Christopher B. Patterson‘s book Transitive Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the Transpacific (Rutgers University Press, 2018) reads English-language literary production from Southeast Asia and its...

Christopher B. Patterson‘s book Transitive Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the Transpacific (Rutgers University Press, 2018) reads English-language literary production from Southeast Asia and its diasporas in North America to recognize and reveal discourses of pluralist governance. Building upon established arguments that state-sponsored multiculturalism at home justifies imperialism abroad and that state-assigned ethnic identities in Southeast Asia are vestiges of colonial pluralism, Patterson studies minor literatures of the Transpacific as a mode of creative response to pluralist govermentality. In examining these cultural communities, he finds an alternative politics of identity in their literature that express a motif of “transition.” Engaging in these ceaseless processes of transition, which Patterson dubs “Transitive Cultures,” enables individuals to maintain mobility in hyper-controlled spaces. Instead of using a national paradigm, such as “Asian-American literature,” Patterson uses the term “Transpacific Anglophone literature” to describe English-language texts from Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines as well as those written by Southeast Asian migrants to Hawaii, Canada, and the mainland United States. He uses this label to emphasize the encounter and exchange that typifies transitive culture, and to stress the ideology of linguistic identities. This genealogy of an under-appreciated literary tradition explores transitive cultures in metahistorical novels, travel narratives, and in non-realist genres and offers a border-crossing method for conceptualizing and reading literature that purposefully elides multicultural categorizations.

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