‘Networks, Nodes, and Beacons’: New SouthHem Publication

Porscha Fermanis, ‘Networks, Nodes, and Beacons: Cultural Institutions in Nineteenth-Century Southeast Asia’, in Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900: The Development of Literary Culture and Production, ed. Jon Mee and Matthew Sangster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022), pp. 255-74.

Taking as its case study a cluster of schools, libraries, and learned societies in Southeast Asia, this chapter considers the operation of nineteenth-century colonial cultural institutions on multiple scalar and conceptual levels. First, as local, regional, and transnational networks of people, enabling both bonding networks with local and regional institutions and bridging networks with metropolitan institutions. Second, as geographical nodes and/or centres of regional knowledge collection, production, and accumulation that extend and disseminate knowledge gathered in the colonies to metropoles and regional centres via cultural goods such as journals, publication exchanges, and printed works. And third, as perceived beacons attracting European and non-European knowledge producers and consumers within a global system of useful knowledge societies for the diffusion of moral and intellectual improvement. Focusing on the transmission of what Andrew Sartori has called a global ‘culture concept’, the chapter argues that these institutions were critical both to British expansionism in Southeast Asia and to the creation of Chinese and Malay counterpublics that opposed British cultural hegemony.

Key words

James Richardson Logan; Malay Archipelago; Royal Asiatic Society; Southeast Asia; Stamford Raffles; Straits Settlements; Straits Chinese; useful knowledge societies

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