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This essay examines the Alpha Gallery, an independent artists’ cooperative that Malaysians and Singaporeans established, which staged art shows during the 1970s to spark an artistic renaissance in Southeast Asia. The cooperative’s transnational vision involved showcasing Balinese folk art as a primitive and, therefore, intrinsically Southeast Asian aesthetic, while asserting that it shared cultural connections with the Bengali Renaissance of the early 20th Century. Alpha’s leaders believed these actions might awaken indigenous artistic traditions across Southeast Asia. Their project underscores the lasting cultural impact of colonialism on Southeast Asia and the contested character of the region. Alpha’s condescending view of Balinese folk art echoed the paternalism of Euro-American colonial discourses about civilizing indigenous peoples that persisted because its key members received much of their education or training in Britain and the United States, a by-product of their countries’ pro-U.S. trajectory during the Vietnam War. Equally, Alpha’s transnationalism ran counter to Southeast Asian political elites’ fixation with pressing art toward nation-building. Indeed, the coalescing of nation-states does not define the region’s history during and after the Vietnam War. Rather, non-state actors like Alpha’s members, in imagining and pursuing their versions of Southeast Asia, contributed to the persistent contingency of the region.

In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
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This essay argues that Anglo-American memories of Japan’s victory in Singapore in 1942, which British Prime Minister Winston Churchill labeled Britain’s “darkest moment” in World War II, soon would underpin the domino logic within u.s. Cold War strategy. For both American and British policymakers, Japan’s war machine had fused together in interconnected insecurity the bastions of Euro-American colonial power. In Southeast Asia, it had imposed the condition that one state’s vulnerabilities impinged upon the stability of its neighbor. This vision of Southeast Asia’s interconnected insecurity was central to the domino logic within u.s. Cold War policy. u.s. policymakers’ preoccupation with containing communism in Vietnam arose significantly from how Japan had torn into Southeast Asia from Indochina. After World War II, u.s. and British policymakers perceived Southeast Asian insecurity through both the prism of Japanese imperialism and their fears of an older “Yellow Peril"—China and Southeast Asia’s Chinese diaspora. Indeed, u.s. and British officials anticipated, as well as echoed and confirmed, each other’s suspicions that China and its diaspora would collaborate to reprise Japan’s campaign.

In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations