, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 297–305 | Cite as

Re-viewing the Entrapment controversy: Megaprojection, (mis)representation and postcolonial performance

  • Tim Bunnell


Becoming the tallest building in the world in the mid-1990s, the Petronas Towers was the centre piece of an image of national progress and development that Malaysian authorities sought to project internationally. The release of Fox Movies' Entrapment in Malaysia in May 1999 provoked political outrage and popular disappointment at the way in which the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur had been spliced alongside riverside ‘slums’ filmed in the town of Malacca some 150 km away. This paper provides a critical reading of the spliced scene in the movie. At one level, the angry response of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to the scene diagnoses a geopolitics of asymmetrical representational power. However, I show how Mahathir's criticism of Entrapment in Malaysia was as much a defence of domestic political legitimacy (and national economic investibility) as it was ‘opposition’ or ‘resistance’ to hegemonic ‘Western’ (mis)representation. In addition, while the material and symbolic work of reimaging Kuala Lumpur had sought to negate (neo)orientalist imaginings of ‘Asian’ cities, the controversial scene rendered visible environmental ‘underdevelopment’ that has no place in a modern (vision of) Malaysia. Entrapment thus performed something in inducing Malaysian cities and citizens to ‘clean up’ their act, to practice ‘fully developed’ ways of seeing, being and being seen.

Kuala Lumpur landscape Malaysia megaprojection performance postcolonial 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tim Bunnell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyNational University of SingaporeSingapore

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