Jacqueline Lo


The Singaporean playwright, Kuo Pao Kun, was one of the many political activists detained under the Internal Security Act during one of the government's massive communist purges in 1976. He was detained for four and a half years. In light of his continuing participation in Singaporean theatre, Kuo has, understandably, been careful to refer to this period as a 'very deep education process'. Kuo describes the experience in terms of artistic and philosophical shifts rather than drawing attention to the political impact of imprisonment. My aim in this essay is to argue that imprisonment had a more profound effect on Kuo than he has been prepared to discuss publicly, that is, that imprisonment heightened his awareness of the strategies of regulation and surveillance that have been naturalised in mainstream Singaporean society. My main thesis is that this awareness has led to a radical shift in Kuo's understanding of the function of power — not as an externally imposed force but something which is manufactured willingly through technologies of subjectification.



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