The Transnational Construction of “National Allegory”

China and the cultural politics of postcolonial Indonesia

Author: Hong Liu


“The story of the private individual destiny,” declares Fredric Jameson, “is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society.” Using the case of China's involvement in the cultural politics of postcolonial Indonesia, this essay examines the transnational dynamisms of the making of a national allegory and discusses the production and reception of the China images in Sukarno's Indonesia (1949-65), with a focus on the PRC's cultural diplomacy and how Chinese literary principles were appropriated and domesticated, subsequently constituting an integral component of Indonesian cultural politics. Arguing that the narratives about China (both as a sociopolitical entity and a cultural symbol) served as an important transnational inspiration to public deliberations and cultural polemics—thus contributing to the formation of national allegories in postcolonial Indonesia, this essay takes the Jamesonian thesis a step further by suggesting that a transnational imaginary within Third World countries plays a significant part in the making of domestic literary politics. This essay may also be taken as an exercise in going beyond the nation-state-centric historiography that has been the defining characteristic of Asian Studies and pointing to the need to study Sino-Southeast Asian relations from the angle of cultural politics and its intertwining ambiguities with conventional diplomacy.
Countries: China | Indonesia

Download complete article from Taylor & Francis Online

September 2006
© E.D. Starin