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Remembering and Re-membering Home: Asynchronicity as Postcolonial Poetics in 21st Century Southeast Asian Diasporic Narratives

Christine Vicera


In examining the dialectic between the diasporic subject’s homes—both the absent and adopted home—this monograph maps out the ways through which collective memory and postmemory mediate traumatic experiences of dislocation. The literary and cinematic representations of mobility in Hannah Espia’s film Transit (2013), Clement Baloup’s graphic novel Vietnamese Memories and Lian Gouw’s novel Only a Girl reveal a dual-displacement that characterizes the experience of diasporic mobility in the 21st century—a displacement in both space and time. This dual-displacement, which is a result of the inability to reduce the “many temporal
worlds” they live in, that is, “the past of the motherland . . . a present that is often precarious, and an uncertain future,” simultaneously into one, constitutes the migrant’s out-of-sync subjectivity (Köhn 109). This out-of-sync subjectivity is manifested in what I call the poetics of “asynchronicity” that undergirds the narratives of these Southeast Asian—specifically Filipino, Indonesian, and Vietnamese—stories. Asynchronicity, as postcolonial poetics, enables these
texts to act as counter-memories, offering alternative ways of understanding the migrant’s multi-faceted identity and belonging to place(s) in the world. By compelling readers to remember and to re-member—that is, to engage in a conscious re-building of one’s lifeworld using the bricks of individual memory—new narratives emerge wherein the dislocated subject finds themselves included in a history written on their own terms, one that transcends the colonial grand narratives that have once delimited diasporic identities.


diaspora; migration; memory; film studies; postcolonialism; narrative theory; Southeast Asia

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2021.03613