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Inter-Asia Cultural Studies: Movements Volume 21


Inter-Asia Cultural Studies: Movements    Volume 21 Number 2   June 2020

Table of Contents 

Introduction: art, culture, capitalist development and Kuo Pao Kun
C. J. W.-L. WEE 

What makes theatre modern?: an interview with Kuo Pao Kun by Quah Sy Ren
KUO Pao Kun and QUAH Sy Ren (Translated by WONG Chee Meng, edited by C. J. W.-L. WEE and QUAH Sy Ren)

Challenges to Asian public intellectuals
KUO Pao Kun (Edited by C. J. W.-L. WEE)

Intellectual consciousness and the negation of the intellectual class: Kuo Pao Kun’s pre-detention drama and its context

The feeling of being watched: lived Confucianism and theatricality in Kuo Pao Kun’s mid-1980s monodramas
Paul RAE

Drawing from Grotowski and beyond: Kuo Pao Kun’s discourse on audiences in Singapore in the 1980s
NG How Wee

Beyond national identity: Kuo Pao Kun’s contemporary theatre and an open culture
C. J. W.-L. WEE

Visual essay
Kuo Pao Kun and his theatre

Reflexive notes
Robinsonades: pertaining to allegories from the East India Company in Ceylon and other islands, from Marxism to Post-structuralism, and in which, dear reader, a 300-year-old adventure book may still have something to say 

Asian thoughts
The dialectics of “iron hook” and “tofu”: the shifts in Liang Shuming’s thinking in the 1950s and the “duality” of Chinese socialist practices
Zhen ZHANG, Jia’en PAN, Huiyu ZHANG, Shixuan LUO, and Tiejun WEN

Corrigendum notice

Introduction: art, culture, capitalist development and Kuo Pao Kun

C. J. W.-L. WEE
English, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

The bilingual playwright, theatre director and public intellectual Kuo Pao Kun, who was born in 1939 in Xiaoguo village, Hebei, China, passed away on 10 September 2002, having been ill since the previous year. In one of a number of tribute articles that appeared in the major English-language paper, the Straits Times, one socio-cultural commentator acutely contends that Kuo is “the most important cultural figure in Singapore’s history” (Janadas 2002, 55).  When detained in 1976 under security laws spawned by the Cold War, he “work[ed] on himself, and emerged from it refined and spare, stripped of superfluities, but he did not, in the process, abandon his ideals. He did not, to use a word from those times, break” (Janadas 2002, 56). Proceeding from and continuous with Chinese letters from the early twentieth century, Kuo’s work is prompted by the question, “What is Chinese modernity?” — and that enquiry latterly extended into an examination of “the Asian present” (Janadas 2002, 58).
    The assessment captures Kuo Pao Kun’s distinctive place in Singapore’s cultural history: culture (in both senses of “ways of life” and “artistic achievement”), politics and economic development are not easily separated in his art, and this remains so before and after his detention: the cultural self and the political self remain tightly intertwined. The morphing of modernisation theory from the Cold War (with its commitment to industrialisation and social progress) into discourses on globalisation (with its emphases on finance, information technology and the service sector) can be traced in his art, for these changes carry implications for culture and the formation of a contemporary art. Indeed, he placed his artistic-intellectual capacities in the service of a long-term engagement with the historical and contemporary upheavals, both positive and negative, that the attempt to become modern entailed, broadly taken, in Singapore and the larger region. From Singapore’s postcolonial nation-building process during and after the years of the Cold War, to the fate of cultural and linguistic diversity as a result of the city-state’s socio-engineering of its citizens in accordance with the standards linked with the “decade of development” in the 1960s thought necessary to “support the growth of infrastructure and industrialization” (UNICEF 1996), to the dangers of Asian nationalism in the age of transnational capital, Kuo’s art concerns itself with peoples and cultures unhoused or displaced. There is a persistent interest in the multiplicity of things, and with the scarcity of shared ideals on culture and society. And yet, despite the difficulty of thinking new versions of wholeness — itself potentially oppressing, Kuo was aware — his art and thought implies that being unhoused and displaced can force us to look for new places to stand and to live.


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