Theatre and Nation in Contemporary Malaysia: The Work of the Five Arts Centre


How does theatre interrogate a nation that preaches racial harmony on one hand yet practices racial inequality on the other? Focusing on the work of the Five Arts Centre, an artistic company in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this paper finds that this engagement takes place on the symbolic plane where theatre offers its audiences with alternative scenarios of a pluralistic Malaysia as a means to destabilize the state’s policies on racial privileging and political suppression – and without being banned. To do so, however, requires a collective that commits itself to a frame of action that fuses the artistic and the political, and an organization that is able to acquire and mobilize enough social, cultural and political capital to sustain its creative energies. Such is the work of a cultural movement.

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