an important role, as Western fast food and restaurant chains, brand-name clothing, expensive perfume, and imported whisky all worked their way into the lifestyle. These, however, were only the outward signs. The core element of middle-class values soon became democracy. History was rewritten so that the middle class was on one side in 1973 and 1976, and the military (and for 1976, the “Rightists”) on the other. The lower classes disappeared from the picture. Closely associated with this middle-class value system was education. Those in the middle class were well-educated enough to understand the principles of democracy and how they work. The masses were not — as indicated by their propensity to sell their votes — and therefore, it was argued, could not be trusted. While consumer goods and, apparently, democracy could be used to distinguish the middle class from the masses, distinguishing themselves from the upper classes proved more difficult. The prestige the monarchy developed under Sarit, combined with the king’s support for democracy in 1973 and in the 1980s, made it impossible for the Thai

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middle class to clearly separate itself from the aristocracy. Furthermore, from the beginnings of the rapid expansion of the middle classes, the monarchy had sought to cement a solid relationship by granting royal titles to prominent members of the middle class and by personally bestowing university degrees (Thak 1979, chap. 6). Similarly, the extremely rapid mobility that many in the middle classes had enjoyed held out the prospects of rising even higher. Thus separation from the wealthy was also problematic. That left two categories of the ruling élite that could be demonized: military officers, who were portrayed as the representatives of authoritarianism, and uneducated provincial tycoons who lacked the proper manners, education, and dialect of the Bangkok middle class. It is in this context that we can begin to make sense of the way lower classes and their role in democracy in Thailand are represented in the media and academic circles. Conclusions

Examining the ways that the middle class has shaped its lifestyle helps explain the lacunae in its representations of both the lower classes and certain types of politicians. The lower classes have been erased from representations of 1973, 1976, and 1992 because, for the middle class, these were pro-democracy uprisings, and the lower classes do not understand or value democracy. The evidence of this is the vote-selling. Positive representations of the lower classes working democratically, as in Bankhrua, are subverted and rapidly forgotten. The retired military commander-in-chief who helped lead the May 1992 demonstrations must be, underneath, authoritarian in nature, because he was a top general. The former prime minister who made his fortune through connections in the Public Works Department is represented as corrupt because he is seen as an uneducated provincial yokel. The former deputy prime minister who made his fortune through connections to the police department and Ministry of Communications has a Ph.D. from the United States and deals in mobile telephones and other middle-class high-technology goods and is not portrayed as corrupt — if anything, he is a role model. Finally, it should come as no surprise that modernization theory, which provided the academic legitimation for the connection between the middle class and democracy has persisted to this day, and has some

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of its strongest adherents in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia as well (Anek 1997; Tadashi 1995). In the new variant, the middle class brings about civil society, which then leads to democracy. Ironically, the relationship between civil society and democracy was earlier used to explain democratic transitions in Latin America and Eastern Europe, where civil society meant mass-based organizations like labour unions and the Catholic church. In the Southeast Asian variant, the lower classes disappear from the theory, just as they did from the representations of the May 1992 uprising. The historical circumstances that led the middle class to distrust the masses and disparage their ability to function democratically was not limited to Thailand, but was common throughout Southeast Asia. Every government in Southeast Asia limits, in some way, the participation of the lower classes. This distrust seems to be strongest where Vietnam War era leaders have survived. In Thailand, and perhaps other Southeast Asian nations, the distrust has become engrained in middle-class attitudes. In the Philippines and Thailand, the middle class has allied with the lower classes in popular uprisings, but afterwards limited lowerclass participation. In other Southeast Asian countries, the middle class may be unwilling to ally with the lower classes at all, thereby ensuring that civil society and democracy will remain truncated. Middle-class distrust of the masses in Thailand is revealed in representations of democracy, and in the representations of the middle class and the poor more generally. It is particularly striking in the new constitution, written in 1997, primarily by middle class–oriented reformers and aptly described to me by a Thai academic as “a middle-class procla16 mation.” A number of provisions aim at corruption by wealthy politicians; more interesting, however, are those aimed at limiting the influence of the masses. Just as the military carefully wrote the constitution to retain control in 1978, so the middle-class reformers have written the new constitution in ways that enhance middle-class power, at the expense of the poor, and especially the rural poor. First, the institution of 100 non-constituency seats, about 20 per cent of the House membership. A disproportionately large share of these seats are likely to go to Bangkok and other urban-based MPs, who will be elected from a party list, and will have no constituency. They will be responsible not to the

