Sumatra as a Site of Sinophone Literature and Performance

Department of Chinese Studies, University of Sydney

Sumatra as a Site of Sinophone Literature and Performance
Josh Stenberg

4:30pm-6pm, Thursday 30 March 2017
Education Seminar Room 433, University of Sydney

Chinese communities in Sumatra have a rich heritage of cultural performance and production. Records from the first half of the twentieth century show that various Hokkien and Teochow theatre genres, including potehi, gaojiaxi, chaoju and gezaixi, circulated throughout maritime Southeast Asia. The Hokkien and Teochew-speaking communities of Sumatra were one of the hubs of Chinese theatrical itineraries as well as of literary production. Repressed by anti-Chinese policies under Suharto, the last twenty years have seen the reemergence of xiqu, Sinophone writing and community display in Sumatra.

By examining literary texts and theatrical troupes in Sumatra over the last two decades, Chinese-language cultural production can operate as one way of understanding community revival and continuity in the present Reformasi period. At the same time, both literary production and theatrical performance are intimately connected across borders, both in the way that Sumatran authors publish and maintain correspondence with Sinophone authors in Jakarta, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and in the way that xiqu performance has been produced by the visits of troupes and artists from Fujian, Taiwan, and Singapore. Attention to the networks of cultural production show that, while Sino-Indonesian identity may primarily be performed domestically, its materials draw widely from a Sinophone cultural region.

Josh Stenberg is a Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney. His research revolves around questions of identity in Sinophone theatre and literature, often in transnational perspective. Recent work has appeared in Asian Theatre Journal, Theatre Topics, Theatre Research International, and Journal of Southeast Asian Studies.