Year published :2016

Pages :208 pp.

Size :15x23 cm., paperback

Rights :Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam

ISBN: 9788776941918

Malayan Emergency, The: Essays on a Small, Distant War


By Souchou Yao 

One of the first conflicts of the Cold War, the Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and communist insurgents in Malaya from 1948 to 1960. Souchou Yao tells its story in a series of penetrating and illuminating essays that range across a vast canvas—from the protection of rubber and tin for a bankrupt post-war Britain, to the British military violence as a heritage of the Victorian Imperial Policing; from collective punishment to population resettlement of more than half a million Malayans. 

Throughout the book runs a passionate concern for the lives and struggles of ordinary men and women in colonial Malaya. The Malayan Emergency is packed full of the myth of British liberalism and good sense. In truth, the counterinsurgency measures point to what Camus has described as ‘Slave camps under the flag of freedom, massacres justified by philanthropy’. Here, the effect of counter-insurgency measures are captured by the anthropologist’s art of ethnography and cultural analysis. Among the vignettes are an ethnographic encounter with a woman ex-guerrilla, and the author’s remembrance of his insurgent-cousin killed in a police ambush. 

As such, this fascinating study examines the Emergency afresh, and in the process brings into focus issues not normally covered in other accounts: nostalgia and failed revolution, socialist fantasy and ethnic relations, and the moral costs of modern counter-insurgency. 

About the Author

Souchou Yao is a cultural anthropologist and writer, and former senior lecturer at the Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney, Australia. He has published widely on the state and Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. His books include Confucian Capitalism (2001) and the bestselling Singapore: The State and the Culture of Excess (2007). 


  • Examines the Malayan Emergency afresh.
  • Brings into focus issues not normally covered in other accounts.
  • Explores the moral costs of modern counter-insurgency. 

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