Writing the South Seas

Imagining the Nanyang in Chinese and Southeast Asian Postcolonial Literature

Brian C. Bernards

  • Published: 2016. Paperback March 2018
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / Southeast Asia; Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 288 pp., 1 map, 1 chart, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: N / A In Asia Except China
  • Series: Modern Language Initiative Books
  • Contents

Postcolonial literature about the South Seas, or Nanyang, examines the history of Chinese migration, localization, and interethnic exchange in Southeast Asia, where Sinophone settler cultures evolved independently by adapting to their "New World" and mingling with native cultures. Writing the South Seas explains why Nanyang encounters, neglected by most literary histories, should be considered crucial to the national literatures of China and Southeast Asia.
Brian Bernards is associate professor of East Asian languages and cultures at the University of Southern California. He is the coeditor of Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader.

"Bernards has written an important and fascinating book on the trope of the Nanyang, or South Seas, in modern Chinese and Southeast Asian literatures. He challenges traditional notions of canon formation and national literatures, and offers an engaging account of the hybrid cultural forms produced through the intercultural encounters of the Nanyang."
-Emma Teng, author of Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842-1943

"Writing the South Seas is a most fascinating inquiry into the institutionalization and dissemination of overseas modern Chinese-language literature in Southeast Asia from the early modern era to the present day."
-David Der-wei Wang, author of The Lyrical in Epic Time: Modern Chinese Intellectuals and Artists Through the 1949 Crisis


"Bernards' book is a successful rewriting of the contours of South East Asian Sinophone literature and identity, which shines a deserving postcolonial light onto its emergent national cultures. . . . Highlighting a space that frequently challenges definition, it deserves attention from postcolonial, Southeast Asian and Chinese specialists alike."
-Zhou Hau Liew, Postcolonial Studies

"Bernards's meticulous conceptualization of 'Nanyang' as a novel theoretical idiom makes a salient contribution to the critical vocabulary of postcolonialism. Correcting the field's geographical favouritism, Writing the South Seas provides a bracing account of the sinophone presence in Southeast Asia and prompts new reflections on the debatable positioning of China in postcolonial studies."
-Cheow-Thia Chan, Journal of Postcolonial Writing