ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY & KEY QUESTIONS: Southeast Asia Colonialism & Modernity

Questions and Themes: A few notes and text-based responses to themes on the list Colonialism & Modernity in Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, and Indonesia

Q. What is Colonialism? What are its instruments?
Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. “Studies of the Thai State: The State of Thai Studies.” In The Study of Thailand, edited by Eliezer B. Ayal. Southeast Asia Program. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1978.
Thongchai Winichakul. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.
     The normative understanding of colonialism is the dominance of a territory and people by a foreign force. This could manifest in the direct or indirect control of the political administration, extraction of economic resources and use of an indigenous labor force, and hegemonic influence of culture through education, language, and ethnic stratification. The results of colonialism can be social (plural society, fragmentation or hierarchy of ethnic groups), economic (vulnerability to foreign markets, trade monopolies, and dependency on foreign capital, and political (creation of a new layer of intermediary administrators, displacement of indigenous forms of governance and local authority).

     However, in the case of non-colonized territories such as Thailand, Brunei, Javanese Vorstenlanden, and unfederated Malay States, it is still useful to understand the ‘indirect’ influence of colonialism. In “Studies of the Thai State,” Benedict Anderson demonstrates how the Thai monarchy and elite engaged in ‘colonial’ styles of rule. If we understand colonialism as a style of rule encompassing military, ethnic politics, and bureaucracy, then we can easily conceptualize the Tai monarchy as internally ‘colonizing’ the Tai people. To elaborate, colonialism involves the use of military for internal security, a divisive political and economic system that exacerbates/produces a plural society and ethnic fragmentation (external labor force) and the ‘modern’ forms of governmentality such as bureaucracy, surveillance, and census.
Against teleologies of modernity and nation in Southeast Asia through colonialism and the colonial encounter:
Many of these texts push against the historiography of ‘modernity’ in Southeast Asia as a product of a hegemonic colonial encounter. Instead the authors feature indigenous actors, administrative intermediaries, cultural brokers, and religious reformers who contribute to visions of modernity and community in complex ways.  For example, rather than assume colonialism and western encroachment as the impetus for ‘modernity’ (Chakrabarty), Hansen considers how Buddhist monks and reformers articulated a religious modernism/modernity through new textual practices, translations, education. Religious modernism emphasized  rationalism, authenticity, and purification of the dhamma as well as how everyday ethics and practices ‘how to behave’ as a good Buddhist. In this way, Hansen connects modernity and the ‘imagined community’ by demonstrating how modernist moral perception also involved a collective sense of the relationship and the collective .
Furthermore, Alicia Turner’s Saving Buddhism examines new Buddhist lay associations in Burma and the creation of amoral community and sense of belonging (with a clear purpose of protecting the sasana, awareness of members through subscription lists). Turner demonstrates how the religious project of sasana shaped ethics of introspection and identity and asked Buddhists to regulate behavior according to new purpose within sense of community (a new way of being Buddhist and Burmese). Recognizing the complexity of moral communities and religious identity, Turner states that “in this light, the nation was not an inevitable outcome of these confrontations, nor did colonialism and modernity exert singular or absolute agency.”
Challenging the concept of the nation as always-already out there, Thongchai  Winichakul argues that mapping (geographic knowledge) and territoriality (classification, enforcing, communicating) produces the nation. he nation’s ‘geo-body’—its territory, practices, values—are discursively created through a two-way positive and negative identification.
Autonomous history and indigenous agency in the context of European colonialism in 19th, 20th c mainland Southeast Asia
Thongchai examines the Siamese elites’ quest for ‘siwilai’—spatial modernity and relative civilizational superiority. Siamese elites actively redefined and positioned Siam through siwilai, as they sought to position Siam as modern and civilized in the new world order of European colonialism. Thongchai addresses this relative definition of a ‘we-space’ territoriality in the context of European expansion in neighboring polities in his book Siam Mapped. Thongchai attributes agency to King Mongkut who actively defined a ‘we-space’ through scientific mapping techniques.
Although a story of colonial Cambodia and Angkoran antiquity, Edwards highlights the plurality of dindigenous discourses, contentions, and visions of modernity by Thiounn Sambath and Son Diep, Tath and Nath, niationalist Son Ngoc Thanh featuring prominently alongside EFEO orientalists Louis Finot, and Buddhist Institute Suzanne Karpeles.

