The New Malay Woman, a modern cosmopolitan subject

Plenty of research are re-discovering cosmopolitan female subjects and the ‘modern girl’ in the late colonial and early postcolonial eras. In my own work, I’ve added to the list the ‘New Malay Woman’ who was more than a consumer and image, but a literary voice and agent of change:

[She is ] independent, highly-educated, urban and urbane, modern, aspirational, outspoken and worldly. The new woman in modern Malay literature is not passive and docile as the archetypal tragic woman in fiction by female novelists in the 1940s and 1950s. She has experienced Western culture and lifestyles directly or remotely and is confident about the moral compatibility of Western and indigenous values. The modern female subject appropriates the possibilities of modernity for her own ends in a world that is shrinking and increasingly interconnected. Innovative narrative techniques found in the fiction of Malay women writers of the period, such as the literary autobiography and stream of consciousness foreground the female voice onto the page and into the public sphere.

More from my chapter, ‘The New Malay Woman: The Rise of the Modern Female Subject and Transnational Encounters in Postcolonial Malay Literature‘ in G. V. S. Chin and K. Mohd Daud (eds.), The Southeast Asian Woman Writes Back, Asia in Transition 6, 55-70.

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