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people, but to the parties. A non-elected former deputy prime minister in the cabinet claimed these seats will improve the parliamentary system, “We will have two societies in one, those from the constituencies to form the government and those hundred, who have a good image, to run it” (Asiaweek, 10 October 1997, p. 24). In other words, those nonconstituency seats, if that particular reformer gets his way, will be privileged over the constituency MPs, who are more likely to be from the countryside, and more directly dependent on the votes of the lower classes. Equally interesting are the educational provisions resulting from the new constitution. Education has become a key marker of middleclassness. Laws related to the new constitution requires the government to put in place universal free education through the twelfth grade. This, reformers apparently believe, will enable the masses to understand the workings of democracy. Even more striking, however, is the provision regarding qualifications for election. In order to run for the House or Senate, candidates must have a university degree. This will, in theory, prevent the election of MPs and senators without the proper education and middle-class values. It will ensure that no peasant or worker representative can be elected, not even with a vocational education. So middle-class reformers have further reduced the ability of the lower classes to participate in the political system. If the Thai class structure can be discovered in the expressways, so too can many of the problems of the democracy the middle class is trying to reform. For those living under the expressways, democracy delivers little. Perhaps a few baht at election time, if they are registered to vote. Even when the poor participate democratically, as with Bankhrua, they can be easily ignored. Bankhrua succeeded in establishing a new democratic precedent in Thailand by forcing public hearings on the expressway ramp. They presented their arguments before a committee of neutral experts, and the state did the same. They convinced those experts that they were right, that the expressway ramp was not economically viable, and would be highly destructive to their community. It would, however, benefit the wealthy owners of the shopping centres that have sprung up at its planned terminus. And although the experts from the public hearings believed that the expressway ramp might actually increase traffic problems, the middle class, frustrated by traffic jams,

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has come to see the building of more roads as always in their interest. So the new democratic structure initiated by a poor community, the public hearing, was ignored, and the results were dismissed. The public hearing has been revived in the new constitution, but has thus far been ineffective. Although the alternative set of less élitist middle-class attitudes was pushed to the margins following the 1976 coup, and by the success of the transition to “democracy” in the 1980s, it has by no means disappeared. Bankhrua residents have received some assistance in their struggles from academics and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Some continue to encourage the participation of the poor in politics. Nor should we ignore the generalized and genuine sympathy for the “plight of the poor”. However, with the mainstream middle class employing democracy as a crucial marker for distinguishing themselves from the poor, expanding participation to the lower classes is an uphill battle. In the 1970s, Guillermo O’Donnell (1979) argued that the Latin American democracies were destroyed when the lower classes became too demanding, and politicians competed to meet those demands. Demands for redistribution led to hyper-inflation and economic chaos, and the military, with the support of the middle class, stepped in to restore order. The situation in Thailand seems to suggest the exact opposite. The lower classes have been marginalized from the political process. This has been done through attitudes — through turning democracy into an élitist middle-class ideology — and also very concretely: the needs of the lower classes are ignored outside of election time. The poor have reacted by seeking direct compensation for their support in elections. The result has been a subversion of the rules of democracy as defined by the middle class. By turning democracy into an élite political practice and ideology, by insisting that the masses cannot understand it, and by the failure to formulate and support policies that will benefit the 17 lower classes and win their support, the politicians in particular and the middle class in general have ensured that the most corrupt politicians can take advantage of the system. This has been to the detriment of the middle class, as well as the poor, as the widening gap in distribution of income demonstrates. Now as Thailand faces an economic and financial crisis in the late 1990s, the middle class find themselves in a

