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World literature is an issue of academic inquiry that has been heavily debated at the core of the world literary system in the Global North; yet, it seems to be disproportionately discussed in the Global South from where such group of texts in question is assumed to originate. This is not surprising considering that the concept of world literature itself, which could be traced back to the early 19th century, was originally conceived in Europe. One area of study that has been constantly overlooked by academics at the metropole is the reception of world literature at the peripheral sites beyond the North. Despite being circulated globally, this set of texts is usually associated with the white metropolitan readership. This research paper argues that the perspective of the readers at the periphery is crucial to the understanding of the “problem” called world literature and needs to be recognized as part of its interpretive community. Through an empirical study of the Thai readers’ responses to Eka Kurniawan’s Lelaki Harimau (in English, Man Tiger; In Thai, Sa-ming Sam-dang), it reveals how the reception complicates existing assumptions about world literature’s readership as well as its social and cultural significance. Finally, it discusses the way in which texts from the Global South could simultaneously engage the readers beyond national boundary and register the social inequality in a local level.
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