Reframing Singapore memory, identity, trans-regionalism

Reframing Singapore memory, identity, trans-regionalism

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Reframing Singapore Memory, Identity, Trans-regionalism

Over the past two decades, Singapore has advanced rapidly towards becoming a both a global city-state and a key nodal point in the international economic sphere. These developments have caused us to reassess how we understand this changing nation, including its history, population, and geography, as well as its transregional and transnational experiences with the external world. This collection spans several disciplines in the humanities and social sciences and draws on various theoretical approaches and methodologies in order to produce a more refined understanding of Singapore and to reconceptialize the challenges faced by the country and its peoples.

The choice of book title, Reframing Singapore, reflects the trends of the past ten years since the publication of The Singapore Story by the former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. From the publication of the edited volume, Lee’s Lieutenants, which appeared soon after that (1999) till the most recent collection of papers, Paths Not Taken (2008), many historians and others have come out to fill in the gaps in the official narrative, including accounts of events and people that have not found a place there. The introduction to this book by the editors, Dr Heng and Dr Aljunied, captures the current trends well. It gives an outline of how Singapore’s history has been written since the new nation was established. Those familiar with the first decades after its independence may recall that there was a period when the state was shy about any close examination of its history, when young people were discouraged from asking probing questions about its past.

For a small country like Singapore, serving as a key ship-stop to help British imperial expansion for more than a century and only an independent island-state since 1965, there have certainly been a lot of books published about it. That number has grown more quickly of late, in part because Singapore is a success story that seems to fit an era of capitalist globalization most comfortably. But there are also other reasons why there are so many books and essays written. The island-city acts like a migrant multicultural state in a region that has discovered the idea of native nations. It is a one-team regime that has won every election since 1965 and marginalized an increasingly feeble opposition. It rose from a rowdy imperial entrepot to become a major transport hub for the world and its communities have become purposeful and competitive at higher levels than anyone could have imagined four decades ago. As many have noted, it has continued to fight above its weight in large and tough arenas. And there are more reasons that one can list, including something unlikely only a dozen years ago. It attracts attention in a large numbers of scholarly fields, not only in the engineering, physical and health sciences but also in the arts and social sciences.



Heng, Derek Thiam Soon. Reframing Singapore Memory, Identity, Trans-regionalism. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009.

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