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vulnerable position. Unfortunately, they “persist in the delusion that there are certain things the servant classes simply don’t have the brains to do” (Somtow 1995, p. 151), and in the process they blind themselves to the need for social reform as a part of the conditions of good governance and economic recovery. If the middle class truly wants democracy, the lower classes must be not only allowed, but encouraged to participate, and politicians must be willing to work for them; is that not, after all, what democracy is all about? NOTES These particular thoughts came about when I was asked to write two different papers concurrently, one on the middle class and one on the poor (see Ockey 1999 and 1997). Eventually I came to realize that they are in fact the same topic. I would like to thank Naimah Talib for organizing the seminar where these ideas were originally presented, Wang Gungwu for his insightful comments, Yao Souchou for encouraging me to write up the seminar notes, and Gary Ockey for his comments on an earlier draft. 1. This book was also serialized in the Bangkok Post, and thus widely available in Thailand to those who read English. Somtow’s fictional work is set in 1963 in Bangkok, and, with regard to household appliances, this idea now seems ludicrous to middle-class readers. Their maids use those same appliances regularly nowadays. 2. Statistics on the number of automobiles comes from Thailand in Figures (Bangkok: Tera International, 1990) and Thailand Statistical Yearbook (Samut sathiti rai pi khong prathet Thai) (Bangkok: National Statistical Office, annual). Other statistics in this and the following paragraph come from Pocket Thailand in Figures (Bangkok: Alpha Research, 1994 and 1996). 3. One noteworthy exception was Nitthi (1993). 4. Of the thirty-eight dead where information is available, only one was a business person, one a government employee, one a teacher, and one an engineer. At least twenty belonged to lower classes, and ten more were students. (The other four were vendors.) Even more telling, of the thirty-four where information is available, not one had graduated from a university. Of the 176 injured where information is available, only twenty-three clearly belong to the middle or upper classes, though some of the others may, by some definitions, belong to a lower middle class. See 100 wan wirachon prachathipatai [100 days of the heroes of democracy] (1992), pp. 3–5, 8. 5. Two simple answers can be quickly eliminated. One reason to emphasize the participation of the middle class was tactical. It was believed the military would be less likely to fire on middle-class demonstrators. Yet this does not explain why the

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James Ockey participation of the lower classes was ignored after the crisis. The other simple answer is that since the middle class constructed the representations, they naturally did it in a self-serving manner. But then why not depict the middle class as the leaders and the poor as followers? Why go to the extreme of erasing the role of the poor entirely?

6. Figures on slum communities were provided by the National Housing Authority, December 1996. These are preliminary figures. 7. See the Bangkok Press, both English and Thai languages, 19–22 April 1994. The most blatant criticism of the community is in Naeona, 21 April 1994, p. 3. The most favourable coverage is in Phujatkan, a business daily popular with the middle class, which reported that its middle-class constituency blamed Bankhrua for traffic problems and wanted the ramp built. See below. 8. As Phujatkan, 22 April 1994, p. 13 put it in a favourable article, “An important weak point is the news the ETA reveals to the people. It claims that the people of Bankhrua are the reason the stage two expressway has not been completed, which makes it impossible to solve the traffic problem. … Most of the city’s middle class tend to think only of personal problems that directly affect them, that is the traffic problem.” 9. Some residents believe he assisted behind the scenes. If so, his efforts brought no concrete results. 10. The widening gap between Bangkok and the country as a whole is even more stark. The average income in Bangkok in 1975/76 was 1.95 times the national average, rising to 2.23 times the national average in 1980/81 and 2.54 times the national average by 1985/86. See Darunee and Pandey (1996, p. 101, table 4). The 1998 provisional figures on the National Economic and Social Development Board website (www.nesdb.go.th) indicate the ratio had risen to above 3:1. 11. This brief biography of the former prime minister’ early life is taken from Bangkok Post, 30 March 1990, p. 5; Matuphum, 5 July 1988, pp. 6–17; Krungthep thurakit sutsapda, 6 July 1991, p. 9; and Anan (1988, pp. 52–53). See also Sathit (1996, chap. 3). 12. On the former deputy prime minister, see Plai-oh (1987, pp. 53–54, 80, 86, 148); Bangkok Post, 3 June 1991, p. 32; Khao phiset, 3 May 1989, p. 12; Ukrist (1998); and Sarakun (1993). 13. In 1995 and in late 1997. There may be other factors at work, and I do not mean to accuse either of corruption. This example is meant to be illustrative rather than definitive. The differences in the lifestyles and the way the two are represented in the media could not be more stark. The emphasis on education is particularly noteworthy and will be discussed further below. 14. This phrase more fully captures the sense of distrust than “the people”, “the poor”, or even “the lower classes”, and I use it to indicate that sense of distrust.

