South Asia and Southeast Asia
Asia has served as a magnet for invaders from Europe ever since Alexander the Great turned back reluctantly from what is now Pakistan. South and Southeast Asia presented Europeans with climates and demographic densities that did not encourage settlement, although they offered ample opportunities for trade and territorial control. The British were the most successful among European colonizers in Asia. This chapter surveys the growth of Asian poetry in English in a context where national and postcolonial agendas focus on keeping multi-racial and multicultural societies on the path to modernity, and English prevails as the language of internal unity and international globalization.
'Bleddy Macaulay's minutemen! Don't you get it? Bunch of
English-medium misfits, the lot of you.'
Salman Rushdie, The Moor's Last Sigh
The history of Asian writing in English is an account of the struggle to prove that 'Macaulay's minutemen' were not misfits in their parts of the world. The British Empire in Asia was a gradual accretion spread over several centuries. The combined outcome of greed, perseverance, technological superiority, administrative acumen, and the strategic use of force enabled Britain to accumulate enormous wealth and power, while controlling large and differse populations through a relatively small British presence in the region.