Cindy Nguyen

Examiner: Penelope Edwards

First Field: Southeast Asia, Print Culture, Museums & Memory

  1. State of the field of Southeast Asian Studies
  2. Southeast Asia Colonialism and Modernity
  3. Southeast Asia Print Culture & History of the Book
  4. Southeast Asia Institutions: Museums & Libraries

Part II: Southeast Asia Colonialism and Modernity

 (By area, chronologically)


  1. Andaya, Barbara Watson. “Historicising ‘Modernity’ in Southeast Asia.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 40, no. 4 (1997): 391–409.
    1. Barbara Andaya examines the historiography of ‘modernity’ in Southeast Asia and the challenges of ‘provincializing’ (Dipeseh Chakrabarty) modernity beyond the Euro-American authoritative, hegemonic, and historically determined lens. Andaya describes how scholars such as O.G. Wolters, Adrian Vickers, and Anthony Reid have located Southeast Asian modernity prior to European colonialism (Southeast Asian ‘early modern’ 16th-18th centuries and desire to be ‘up to date’). Comparing characteristics of European and Southeast Asian modernity, Andaya remarks how Southeast Asian modernity was connected to a long history of international trade, cultural exchange, and ‘localization’ of foreign elements by a large number of Southeast Asians not just part of elite religious and political circles. Andaya expands the definition of modernity as a process of translation between the global and the local, in other words, the “selective localization that involves the combination of imported elements with indigenous ones.” (397) Andaya draws attention to the innovation and power of European technological knowledge in Southeast Asia. At the same time Andaya notes alternative sources of ‘modernization’ such as dress, language, and influences from India and China.


  1. Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. Imagined Communities Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Rev. ed. London; New York: Verso, 2006.

    1. In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson argues that the nation is a new, modern phenomenon. The 17th and 18th century witnessed the demise of previous forms political bodies that were shaped by a sacred language, sacred cosmology and dynastic power, and sense of historical temporality shaped by cosmology. Material conditions and rationalist perception of ‘homogenous empty time’ created the structures where individuals could conceptualize themselves as part of an ‘imagined community.’ The imagined community is one in which members will not know most of their fellow members, is finite with limited boundaries, sovereign power, and a community of fraternal, horizontal comradeship. It is through the emergence of print-capitalism—the technological, mass production of newspapers and the novel and the spread of vernacular print languages—that individuals could think of themselves and relate to others in different ways. This possibility to envision parallel and plural realities connected individuals to other individuals to form a concept of an ‘imagined community.’
    2. Anderson’s second contribution is the historical argument regarding the models of nations and nationalisms. Undermining the idea that the nation was both an essentialist category and of European origins, Anderson argues that the earliest nations and nationalist movements emerged in ‘creole communities’—descendants of white European settlers in the North and South Americas. This model of creole communities offers one of four ‘models’ that come to influence later nationalist movements and ideas of nations. The second model emerges during the late 18th century among the linguistic nationalists, philologists, and scientists who classify and reconstruct the evolution of languages. The third model is one of official nationalism and imperialism, seen in Russia, Japan, Thailand, England and Hungary. This form of nationalism is a defensive, conservative response by monarchs to popular and linguistic nationalists. The fourth model of nationalism develops out of the colonial context and institutions of education, bureaucracy, and movement. Anderson argues that in Asia and Africa, the administrative, educated, bilingual intelligentsias came to identify themselves as a colonial national and part of a solidarity of power and outside models of nation. It is through the experience of travel and educational access that this intelligentsia gained power and created an imagined community of nationals. In Anderson’s revised later editions, he emphasizes the importance of the colonial context and the role of the census, map, and museum to provide the ‘grammar’ of nationalism and imaginings of dominion—the abstract quantifications of people, symbolic demarcating of political space, and the geneaological conceptions of pasts and heritages.