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15. First by Anderson (1977) but this has since become the most common interpretation of the uprising. 16. The best analysis of the politics of the new constitution is McCargo (1998, especially pp. 17–21). 17. In the 2001 elections, the fledgeling Thai Rak Thai party developed clear policies targeted at the lower classes and won 248 out of 500 seats, easily the highest total and highest percentage in the post-1973 era. REFERENCES Anan Senakhan. Thammai phom tong tan Banhan [Why I must oppose Banhan]. Bangkok: Sun prasanngan chaphokit ronarong nayok tong ma chak kanluaktang, 1988. Anderson, Benedict O’G. “Withdrawal Symptoms: Social and Cultural Aspects of the October 6 Coup”. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 9 (July–September 1977): 13–30. Anek Laothamatas. Democratization in Southeast and East Asia. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Chai-anan Samudavanija. The Thai Young Turks. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1982. Darunee Tantiwiramanond and Shashi Ranjan Pandey. “New Opportunities or New Inequalities: Development Issues and Women’s Lives in Thailand”. Proceedings of the 6th International Conference of Thai Studies, Chiang Mai, Thailand, October 1996. Flood, Thadeus. “The Thai Left Wing in Historical Context”. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 7, no. 2 (1975): 55–67. Frykman, Jonas and Orvar Lofgren. Culture Builders: A Historical Anthropology of Middle-Class Life. Translated by Alan Crozier. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University, 1987. Huntington, Samuel. Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven: Yale, 1968. Lipset, Seymour M. “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy”. American Political Science Review 53 (March 1959): 69–105. McCargo, Duncan. “Alternative Meanings of Political Reform in Contemporary Thailand”. Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies 13 (1998): 5–30. Morell, David and Chai-anan Samudavanija. Political Conflict in Thailand: Reform, Reaction, Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Oelgeschlager, 1981. Nitthi Aewsriwong. “Watthanatham khong khon chan klang Thai” [The cultural dimensions of the Thai middle class]. In Chon chan klang bon krasae prachathipatai

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James Ockey Thai [The middle class on the path of Thai democracy], edited by Sungsidh Piriyarangsan and Pasuk Phongpaichit, pp. 49–65. Bangkok: Political Economy Center, Chulalongkorn University and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 1993.

Ockey, James. “Business Leaders, Gangsters and the Middle Class”. Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, 1992. . “Constructing the Thai Middle Class”. In Culture and Privilege in Capitalist Asia, edited by Michael Pinches. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. . “Weapons of the Urban Weak: Democracy and Resistance to Eviction in Bangkok Slum Communities”. SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 12 (April 1997): 1–25. O’Donnell, Guillermo. Modernization and Bureaucratic-Authoritarianism: Studies in South American Politics. Berkeley: University of California, 1979. Pasuk Phongpaichit and Sungsidh Piriyarangsan. Corruption and Democracy in Thailand. Bangkok: Political Economy Center, Chulalongkorn University, 1994. Plai-oh Chananon. Phokha kap phathanakan rabop thunniyom nai phaknua pho. so. 2464–2563 [Traders and the development of the capitalist system in the north, 1921–1980]. Bangkok: Chulalongkon University and Sang Sawan, 1987. Riggs, Fred W. Thailand: The Modernization of a Bureaucratic Polity. Honolulu: EastWest Center, 1966. 100 wan wirachon prachathipatai [100 days of the heroes of democracy]. Bangkok: Thammasat University, 1992. Sarakun Adunyanon. Thaksin Chinawat: Asawin khlun luk thisam [Thaksin Chinawat: knight of the third wave]. Bangkok: Matichon, 1993. Sathit Winurat. Kae roi nakkanmuang [Investigating the paths of politicians]. Bangkok: Wisarut, 1996. Skinner, George W. Leadership and Power in the Chinese Community of Thailand. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University, 1958. Somtow, S.P. Jasmine Nights. London: Penguin, 1995. Sungsidh Piriyarangsan and Pasuk Phongpaichit, eds. Chon chan klang bon krasae prachathipatai Thai [The middle class on the path of Thai democracy]. Bangkok: Political Economy Center, Chulalongkorn University and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 1993. Tadashi Yamamoto, ed. Emerging Civil Society in the Asia Pacific Community. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1995. Thak Chaloemtiarana. Thailand: The Politics of Despotic Paternalism. Bangkok: Social Science Association of Thailand, 1979. Thompson, E.P. The Making of the English Working Class. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1968.

