Cher Tan

NewSouth Publishing
1 May 2024


Cher Tan

There was something so captivating about always being on the edge, on that shaky precipice of promise — something new and something cool was just lurking around the corner and we’d arrive at it if we kick around long enough.

Peripathetic is about shit jobs. About being who you are and who you aren’t online. About knowing a language four times. About living on the interstices. About thievery. About wanting. About the hyperreal. About weirdness.

Cher Tan’s essays are as non-linear as her life, as she travels across borders that are simultaneously tightening and blurring. In luminous and inventive prose, they look beyond the performance of everyday life, seeking answers that continually elude.

Paying homage to the many outsider artists, punks, drop-outs and rogue philosophers who came before, this book is about the resistance of orthodoxies — even when it feels impossible.


Peripathetic is a collection of nine essays by Singapore-born Australian writer Cher Tan. The essays span a diverse range of topics, from the online punk and zine scenes in Singapore and the rise of open access file sharing platform ‘Pirate Bay’ in the early 2000s, to the precarity of workers in the casual labour market.

Many of the pieces read like manifestoes – touching on intellectual property, DIY ‘hustler’ culture, the impossibility of true protest and the appropriation of radical queer culture by the political mainstream. In Tan’s writing these topics all orbit around one central concern: power relations in the digital realm.

If you think this all sounds a bit dry, you’d be dead wrong. Her writing style and formatting are experimental and fizzing with energy: brackets are used with a playful flair, quotes float in negative space and whole paragraphs are redacted, leaving your eyes darting about, as though searching for some broken hyperlink.

The overall effect is like being walked into the hinterlands of cyberspace with Tan as your tour guide. Carefully guiding you through the ones and zeros, she gives you a glimpse of our techno-dystopian present.

It isn’t always an easy read – sentences sometimes bounce from one dense idea to another without a linear link, forcing you to pause and connect them. But Tan’s ability to draw on rich veins of cultural theory (Adorno, Deleuze, Fisher), sprinkle in surprising pop-culture references (Korn anyone?) and ground her writings in personal anecdotes makes for vital reading. Fans of Maggie Nelson, Jenny Odell and Elena Savage will love this collection.

Ultimately, the book expresses something essential about our current moment: the small joys of an extremely online existence, the grind of life under late capitalism and, above all, the constant struggle to resist.

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