  1. Hau, Caroline S, and Kasīan Tēchaphīra. Traveling Nation-Makers: Transnational Flows and Movements in the Making of Modern Southeast Asia. Singapore; Kyoto: NUS Press ; Kyoto University Press, 2011. (Focus on a few chapters)
    1. Introduction: An edited volume of SEA biographies, Traveling Nation-Makers examines how travel and translation contributed to nation-making in Southeast Asia. Many of the authors such as Paterson and Zinoman demonstrate the ‘provincial cosmopolitanism’ of these individuals who had uneven and filtered access to culture and political ideas from abroad. This results in a certain eclecticism among intellectuals such as Vu Trong Phung, as well as intellectual fascination and romanticism of foreign politics, biographies, and modernity (romantic political biographies in 1920s Vietnam).
      1. Lorraine Paterson: “A Vietnamesee Icon in Canton: Biographical Borders and Revolutionary Romance in 1920s Vietnam
      2. Peter Zinoman: Provincial Cosmopolitanism: Vu Trong Phung’s Foreign Literary Engagements



  1. Edwards, Penny. “Restyling Colonial Cambodia (1860–1954): French Dressing, Indigenous Custom and National Costume.” Fashion Theory 5, no. 4 (November 1, 2001): 389–416.
    1. Penny Edwards explores the question of dress and the relationship to colonial hierarchy and nationhood. Debates over how to clothe the body permeated newspapers, imagery, government decrees in both colonial and post-colonial Cambodia. Edwards shows how debates over the Cambodian sampot (unstitched cloth) conflated signs of womanhood and nation in colonial Cambodia. Within French colonial texts, Khmer men and women were presented as effeminate, traditional, a “young” race with little marked gender difference. Hair-styles and western clothing such as suits and white trousers could be a symbol of modernity, social place (within civil service), ‘travel’ to the urban mindset, or a certain reformist outlook. Certain clothing such as suits and trousers molded a new masculinity associated with mobility and Western dress. Edwards shows the two-way relationship in which both modernity and tradition was defined. As western clothing and hairstyles (for women, long hair, feminist bobs, shoulder length hair) became associated with modernity and change, the sampot became part of the Khmer ethnic, cultural, and historical identity. Edwards shows the symbolic relationship between clothing and national identity in Son Sann’s proposed sampot test in 1993 to discern ethnic identity and the wearing of sampot for certain ‘indigenous’ traditions such as visiting the temple.
    2. Edwards’ focus on histories of dress and the subtle dialectics between personal choice, gendered norms, and political statement move away from a top down understanding of state regulation of the body. Edwards does not exclude the importance of colonial and nationalist state policy on dress and the body entirely. The article on colonial Cambodia references important ways in which dress was used as demarcations of ethnic race, demarcation of race and nation, and legibility in censuses. However, Edwards’ multifaceted analysis shows that clothing choices were not simply issued by the state and adopted, but involved many factors including personal politics, voyeuristic access to different places and urban environments, the economics of dress, and resistance to existing hierarchies of power.


  1. Edwards, Penny. “The Tyranny of Proximity: Power and Mobility in Colonial Cambodia, 1863-1954.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 37, no. 3 (October 1, 2006): 421–443.
    1. In just a short article Edwards challenges the misrepresentation of immobility of the static, timeless Khmer with the historical examples of mobilized recruits in WWI, protest activities in Cambodia, religious pilgrimages, and mobile actors in surveying missions and military expeditions. Edwards describes the colonial project as a ‘tyranny of proximity’—the attempt to control, center, and structure the Cambodian landscape. Thus, Edwards shows how colonial power permeated through material and symbolic forms through the road, vehicles, the military, royal tours, and communication networks (typewriters). These infrastructural projects, military service, and map making were important part of changing the landscape and political consciousness towards the abstract modern ‘nation’ rather than grounded in the locality. “Roads were critical in fragmenting and decentering pre-existing power bases by bringing such regions into new circuits of traffic and exchange whose hub was the colonial capital.”
    2. Edwards’ focus on the infrastructural development of Cambodia and its impact on the rural masses relates to part of Eugen Weber’s narrative of modernization and state building in turn of the nineteenth century France.


