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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

Pages and Passages: Exploring Independent Bookstores, Nurturing Freedom of Expression!

In various corners of the world, dictatorial regimes have been relentless in their efforts to suppress freedom of expression, from banning books to stifling discussions on democracy and rights in public spaces, all in the name of “national security” or combating perceived “subversive behavior”. Despite these oppressive measures, a glimmer of hope remains in the form of independent bookstores. Though in nature the bookstores would be small in size and rarely located in strategic places, these independent bookstores have emerged as beacons of light, providing an alternative space for citizens to explore new narratives and embrace the essence of freedom of thought and expression within their social-environment.

Here are 3 Manushyan preferred independent bookstores in the region:

  1. POST, Jakarta, Indonesia 🇮🇩

The tiny bookstore bears the name “POST,” and is recognized as POST Santa among locals. This endearing moniker stems from its position within Santa Modern Market, nestled in the heart of Petogogan, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta.

Established in 2014, POST Santa has thrived, maintaining its distinctive identity. The founders and owners, a couple named Teddy W. Kusuma and Maesy Angelina, curate a remarkable haven for bibliophiles. Their establishment stands out by offering literary treasures not commonly found on the shelves in larger or mainstream bookstores. Despite its limited dimension, POST Santa’s charm lies in its deliberate selection, presenting non mainstream yet a concise but still a captivating collection.

The bookstore’s unique advantage emerges from this curated approach, allowing it to continue as a cherished fixture in the community by hosting several book discussions to support and embrace freedom of expression of readers.

  2. Epigram Bookshop, Tanjong Pagar District, Singapore 🇸🇬

Epigram Bookshop claims itself as the only bookstore in Singapore to focus on Singaporean titles. “It doesn’t get more local than this!”

A chill coffee shop named Balestier Market Collective exists inside this bookstore and collaborates with Epigram. It offers discounts for customers who bought books from Epigram. Established at Singapore Art Museum in the middle of 2022, Epigram Bookshop continues to host book talks and invite the authors in casual and warm style.

In this bookstore, you could easily find books from diverse authors including civil society and academics in Singapore who offer new narratives or alternatives from the usual insights that are spearheaded. That’s how the publishing industry keeps the role to ignite and keep healthy public debates.

  3. Fathom Bookspace, Bangkok, Thailand 🇹🇭

Fathom bookspace located in the Sathorn area is not a typical bookstore. It offers an array of experiences beyond just selling books. Visitors are able to explore Fathom Bookspace’s extensive curated collection and selection of art books, play the piano, discover Thai novels on the mezzanine shelves, or simply relax downstairs with a cup of coffee.

The word "Fathom," which has literal meaning as "understanding" or "comprehending". Furthermore, this bookshop offers beyond the encounter to new books in a journey to understanding an issue, because Fathom is space for people to meet and get to know each other. As quoted from the co-owner, Khanittha Thammapunya to Khaosod English, “It’s a place where people can share. Online, people can lash out at anyone on a whim. But once we see one another’s faces, we don’t need to agree, even though there's a difference…”

Similar to previous independent bookstores, Fathom also holds weekly events such as workshops, in casual sharing and fluid format without a leading expert hence to ensure people could feel free to express their thoughts without hegemony and fear of judgment.

#WeAreManushyan ♾️ Equal Human Beings

✊Manushya Foundation believes in the strength and infinite positive power of every readers to explore any kind of book and open many difficult yet meaningful conversations. We work together with a coalition in the region named ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship to protect and guarantee freedom of speech, democracy and digital rights. We denounce the rights violations and through our actions, we build a democratic society where dissent is not seen as disloyalty but where netizens are treated as Equal Human Beings in the digital space


While you’re here, learn more about our work on Digital Rights for the promotion of democratization and freedom of expression in ASEAN ⤵️


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