Breaking Windows: Malaysian Manga as Dramaturgy of Everyday-Defined Realities

The Politics of Art in Southeast Asia Seminar Series

About the Webinar

Malaysian youth have reached an advanced stage of manga consumption, and begun creating original works. For example, Malaysian manga artist, Kaoru was the first to earn acclaim among local manga consumers and paved the way for newcomers to the mangaka scene. While manga has been described as “culturally odorless” by Iwabuchi (1998), Gan (2011) notes that a significant aspect of Kaoru’s work is a narrative context that is devoid of a fixed locality, instead occupying an ambiguous and imaginative space, which enables the creation of a “place free from the ethnic tensions of everyday life”. I add to this discourse by observing that there is now a new wave of Malaysian-made manga that roots itself in locally recognisable depictions of standard ethnicity, gender, and social class dimensions. In doing so, I extend content analysis into a specific manga publication, called “Kepahitan Tersembunyi” by Leoz, published under Gempak Starz. I argue that this particular manga novel reaches beyond the suspended reality of Kaoru’s narrative world, into a recognisable Malaysian landscape. I highlight the way stylistic elements of manga are used to signify identifications of ethnicity, gender, and social class in a way that is recognisable to the Malaysian reader. This suggests that manga may be seen as a platform for the dramaturgy of “everyday-defined” realities (Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, 1996).

In addition, I propose that manga, especially if made available online, has the potential to ameliorate uncertainties in the social context of super-diversity, bridging not only issues of ethnicity, gender, and social class, but also temporal and spatial barriers, given the limited mobilities caused by the coronavirus-based pandemic.

This webinar is supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

About the Speaker

Dr Rachel Chan Suet Kay is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies, National University of Malaysia. She specialises in cultural sociology, having written on cultural capital flows between East Asia and the West, and most recently, cultural heritage. Her recent book is “Ah Beng Subculture and the Anti-Capital of Social Exclusion”. She is currently the Chief Editor of UKM Ethnic Studies Paper Series. She received her PhD in Sociology and MA in Sociology by Research from the University of Malaya; and a BSc (Hons) in Sociology and Diploma in Economics from the University of London.


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Sep 29 2020


10:00 am - 11:30 am