  1. Muller, Gregor. Colonial Cambodia’s “Bad Frenchmen”: The Rise of French Rule and the Life of Thomas Caraman, 1840-87. Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia 37. London ; New York: Routledge, 2006.
    1. Gregor Muller examines early French colonization of Cambodia from 1840-1887 through the life of Frederic Thomas Caraman, a French colonial administrator, industrialist, and aristocrat. Muller describes Caraman as a ‘bad Frenchman’, a colonial term to designate and marginalize unredeemable French colonialists and political-economic failures of changing colonial projects and ideologies. Muller argues that ‘marginal’ Europeans such as Caraman and indigenous cultural intermediaries were important in the making of colonial Cambodia. The policing of both the colonized and the colonialists reveal the changing political, economic, and cultural initiatives over the course of the late 19th century, and the transition into a new period of French interference in Cambodian government and society after 1887.
    2. Muller contributes to the historiography of colonial Indochina by examining the inner workings, local accounts, and story of resistance and accommodation of a wide cast of actors: ‘bad colonialists’, poor Frenchmen, indigenous ‘congai’ concubines, metis children, Chinese merchants, Vietnamese administrators, indigenous interpreters, the palace community, and European and indigenous merchants. This approach from the margins represents Thongchai Winichakul’s approach of wirting history from the ‘interstices’—the outer boundaries where definitions and categories are not clear cut and are informative sites of contestation. Thus, Muller reveals the thin and complex fault line between precolonial and anticolonial, European and indigenous communities especially in the early period of French encroachment in the 1860s-1880s Cambodia.


  1. Edwards, Penny. Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation 1860-1945. University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

    1. In the seminal work Cambodge, Penelope Edwards offers a complex genealogy of the modern nation, Khmer-ness, and the ‘Original Khmer’ (Kmae daem). Edwards demonstrates how cultural and national identity were interwoven with the construction of Angkorean antiquity throughout the French colonial period in Cambodia (1863-1954). Pushing against arguments of colonial hegemony as well as the elision of the colonial period from contemporary nationalism, Edwards argues that the development of an Angkor narrative was never monolithic. Instead, diverse groups of colonial administrators, European savants, Khmer elite intellectuals, and Buddhist reformers and leaders contributed various visions of Khmer-ness, culture, history, and modernity.
    2. Edwards highlights the influence of French concepts of museums, Orientalism, and culture and the production of ‘Cambodge’ as a ‘museological state’ founded on colonial imaginations, classification, and a hierarchical tendency towards benevolent imperialism and civilizing. At the same time, Edwards reveals how this Cambodge project of “identification, conflation, and confusion” was driven by a plurality of indigenous discourse, contentions, and visions of modernity. Thus, actors such as indigenous bureaucrats Thiounn Sambath and Son Diep, Buddhist reformers Tath and Nath, and nationalist Son Ngoc Thanh feature prominently alongside French colonial actors like Orientalists/Indologists Louis Finot, director of Royal Library and Buddhist Institute Suzanne Karpelès and the infamous Saloth Sar (Pol Pot, dictator of the Democratic Kampuchea DK 1975-1978).
    3. Edwards contributes the following to historiography of colonial Cambodia and national identity: 1) Edwards highlights the role of culture and creating cultural identity within histories of nationalism and nation. For example, Edwards reverts the historiographical determinism of nationalism with the statement, “the elaboration of national culture by French and Cambodian literati eventually produced nationalists.” (p. 7) 2) Edwards draws attention to both colonial and indigenous figures as active agents of history and contributors to national modernity. 3) Edwards disentangles the monolithic and hegemonic understandings of French colonialism. Rather Edwards argues that the French protectorate brought a parallel realm of authority and power relations. The interface and co-existence between these realms through the work of new secular literati, Buddhist reformers, and savants, are essential to understanding the construction of Cambodge and Khmer-ness throughout the French colonial period. 4) Furthermore, Edwards historicizes post-colonial projects of myth and history –making and Angkoran antiquity from Pol Pot’s regime of producing a revolutionary utopia in the colonial period.


  1. Hansen, Anne Ruth. How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860-1930. Southeast Asia–Politics, Meaning, Memory. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2007.

    1. Anne Hansen traces the development and discussion of ethics and ‘how to behave’ between a close group of monks and their response to colonialism, Buddhist transnationalism, and print technology between 1860 and 1930 Cambodia. Hansen demonstrates how Buddhist ethics is informed and driven by historical moments, thinkers, and ideas such as modernist debates. Drawing from Khmer language primary sources, Hansen follows the lives of reformist monks Chuon Nath, Huot That, Um-Sur, and their exchanges, participation, and conversations with other religious, administrative, and scholarly groups. Through this close, analytical approach of ethics and discourse, Hansen demonstrates how Cambodian thinkers envisioned ethics as a dynamic process rather than as anti-thetically defined against colonialism and modernity.
    2. In contrast to other studies on religion by Michale Charney (Powerful Learning) and Justin McDaniel (Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words), Hansen’s work contributes an important perspective of ethics in the study of modernity and the role of Buddhist print culture in Cambodia. Through the modernist discussions of Buddhist monks, Hansen also sheds light on religious and literary modernism in Southeast Asia during the beginning of the twentieth century.



