In this essay I argue that the global perspective, established in the era of modern European imperialism, is given institutional expression as a way of seeing that is engaged—both by ruler and ruled—as the frame of adequate representation. Briefly outlining how this frame operates in historical and cultural studies today, I examine its deployment in mid-nineteenth-century Melaka and Singapore through a reading of the Hikayat Abdullah, a seminal Malay-language text composed by Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir. Although Abdullah self-consciously sets about reproducing the global perspective, I show how this mode of thematization is interrupted and displaced as it brings about an encounter between the diverse and uneven contexts of the native and European worlds.

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