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Ukrist Pathmanand. “The Thaksin Shinawatra Group: A Study of the Relationship between Money and Politics in Thailand”. Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies 13 (1998): 60–81. Newspapers and News Weeklies Asiaweek Bangkok Post Khao phiset Matichon Matuphum Sayamrat sapda wichan

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Index

Index

A Abortion and Voluntary Sterilization Bills 84 Abraham, Philip 5 Adorno, Theodor W. 47 Aijaz Ahmad 3, 178 Althusser, Louis 14, 58, 98, 99 Anderson, Benedict 215, 235, 325 Anglo-American narratives of progress 193 “anti-West” discourse 16, 32 Anwar Ibrahim 27, 31, 32, 40, 41, 42 Appadurai, Arjun 35, 37, 306 Asia Business News 39 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) 180, 244 Asian democracy 185 Asian discourse on mass media 57, 64 “Asian economic miracle” 10 “Asian model” of development 50 Asian modernity 14, 15, 16 “Asian triumphalism” 47 “Asian uniqueness” 17 Asian values 17, 58, 89, 108, 255 B Balai Pustaka 219 Baudrillard, J. 71, 174 Bauman, Zygmunt 62, 63, 134 “Berkeley Mafia” 200 Berman, Marshall 10, 11 Beyer, Peter F. 60, 64

Bhabha, Homi K. 58, 176, 184, 185 Bosnia-Herzegovina 180 Bourdieu, Pierre 78, 79, 89, 306 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 227, 229 Bui Tin 288, 295 Bureau des Publications Indigènes 219 Buzan, Barry 173, 175 C Cable News Network (CNN) 39 capitalist élite 200 capitalist modernity 9 Carter, Paul 279 Chee Soon Juan 111 Chow Kuan Hon 86, 87 Chua Beng Huat 71, 76, 77, 97, 108, 262 Clifford, James 280, 284 Cold War ideology 325 colonial state-building 214, 216 Commission of the European Communities 1984 28 cultural imperialism 16, 29, 30, 47 cultural liberation 153 culture 4, 10, 11, 27, 28, 30, 32, 33, 47, 52, 65, 97, 105, 106, 107, 109, 120, 175, 287 D Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman 38, 40 Debord, Guy 77, 90

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Democratic Party of Indonesia (PDI) 205, 206 Derrida, Jacques 59, 182, 184 development of celebrity in Vietnam 292 diasporic public sphere 122 Dirlik, Arif 43 doi moi 119, 120, 132, 133, 289, 292 Douglas, Mary 63, 65 Dr Mahathir Mohamad 15, 19, 28, 32, 47, 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 59, 60, 62, 177, 178, 180, 181, 184, 187 dwifungsi 199 E East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC) 180 East Asian Economic Grouping (EAEG) 180 East Asian economic “miracle” 246 East Asian modernity 244, 264 economic globalization 41 emergence of Malaysia within global politics 174 end of history 173, 174 ethnicization of political power 12, 13 F Fukuyama, Francis 173, 243 G Geraldine Heng and Janadas Devan 82, 83, 84 Gilroy, Paul 176 Giordano 100, 101 global capitalism 9, 15, 16, 34 global capitalist culture 43 globalization 7, 49, 59, 60, 63, 101, 121, 162, 245 Goh Chok Tong 97, 105, 106, 108 Graduate Mothers’ Priority Scheme 87 Gramsci, Antonio 77, 78 Guided Democracy 196, 197 H Hall, Stuart 34 Hatta, Mohammad 195, 225 Heidegger, Martin 270