  1. Furnivall, J. S. Colonial Policy and Practice: A Comparative Study of Burma and Netherlands India, 1948.
    1. Both Colonial Policy and Practice and “The Fashioning of Leviathan” explore the economic and political projects of laissez faire capitalism and centralized administration in the building of British colonialism in Burma. Furnivall argues that British Burma was ruled by direct rule and Dutch East Indies was ruled by indirect rule. Direct rule generally consists of the removal of the local monarchy and legal court and replacement by foreign legal system. Indirect rule is characterized by the retention of local governing bodies and leaders while the top level administration and economic affairs are directed by foreign colonial officials. Although in reality these demarcations are more nuanced, Furnivall makes this distinction to support his overarching argument about the negative impact of colonial capitalism upon colonies’ economic and social welfare. In the case of British Burma, the undermining of local forms of governance such as the monarchy, the village, and Buddhist Sangha and unchecked Liberal capitalism resulted in the disintegration of society into a plural society. In other words, the British colonial government failed to preserve the social and village life of Burma in light of economic forces of capitalism more so than in the Dutch East Indies.
    2. The ‘plural society’ is a multiethnic, atomized society, and race based division of labor. Economic forces have an ‘anti-social’ effect upon social and political structure, destroying social will and community and producing a society driven by purely economic interests.
    3. Overarching arguments in Furnivall’s Colonial Policy and Practice
      1. Furnivall argues that free market capitalism (Liberalism) produced and intensified the plural society.
      2. The plural society is understood as a multiethnic society, where economic forces atomize and determine social relations. (example of Indians as governmental roles, Chinese in trade…) In other words British Burma was a plural society that witnessed the disintegration of social will and concepts of organic communities and a demise of social welfare for native inhabitants (Burmese).
      3. Furnivall proposes for the social, economic, and political reintegration of Burma towards gradual autonomy and self-rule. (Autonomy leads to social welfare leads to development…autonomy in carefully monitored stages).
      4. Contribution: The evolution, unevenness, and changes within colonial policy and practice over time and space. transformations in colonial policy (519)
  1. Furnivall, J. S. The Fashioning of Leviathan: The Beginnings of British Rule in Burma. Canberra: Published in association with the Economic History of Southeast Asia Project and the Thai-Yunnan Project, 1991.
    1. In J.S. Furnivall’s seminal essay “The Fashioning of Leviathan,” Furnivall demonstrates the process of empire building through the work of commissioners Maigny and Blundell in Tenasserim colonial Burma. Described as a ‘fashioning of leviathan,’ the creation of liberal, laissez faire, production driven state in Burma involved implement rule of law, an economy of production and extraction, and systems of land valuation and revenue. Through the personification of a common sense production machine of ‘leviathan,’ Furnivall describes early colonial state building as ‘soul-less’ encroachers on local autonomy and the destroyers of aspects of social life that did not fit within the leviathan mythic vision. In other words, the ‘fashioning of leviathan’ was the forced introduction of techniqeus of modern centralized state into regions characterized by local political and social relations. Furnivall explains, “For Leviathan had not come to Burma to keep things as they were. He had come intending to make changes, such changes as should develop the natural resources of the country. Normally, society is organised for life; the object of Leviathan was to organise it for production.” P. 157


  1. Turner, Alicia Marie. Saving Buddhism: The Impermanence of Religion in Colonial Burma. Southeast Asia : Politics, Meaning, and Memory. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2014.
    1. Alicia Turner examines the Sasana (the life of the Buddha’s teaching) and the rise and role of Buddhist lay associations from 1890-1920 British colonial Burma. The concern that Buddhism was in decline during the colonial period led to the creation of Buddhist lay associations to preserve the sasana. Turner argues that the discourse of preservation and Buddhist lay associations contributed to a massive social movement that helped to create a new sense of identity, social purpose, and renegotiations of the effects of colonial society. Described as “active and adept bricoleurs,” Buddhist associations were technologies for rethinking social identity, and expression. Through the innovation of printing, subscription associations, and schools, these associations built up a moral community and negotiated what it meant to be Buddhist and Burmese. Thus, Turner complicates the historiography of the Burmese nation by examining how religion and Buddhist associations contributed changing ideas of a moral community and collective belonging.
    2. Turner’s analysis offers insight into the shifting discourse and meaning of the sasana, collective belonging and identity, and religion. Furthermore, Turner contributes to the current historiography in the following ways: (1) incorporating religion into studies of the colonial encounter; (2) challenges idea of a monolithic Burmese nation, nationalism, and national identity towards a moral community and sense of collective belonging; (3) shifts attention towards Buddhist lay people in studies of religion; and (4) reinvigorates the agency of Burmese Buddhists to reform, innovate, and redefine morality, education, and colonial society.



