at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Urban Life in Southeast Asia


Cities in Motion: Urban Life and Cosmopolitanism in Southeast Asia, 1920–1940
Su Lin Lewis

In the 1920s and 1930s, the port-cities of Southeast Asia were staging grounds for diverse groups of ordinary citizens to experiment with modernity, as a rising Japan and American capitalism challenged the predominance of European empires after the First World War. Both migrants and locals played a pivotal role in shaping civic culture. Moving away from a nationalist reading of the period, Su Lin Lewis explores layers of cross-cultural interaction in various spheres: the urban built environment, civic associations, print media, education, popular culture and the emergence of the modern woman. While the book focuses on Penang, Rangoon and Bangkok – three cities born amidst British expansion to the region – it explores connected experiences across Asia and in Asian intellectual enclaves in Europe. Cosmopolitan sensibilities were severely tested in the era of post-colonial nationalism, but are undergoing a resurgence in Southeast Asia’s civil society and creative class today.
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Khmer Women on the Move: Exploring Work and Life in Urban Cambodia
Annuska Derks

Khmer Women on the Move offers a fascinating ethnography of young Cambodian women who move from the countryside to work in Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. Female migration and urban employment are rising, triggered by Cambodia’s transition from a closed socialist system to an open market economy. This book challenges the dominant views of these young rural women—that they are controlled by global economic forces and national development policies or trapped by restrictive customs and Cambodia’s tragic history. The author shows instead how these women shape and influence the processes of change taking place in present-day Cambodia.

Based on field research among women working in the garment industry, prostitution, and street trading, the book explores the complex interplay between their experiences and actions, gender roles, and the broader historical context. The focus on women involved in different kinds of work allows new insight into women’s mobility, highlighting similarities and differences in working conditions and experiences. Young women’s ability to utilize networks of increasing size and complexity allows them to move into and between geographic and social spaces that extend far beyond the village context. Women’s mobility is further expressed in the flexible patterns of behavior that young rural women display when trying to fulfill their own “modern” aspirations along with their family obligations and cultural ideals.

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Postcolonial Urbanism: Southeast Asian Cities and Global Processes
Edited by Ryan Bishop, John Phillips, and Wei Wei Yeo

A common assumption about cities throughout the world is that they are essentially an elaboration of the Euro-American model. Postcolonial Urbanism demonstrates the narrowness of this vision. Cities in the postcolonial world, the book shows, are producing novel forms of urbanism not reducible to Western urbanism. Despite being heavily colonized in the past, Southeast Asia has been largely ignored in discussions about postcolonial theory and in general considerations of global urbanism. An international cast of contributors focuses on the heavily urbanized world region of Southeast Asia to investigate the novel forms of urbanism germinating in postcolonial settings such as Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Hanoi, and the Philippines. Offering a mix of theoretical perspectives and empirical accounts, Postcolonial Urbanism presents a panoramic view of the cultures, societies, and politics of the postcolonial city.

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Village Mothers, City Daughters: Women and Urbanization in Sarawak
Editor: Hew Cheng Sim

This unique volume draws together a compelling collection of studies on the diverse and transformatory experiences of women as they encounter the forces of modernization altering the face of contemporary Borneo. The authors, all locally based scholars specializing in gender issues, shed much-needed light upon this hidden academic area. It presents the human and gendered face of development and discusses the pressing issue of urbanization and rural-urban migration in its many facets as experienced by women in this multicultural and fascinating region in Southeast Asia.

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