Unlearning History: Mark Teh and the Spectres of Baling

Katia Arfara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Held in December 1955, the Baling talks represented a unique attempt to end the Malayan emergency through a negotiated peace between the British colonial government and the Malayan Communist Party, but it also marked the beginning of the Cold War in Asia. This paper focuses on Mark Teh's long-term investigations, as a researcher and theatre director for the Five Arts Centre in Kuala Lumpur, into this historically significant Cold War event and its representation. Teh's performance Baling is examined as an exemplary collaborative project that expands Western definitions of the documentary theatre, while highlighting the continuing efforts of South East Asian artists to contest cultural regionalism and colonial knowledge systems. Drawing on Brechtian aesthetics and postcolonial theory, Teh appropriates diverse forms of politically engaged art in order to question the role of history and the archive in the solidification of nationalist ideologies and identity binaries in the post-war era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-78
Number of pages16
JournalTheatre Research International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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