  1. Thongchai Winichakul. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.
    1. In Thongchai Winichakul’s innovative mongraph Siam Mapped, the discourse of geography and the modern map directly produce the political territoriality, values, practices, and geobody that would later become the modern Thai nation. Thongchai demonstrates how indigenous concepts of space are displaced by modern geographic and mapping science. At the same time, local and indigenous concepts of space should not be evaluated through Western understandings of ‘scientific merit’ but understood to serve different purposes (such as traiphum cosmology). Thongchai argues that Siam actively tried to carve out a “we-self” space in light of European expansion and neighboring polities. “The creation of otherness, the enemy in particular, is necessary to justify the existing political and social against rivals from without as well as from within.” (167) His project also shows how the map is an instrument of ‘modern’ nation states and modern science: rather than the objective spatial representation, the map is a tool for exercising authority. These processes are described as the technology of territoriality—the attempt to influence and control people by delimiting control over a geographic area. Territoriality involves classificaiton, communication by boundary, and enforcing the boundary. Overall, Thongchai demonstrates how the idea of ‘nation’ was defined through techniques of knowledge production and were constantly contested and relatively defined.


  1. Thongchai Winichakul. “The Quest for ‘Siwilai’: A Geographical Discourse of Civilizational Thinking in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Siam.” The Journal of Asian Studies 59, no. 3 (August 1, 2000): 528–49. (e) +
    1. Thonchai Winichakul examines elites and urban intellectuals’s 19th-20th c quest for ‘siwilai’ (civilization) in spatial discourse in order to confirm the relative superiority of Siam in context of European colonial world order. The spatial discourse of siwilai was a comparative geography of civilization.



  1. Mrázek, Rudolf. Engineers of Happy Land: Technology and Nationalism in a Colony. Princeton University Press, 2002.
    1. Through the lens of technology and modernity, Rudolf Mrazek offers a compelling, frenetic journey through the landscape of the last decades of Dutch colonial rule in the Indies. Mrazek’s historical method mirrors topic of research—he zooms in and out, zips through time and space, and pauses on certain individuals to dwell on their lives, dreams, and fantasies. Mrazek focuses particularly on Kartini and Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925-2006) and their encounters, fascination, and moments of translation with technology.
    2. Mrazek divides his work into six chapters, all of which embody how inhabitants of Dutch Indies envisioned themselves and their cultural world. Mrazek is quite successful in reinforcing how modernity existed as an imagined space, a performance and embodiment acquired through certain totems and access to knowledge.Rather than a celebration of processes of modernity and nationalism, Mrazek exposes the ‘dark side’ of these socio-cultural transformations. The six chapters include: 1) moving and collision 2) dwelling and floating 3) looking and examining 4) posing and pretending 5) listening and silence 6) exile and the impossibility of disconnection.
    3. Mrazek’s nuanced examination of colonial modernity demonstrates the power differential of colonial modernity depending on class, race, and gender. Mrazek vividly represents the ‘road’ as a meeting of the bourgeois and beggar, a violent collision of the literal sense and the metaphoric sense. Unlike other studies on colonial modernity concerned only with white colonials or native bourgeois, Engineers of Happy Land exposes the labor and human cost of modernity: Javanese technicians, builders, radio mechanics, and servants. Although Mrazek references Karl Marx’s ‘engineers’ definition as a “superior class of workers” who “believe that there is a calculated sameness between the planning and the dreaming,” I argue that Mrazek’s definition of ‘engineers’ is actually much more expansive. Mrazek’s ‘engineer’ concerns labor rather than skill, and planning and dreaming is more of a confused frenzy of ideas, unfulfilled hopes, and disparate dreams.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s