Challenges to Asian public intellectuals
KUO Pao Kun (Edited by C. J. W.-L. WEE)
ABSTRACT Kuo reflects upon the Pacific War and what he feels holds post-war Japanese culture back from attaining “genuine greatness,” given a capacity enabled by its early modernising efforts for “the liberation of the self, the democratisation of society and … the realisation of the knowledge-based mode of production and exchange.” He also argues that nations in East and Southeast Asia share a similar socio-political “baggage with Japan — chiefly the semi-feudal [and also nationalistic] culture which impedes our [joint] fuller entry into modernity.” The challenge for Asian intellectuals — and particularly for Southeast Asians with their complex and multiple cultural makeup — is to initiate dialogue as to how regional diversity and “civilisational assets” can be turned into a “living multiculture” that will be an advantage for “the region’s long-term progress and prosperity.”
KEYWORDS: Modernity/development; creativity and culture; Southeast Asia and identity; Japan; war and Southeast and East Asia.
Notes on contributors
Kuo Pao Kun (1939-2002) was born in Hebei, China. He came to Singapore in 1949, and was educated in both Chinese and English. He later studied theatre in Australia, at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. He returned to Singapore in 1965 and dedicated his life to the development of theatre, the arts and culture in the city-state. Kuo was a playwright, director, teacher, cultural thinker and public intellectual — and arguably the most important arts figure in Singapore from 1980 until his untimely passing away. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1990.
C. J. W.-L. Wee is Professor of English at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and has held visiting fellowships at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, India, the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, and the National Humanities Center, USA. He is the author of The Asian Modern: Culture, Capitalist Development, Singapore (2007), a co-editor of Contesting Performance: Global Genealogies of Research (2010) and the editor of The Complete Works of Kuo Pao Kun, Volume 4: Plays in English (2012).