2022 Edition

Literary Panels

Southeast Asia between Art and Anthropology: May 5, 2022 5pm-6pm PDT

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Panelists: Tiffany Tsao, Sunisa Manning, ko ko thett

Moderator: Nazry Bahrawi

What is the value of Southeast Asian literature as world literature? This question needs to account for the uneven playing field of the global literary marketplace dominated by Euro-American publishers, critics and academics. These centers once made and broke works of world literature.

For an umpteenth number of years since the independence of Southeast Asian nations, very little of the region’s works have figured prominently in Euro-American literary marketplaces. For the few that did, such as Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s coming-of-age novels about Indonesia that form his famous Buru quartet, their value was tied to what they can reveal about the workings of the societies and cultures from which they hail. In other words, their worth was more anthropological than artistic.

Recent developments suggest that this situation is changing. With access to abundant economic resources, Singapore is emerging as a literary center to rival London or Paris, a nation whose institutions and publishers are keen on championing not just local works but also regional. More and more Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian diasporic works are also gaining traction in the global literary award circuits. Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty is a Wound was longlisted for the 2016 International Booker Prize. In 2017, Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Vietnamese-American Ocean Vuong clinched the T.S. Eliot Prize.

This panel will attempt to make sense of this relatively new literary consciousness about Southeast Asia. Are we witnessing a renaissance of sorts? Or is this more of the same? Join Indonesian translator and writer Tiffany Tsao, Thai-American author Sunisa Manning and Burmese poet Ko Ko Thett as we wrestle with the issues surrounding Southeast Asia between art and anthropology. This session is moderated by Nazry Bahrawi, assistant professor of Southeast Asian literature and culture at the University of Washington.

How Southeast Asia imagines itself in Creative Practice: May 13, 2022 5pm-6pm PDT

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Panelists: Jen Soriano, Wahid Al Mamun, Sharmini Aphrodite

Moderator: Marc Nair

This panel is co-organised by the journal Practice, Research and Tangential Activities (PR&TA). Founded in 2020, PR&TA is a new peer-reviewed and open-access journal of creative practice with a broad focus on creative writing and related disciplines. The panel was made possible with the sponsorship of PR&TA co-founder, the poet Alvin Pang.

Creative Practice is more than just the practice of one’s chosen art form. It encompasses everything from ideation to incubation and execution. It is work that is not embarked on in a silo. It is made with an awareness of other practitioners in the field. It is cognizant of contemporaneous developments in politics and the minutiae of everyday life. It includes our sources and search for inspiration, our rituals and our willingness to live and even thrive within and against the ambiguity of making.

Southeast Asia is a particularly fragmented polyglot of culture, geography, language and myth, quite possibly held together only by a shared love for chili. It is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but has not escaped the dogs of war, authoritarian governments or a growing income divide fueled by rampant capitalism.

In this panel, Jen Soriano, Wahid Al Mamun and Sharmini Aphrodite, writers who practice in different genres and have roots in Southeast Asia, discuss their reference points for writing, the themes they lean towards and barriers to their practice. The session will be moderated by Marc Nair, a founding member of PR&TA (Practice, Research and Tangential Activities), a peer-reviewed, open-access journal that explores traces of practice and praxis across Southeast Asia.