Fluid Horizons: Oceanic Epistemologies and Sinophone Literature

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This article revisits Sinophone literature from the archipelagic region of the western Pacific to understand how thinking with and through the ocean shapes patterns of place-making and identity formation. Scrutinizing stories by Syaman Rapongan and Ng Kim Chew, the article shows how the ocean figures on several distinct registers: as the locale where these works unfold, as the object toward which their characters’ yearnings and reflections are directed, and as a condition of being. Alternatively, the ocean can be read in the metaphorical and allegorical sense, as a device that allows their authors to critique (neo)colonial violence, the irruption of modernity, and especially the rigors of land-based and supposedly stable epistemologies. Against these, Rapongan and Ng posit what I call oceanic epistemologies, that is, systems and methods of knowledge drawn from and intertwined with the ocean as a condition of being on a terraqueous globe. The oceanic epistemologies in Sinophone literatures from littoral East and Southeast Asia allow us to rethink fundamental questions of being, identity, and history. They build upon, but methodologically move beyond, the critical apparatus offered by Sinophone literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-354
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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