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The Rainforest Speaks: Reimagining the Malayan Emergency | 雨林言說:重新想像馬來亞緊急狀態

Nine essays and stories from a new generation of writers grappling with the Malayan Emergency | 新世代作家的九篇文章和故事探討馬來亞緊急狀態


This notebook, “The Rainforest Speaks: Reimagining the Malayan Emergency,” gathers writers, translators, filmmakers, artists, historians, and critics to revisit a significant period of Southeast Asian history—the Malayan Emergency. The Emergency, which took place from 1948 to 1960, was a war between British colonial forces and communist fighters mostly based in the Malayan rainforest. The history and analysis of this war—including British initiatives that forcibly resettled half a million people, primarily ethnic Chinese Malayans, into heavily surveilled New Villages, and deported thousands to China—is fragmented and complex. Not only is the history split across different languages such as Malay, Chinese, and English, it is often eclipsed by the British colonial depiction of the fight as an “emergency” incited by communist “terrorists,” instead of an anti-colonial struggle. 

The writers featured in “The Rainforest Speaks,” edited by Min Ke (民客), attempt to recover this elusive past and address those not well-represented in the historical record, including the communist guerrilla fighters, rural Chinese Malayans, Indian plantation workers, the indigenous Orang Asli people, and the rainforest itself. The contributors, who Min Ke notes are “all a generation or more removed from the events of the Emergency,” contend with these gaps through original translated stories, essays, criticism, and art. The resulting collection of work resists a singular narrative about the Emergency and instead traces the many perspectives of those involved. “The urge to return to scenes of the Emergency, to look beyond the colonial archive, is not only a painstaking task of recording imperial wrongs that persist in the present,” writes Min Ke in the editor’s note to the notebook. “It is, above all, an imaginative task, one that cannot be captured by an individual or group.”

Each piece in “The Rainforest Speaks” features art by Sim Chi Yin.







Read the full list of pieces below.

Pieces from top to bottom, left to right:

  1. Editor’s Note: The Rainforest Speaks” by Min Ke (民客)
  2. My Father’s Country” by Sharmini Aphrodite
  3. Narrating the Emergency from the Other’s Point of View: Between Restitution and Rehabilitation” by Nicholas Y.H. Wong
  4. Dispossession” by ZH Liew
  5. Invincible Communists, Invisible Labor, Interwoven Lives” by Fiona Lee
  6. Into the Rainforest: Translating Hai Fan” by Jeremy Tiang
  7. 樂園 | Paradise” by Teng Kuan Kiat (鄧觀傑), translated from Chinese by YZ Chin
  8. 緊急狀態與健忘 | On Forgetfulness and the Emergency: Notes on ‘Absent Without Leave’” by Lau Kek Huat (廖克發), translated from Chinese by Leong Jie Yu
  9. ‘The Jungle Is Neutral, but . . .’: Rainforest Hermeneutics in the Military Training Film” by Nadine Chan
  10. Traveling through History with Artist Sim Chi Yin” by Faris Joraimi