Living Between Imagined Communities: Identity Construction in Contemporary Sinophone Literature in Thailand

Rebecca Ehrenwirth

Venue: Room 1505, 1555 Century Avenue, NYU Shanghai
Date: Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Time: 18:00 to 19:30 CST

Siam is the only country where a Chinese can become king. It is also the only country where he loses his identity.  – Sulak Sivarask

In the past, millions of Chinese citizens have relocated to many places throughout Southeast Asia; so much so that the region nowadays is sometimes called “Third China” (in addition to the PR and Taiwan). Yet, Chinese immigrants were not always greeted with open arms in their adopted homes. There was constant pressure to assimilate. As Sivaraska’s above quote suggests, this entailed the danger of losing one’s sense of self.

In comparison with other Southeast Asian nations, Thailand stands out. Numerous kings favor Chinese expatriates and many Thais are of Chinese descent. As a consequence, Chinese culture and especially literature written in Chinese flourished in the 20th century. New text forms such as “flash fiction” evolved and had a tremendous impact on the creativity of writers.           

In this talk Rebecca Ehrenwirth show that Sinophone authors not only kept the language of their ancestors alive, but used it in novel ways. They imagined communities in their fiction that helped them not to lose their identities after all.

Rebecca Ehrenwirth, PhD candidate, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Institute for Sinology, Munich, holds a M.A. (Magister Artium) degree in Sinology, Chinese Art & Archaeology, and English Literature from Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich (2010). After graduation she started work on her PhD thesis on Contemporary Sinophone Literature in Thailand, which she is submitting in November 2016. For the past five years, she has been working as a research assistant at LMU Munich’s English Department and Institute for Sinology. Her research interests include Sinophone Literature, Arts, and Culture and on Postcolonial Studies. She has published articles on Chinese Archaeology, on English literature in Hong Kong and several encyclopaedia entries on contemporary Chinese artists.

Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Assistant Professor Armin Selbitschka. 



Location & Details

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