Introductory: The Non-Uniformity of the Singaporean and Malaysian Experience

Part 1 of Drama in English from Singapore and Malaysia

Thiru Kandiah, PhD, formerly of the Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore

Adapted from Post-Colonial Literatures in English, ed. Rajeev S. Patke, 1998, by George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University; Distinguished Visiting Professor, NUS, 1998-99.

A course on the English drama of Singapore and Malaysia will do well to start with the recognition that the theatre scene is bound to be very different in the two countries. The difference is something that the very different paths of historical development pursued by the two countries since their separation from each other in 1965 would guarantee. Malaysia's nationalist agenda, which displaced all the other languages in favour of Bahasa Melayu and projected them and their associated literatures as secondary 'sectional' elements relative to the national Malay language and literature (Fernando, 1986, p.138-49), put English and the indigenous community which sustained it on the defensive. Singapore - as we have seen in the Poetry section of this Case Study - opted for an agenda of development which assigned to English, and to the community who are its primary custodians, a more wide-ranging significance and a far greater pre-eminence than is acknowledged by either the official status of the language, or the regular statements that it is the working language of the polity.

Main Web Page Singapore Literature Next Research Suggestions Bibliography