(Post-)Colonialism and this thing called RESPECT

by Wednesday.

When USAmerican writer Gail Simone came to town a few years back, she was (quite rightly) taken to task by an indignant local fan who challenged her portrayal of Singapore in Birds of Prey #81-83. As Thursday has mentioned recently, cultural appropriation is one potential problem for writers from white cultures who have chosen to depict coloured cultures. However, another issue ā€“ which Iā€™m touching on today ā€“ is the question of accurate representation.

Over at Goodreads, there has begun a kerfuffle over [personal profile] loveā€™s review of The Wind-Up Girl. She writes of the book:

Here is my biggest problem with this book: the name of my country is MALAYSIA. Not Malaya. MalaySIa. I don’t mind as much if Andersen Lake gets it wrong–he’s portrayed as an asshole who doesn’t bother to get the local cultural details right anyway, and he seems quite racist to me. That’s fine; while he is wholly unsympathetic in my book, there’s nothing wrong with writing an unsympathetic character.

However, Tan Hock Seng is another matter.

When is this book set anyway? Considering the technology, I would say the book is set sometime in the 21st century. Post-2000, then. How old is Tan Hock Seng? I shall be charitable and say that he is 70 years old, give or take a few. Assuming Tan Hock Seng was 70 in 2010, that would mean he was born in 1940.

Malaysia came into being in 1957 when we achieved independence from the British. While we were still called Malaya back in World War II, that was then. Since 1957 we have been Malaya. Tan Hock Seng would have been using “Malaysia” for YEARS after independence.

Malaya is what the British called us. Malaya is the name of a colonial territory. Malaya is not an independent nation. Malaysians call themselves Malaysians, not Malayans.

So WHY ON EARTH is TAN using MALAYA and not Malaysia? It says in the book he was a Big Deal (my emphasis) back in the day, before the riots. Big Deals do not use Malaya. They say Malaysia.

Here, Wednesday weighs in.