Index Ho Chi Minh 293, 294, 296, 299 Huntington, Samuel 42, 243, 325 I Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) 195, 197, 200 International Monetary Fund (IMF) 201, 206 Iwabuchi, Koichi 40 J Jameson, Fredric 284 Japanese Occupation 226 Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia 225 K Kraton Surakarta 203 L Lacan, Jacques 99, 102, 112 Lee Hsien Loong 111 Lee Kuan Yew 15, 76, 82, 83, 85, 106, 107, 109, 111, 178, 246, 255, 293 Leifer, Michael 6 liberating force of consumption 156 logging of tropical rainforests in East Malaysia 183 Lynn, Richard 80, 84, 85 Lyotard, Jean Francois 57 M Mahbubani, Kishore 34 “Malayan Spring” 231 Marcos, Ferdinand 233 Marcus, George 121 Marx, Karl 88, 89 mass media 47, 71 master-narrative of diasporic identity 123 McDonald 101, 103, 104, 105, 112 McNationalism 98 McVey, Ruth 4 Measat (Malaysia East Asia Satellite) 38 media globalization 40 Megawati Soekarnoputri 205, 206 middle class 7, 314, 318, 320, 323, 327, 328, 329

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Index middle class and democracy 323 Mouffe, Chantal 243 MTV 39 Murdoch, Rupert 27, 28, 51, 53, 56, 58 Muslim publishers 220 Muzzafar, Chandra 64 N nation-state 4, 35, 36, 132 Negros Museum 270, 278, 282 Ng, Josef 74, 75 O Occidentalism 56 Office for the Protection of Culture of the Ho Chi Minh City Ministry of Information and Culture 140 oppositional cultural-national project of “Free Vietnam” 121 Orientalism 177 P Pan-Islamic propaganda 223 Pancasila 202 Paris by Night 120, 123, 126, 129, 130, 138 patrimonial state 193 Pemberton, John 203 Pendopo Agung Sasono Utomo 203 People’s Action Party (PAP) 73, 77, 97, 108, 110, 244, 249, 262 Pol Pot’s genocidal policy 11 politics of recognition 186 popular culture 47, 119, 287, 290, 291 post nation-state 6, 7, 8 post-colonial 41, 47, 49, 55, 187, 244, 247, 248 post-modern political agenda 174 post-modern politics 57 pribumi 200 pribumi capitalists 196 priyayi 194 Purcell, Victor 228 R Rajaratnam, Sinnathamby 249, 255 Reid, Anthony 214

Renan, Ernest 4, 108 “Riouw” Malay 218 Robins, Kevin 28 Robison and Goodman 7 Rodan, Gary 97 S Said, Edward 29, 177, 188 Saigon Television Service 140 satellite television 33, 38 Schiller, Herbert 30 Sections 377 and 377A of the Singapore Penal Code 81 Shockly, William B. 84 Shoesmith, Brian 33 Simmel, Georg 62 Singapore International Television (SITV) 31 Singapore Press Holdings 74 Small Families Improvement Scheme 87 social history of Negros 277 Soeharto, Thojib 192, 203 Soekarno 195, 198, 225, 232 Southeast Asia as a region characterized by “a chaos of races and languages” 12 Southeast Asian discourse on mass media 49 Spivak, Gayatri 107, 249 Star TV 28, 39, 41, 50, 51, 52 state desire 72, 76 state power 5 Stewart, Ian 39 T Taylor, Charles 186 technological determinism 215 “Television without Frontiers” 28 Thai class structure 331 Thainess 151, 153, 156, 158, 162, 163, 165 Tham, Shannon 74, 75 “the fetishistic supplement” of the Real 11 the West as the Evil Other 61 Tiger Beer 101, 102, 103 Toer, Pramoedya Ananta 1, 2, 3, 18, 214

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Tomlinson, John 29, 37 transnationalization 7 V Vietnam’s doi moi or renovation policy 119 Viviani, Nancy 122, 123 vulnerability of national borders 28 W Weiss, Linda 6 Westoxication 64 World Bank 201

Index World Trade Organization (WTO) 244 “writing theory” in/from Southeast Asia 3 Y Yeatman, Anna 57 “yellow culture” 232, 233 Yeo, George 42, 53 Z Zee-TV 39 Zizek, Slavoj 11, 88, 89, 95, 99, 102, 105, 112

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