Ecologies in Southeast Asian Literatures: Histories, Myths and Societies

Chi P. Pham, Chitra Sankaran, Gurpreet Kaur (Eds.)

by Helen Tiffin (University of Wollongong, Australia), Jose Monfred C. Sy (University of the Philippines, Philippines), Gabriela Lee (University of the Philippines, Philippines), Dang Thi Bich Hong (Hung Vuong University, Vietnam), Hoang To Mai (Institute of Literature, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences), Le Thi Huong Thuy (Vietnam Institute of Literature, Vietnam ), Nguyen Thi Nhu Trang (Vietnam National University, Vietnam), Christian Culas (French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Centre Norbert Elias, EHESS, France), Timothy F. Ong (University of the Philippines, Philippines), Nguyen Thi Mai Lien (Ha Noi National University of Education, Vietnam)

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Ecologies in Southeast Asian Literatures is truly an exciting and original contribution to the rapidly growing field of ecocriticism. I agree with the editors that the emphasis on the mythic and socio-cultural dimensions of Southeast Asian environmental literature in this collection adds a new dimension to previous ecocritical approaches to literature from this part of the world. What is particularly exciting, is the fact that so many of the contributors to this book come from the countries they are writing about and are thus able to express both local perspectives and authoritative scholarly interpretations of the issues and materials they study.
I believe this work will appeal widely to scholars in the environmental humanities field, not only in ecocriticism per se. There are researchers who work specifically in such subfields as disaster studies, endangered species and literature, environmental nostalgia, food and farming in environmental literature, the study of urban places, war and ecology, and eco-mythology, all of which are explored in this book. The fact that this is a trans-national volume, too, places the collection in the vanguard of environmental humanities research. These studies offer cultural specificities and overarching bioregional perspectives, both of which are necessary for authoritative environmental humanities analyses.

Scott Slovic, PhD
Professor of Literature and Environment
University of Idaho

Ecocriticism in relation to the Southeast Asian region is relatively new. So far, John Charles Ryan’s Ecocriticism in Southeast Asia is the first book of its kind to focus on the region and its literature to give an ecocritical analysis: that volume compiles analyses of the eco-literatures from most of the Southeast Asian region, providing a broad insight into the ecological concerns of the region as depicted in its literatures and other cultural texts.

This edited volume furthers the study of Southeast Asian ecocriticism, focusing specifically on prominent myths and histories and the myriad ways in which they connect to the social fabric of the region. Our book is an original contribution to the expanding field of ecocriticism, as it highlights the mytho-historical basis of many of the region’s literatures and their relationship to the environment.

The varied articles in this volume together explore the idea of nature and its relationship with humans. The always problematic questions that surround such explorations, such as “why do we regard nature as ‘external’?” or “how is humankind a continuum with nature?”, emerge throughout the volume either overtly or implicitly. As Pepper (1993) points out, what Karl Marx referenced as ‘first’ or ‘external’ nature gave rise to humankind. But humanity “worked on this ‘first’ nature to produce a ‘second’ nature: the material creations of society plus its institutions, ideas and values.” (Pepper, 108). Thus, our volume constantly negotiates this field of ideas and belief systems, in diverse ways and in various cultures, attempting to relate them to the current ecological predicaments of ASEAN. It will likely prove an invaluable resource for scholars and students of ecocriticism and, more broadly, of Southeast Asian cultures and literatures.

Bonding ASEAN together through Literary Studies, Ecological Criticism and the Environmental Humanities
Chi P. Pham, Institute of Literature, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, Vietnam
Chitra Sankaran, National University of Singapore, Singapore Gupreet Kaur

Chapter 1
Orangutans: Myth, Metaphor and Survival
Helen Tiffin, University of Wollongong, Australia

Chapter 2
Imaginings of Disasters in two Southeast Asian Narratives: Trauma, Risk and Management
Chitra Sankaran, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Chapter 3
Georgic Gastronomies: Restorative Eating in the Anthropocene with Margaret Atwood and Merlinda Bobis
Jose Monfred C. Sy, University of the Philippines, Philippines

Chapter 4
A Return to Innocence: Encountering the Numinous in Children’s Fantasy Fiction by Cyan Abad-Jugo
Gabriela Lee, University of the Philippines, Philippines

Chapter 5
“Escaping from the Anxiety, Returning to the Field”: Nostalgia in Nguyen Quang Thieu’s Ecological Poems
Dang Thi Bich Hong, Hung Vuong University, Vietnam

Chapter 6
Humorous revalorisation of traditional farming in some contemporary Vietnamese literary works
Hoang To Mai, Institute of Literature, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, Vietnam

Chapter 7
Environmental Losses of Urbanisation: Reading Eco-Narratives of Đỗ Phấn
Le Thi Huong Thuy, Vietnam Institute of Literature, Vietnam

Chapter 8
Imagining Vietnam from the War Years to Post-war Period in Nhiệt đới gió mùa/ The tropical monsoon by Lê Minh Khuê: Templates for Ecological Narrative and Beyond
Nguyen Thi Nhu Trang, Vietnam National University, Vietnam

Chapter 9
Nature and Humans in Sino-Vietnamese conceptions and practices. Articulations between Asian vernacular “analogism” and Western modern “naturalism” ontologies
Christian Culas, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Centre Norbert Elias, EHESS, France

Chapter 10
Tales from the Mouth of the River: Ecocritical Mythology and Philippine Epic Poetry
Timothy F. Ong, University of the Philippines, Philippines

Chapter 11
Animism in Southeast Asian Myths and Its Impacts on Acts of Environmental Protection
Nguyen Thi Mai Lien, Ha Noi National University of Education, Vietnam

Bionotes of Contributors


Chi Pham (PhD) is a tenure-researcher at the Institute of Literature in the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. She completed her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Riverside (USA). Her dissertation, her researched articles and conference presentations examine Vietnamese literature and politics. Of late, Chi has become increasingly interested in the field of literature and the environment; she chaired the organising committee of the second ASLE-ASEAN conference in Hanoi (January 2018), for which she put together the call for papers. Chi’s native knowledge of Vietnamese culture and literature adds a dimension of authenticity.

Chitra Sankaran (PhD) is an Associate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, NUS. Her research interests include South and Southeast Asian fiction, feminist theory and ecocriticism. In 2012, she published History, Narrative and Testimony in Amitav Ghosh’s Fiction with SUNY Press. Her other publications include monographs, edited volumes on Asian Literatures, chapters in books and research articles in IRJs including Journal of Commonwealth Literature, ARIEL, Theatre Research International, Journal of South Asian Literature, Australian Feminist Studies and Critical Asian Studies. She is an invited contributor to the Oxford History of the Novel in English (OHNE) series. She is currently working on ecofeminism in South Asian and Southeast Asian fictions.

Gurpreet Kaur (PhD) has recently finished her PhD in English and Comparative Literatures from the University of Warwick, UK. She received her BA (Hons) and MA degrees in English Language and Literature from the National University of Singapore. Her research, publications and conference presentations centre on postcolonial ecofeminism, South Asian and Southeast Asian fiction, film and gender studies.

Southeast Asian literature and environment, Southeast Asian cultures and environment, Vietnamese literature and environment

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Ecologies in Southeast Asian Literatures: Histories, Myths and Societies





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm

Publication date

September 2019