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Interview with Benedict Anderson: cosmopolitanism and the colonial subject

June 3, 2009

By Cynthia Foo
Invisible Culture journal

On October 1, 2008, Benedict Anderson presented a talk at Columbia University in which he discussed his upcoming book, a biography of the Chinese-Indonesian journalist Kwee Thiam Tjing. Having found a book of Kwee’s writings in a second-hand bookshop in Indonesia in 1962, Anderson describes his surprise that no one could identify the pseudonymous author, who wrote what Anderson considers to be “the greatest piece of prose written in the first half of the 20th century by anybody in Indonesia.” For years after Kwee’s death, Anderson explains, details of the journalist’s life and work were forgotten. It was only recently that Anderson was himself able to write about the author, in the process considering the role of cosmopolitanism in the life of the colonial subject.


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