Words Over Borders: Trafficking Literatures in Southeast Asia


  • Mohammad Haji Salleh, Universiti Sains Malaysia




This paper traces the paths of literary works that cross linguistic and cultural borders, and have been adopted into the receiving cultures. Their sources may be as far away as India, or as close as Java and the Malay Peninsula, but have spread and later become well-loved local stories and poems as they provide genres and forms to be emulated and enjoyed. From India came the Ramayana, which travelled to Thailand, Cambodia, and Java, and from Java to the Malay Peninsula and Patani. From the Malay Peninsula and/or Sumatra the pantun marched into the other islands of the Archipelago, was brought to Sri Lanka and also South Africa, and in the 19th century to Europe. The romantic Javanese Panji story caught the imagination of Malay and Patani performers who took it to Ayuthia. These texts were thus translated, transformed, and adapted in a wide literary area, resulting in not only various literary performances but also in related arts.


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Author Biography

Mohammad Haji Salleh, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Muhammad Haji Salleh is a poet, theoretician, translator, and teacher, who writes in both Malay and English. He has taught at universities in Malaysia, Brunei, Leiden, and Hamburg, and been a fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, University of Tokyo, and Harvard-Yenching Institute. Muhammad has received many awards including the Sasterawan Negara (National Laureate), and The Tokoh Akademik Negara (Eminent Scholar Award, Malaysia). Among his most recent works are The Epic of Hang Tuah, a translation of the Malay Hikayat Hang Tuah, and The Poetics of Malay Literature. Muhammad now teaches in Universiti Sains Malaysia, and is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies at the University.




How to Cite

Salleh, Universiti Sains Malaysia, M. H. (2009). Words Over Borders: Trafficking Literatures in Southeast Asia. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 3(2), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.31436/asiatic.v3i2.420