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This synchrony in academic and national history does not seem to have been the result of any direct dialogue between the state and the academic community. Author: Bhakti Mahambre — Mumbai University. Nevertheless, the Colonial Office was not going to force the appointment of an Agent as provided for in the treaty until The Sultan met the Japanese consul in Singapore and turned copies of all the treaties between the Dutch government and himself over to the consul. Participant: Youngmi Kim — University of Edinburgh. However, transcending these parameters did not mean forsaking them. Its use here is meant to convey the function of surveillance.
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The academic circle has been producing a significant body of publications that are based, to a large extent, on the themes of regionalisation, internationalisation, and continuity, which have evolved over the long term. The underlying argument proposes that Singapore has thus far not only been affected by regional and international events, but more importantly, that it has played a crucial role in affecting how these events developed.
The national narrative appears to be poised to make the change from the second narrative to the third narrative in the coming years.
These publications, written by the same academic historians, have synthesised and simplified the academic works to make them more accessible for the general public. Nonetheless, these publications do not constitute the next national historical narrative.
A final aspect of the political rhetoric — the social characteristics of Singaporeans in a city-state and world and regional city — is still in its formative stage in academic scholarship. How the external cultural and social linkages of Singapore will be portrayed in the next historical narrative remains unclear. Up until the early s, however, most of these studies focused on colonial port-cities.
It has only been in the last few years that a number of works examining the societies of pre-modern and early modern port-cities in Maritime Asia have been published. These works, while relying on a diverse array of textual records and anthropological data, have relied heavily on theoretical postulations. In the context of the history of Singapore and its immediate region — the Melaka Straits region — several papers have been published, exploring the nature of port-city societies in the region during the pre-modern and early-modern periods Miksic ; Reid The literature argues that the resulting hybrid culture became increasingly entrenched, eventually becoming a culture in its own right.
Aspects of a social group that may undergo this kind of transformation include language, cuisine, and the appreciation of artisanal crafts. It is interesting to note that the academic scholarship on Singapore and the Melaka Straits region, has closely followed the development of American scholarship on language and literature, specifically in the field of folklore studies.
The approach encompasses concepts such as creolisation, and examines, in particular, the hybridisation of migrant groups through the development of language and imagery. Hybridisation as an approach towards understanding the population of a port-city depicts an influx of people and culture. Hybridisation seeks to reconstruct the indigenisation of an otherwise foreign social group, into a localised social group that may be recognised as distinct or unique from subsequent waves of immigration that may even have originated from the same ancestral land.
In the case of Singapore, the pre-modern historical example that is highlighted is the resident Chinese population in Temasik, the fourteenth-century port-city located in the southern part of Singapore until the early fifteenth century Su These Chinese are distinct, some have argued, from those who were based in China and who sailed to Southeast Asia on an annual basis.
It is not difficult to extend this model to the post-independence period of Singapore, and to draw similarities between the localised Chinese of Temasik and the Chinese population of the nation-state of Singapore, and between the Chinese traders of old and the present sojourning population of migrant workers in Singapore. Hybridisation is therefore a useful approach in understanding and explaining the construction of coherent city-state nations that are open to regional and international forces and groups.
Indeed, hybridisation was not ignored in the early political rhetoric in the immediate period before and after The concept of Malayanism encompassed the acceptance of the localisation of immigrant groups in Malaya, and the indigenisation of the people of Malaya by adhering to certain shared values that were drawn from the various social groups and the artificial construction of shared socialist values.
The study of societies in the early-modern port-cities of Maritime Asia remains, at its core, a topic of discourse conducted amongst historians at the international scholarly level. The audience of these works is not any country in particular, but rather the field of Southeast Asian studies in general. This is indicative of the various levels of scholarship on the history of Singapore since the s. There has been a significant amount of scholarly output on the history of Singapore over the last fifty years. A large proportion of this scholarship, however, did not have Singapore as its primary target audience.
Bearing in mind the present-day state of academic scholarship, how can academic discourse and history resolve the issue of the bi-culturalism that has evolved out of the political rhetoric, and provide a sound academic basis upon which the national historical narrative can be constructed along these lines? There are currently a number of scholars who are working on the trans-national links of people based in Singapore.
They examine the trans-national or multi-cultural nature of the domicile population in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula, specifically the Chinese Straits, as well as the direct implications that these groups have had on social activism and nationalism in Singapore since the mid-twentieth century. The studies to a large extent attempt to focus on the similarities between the historical precedents of bi-culturalism in Singapore society and the society of present-day Singapore.
The state of this scholarship is still very much in a preliminary stage. The studies have thus far been based on individuals, with the implications extended to the ethnic group to which the individual belonged.
Moreover, this research has focused almost entirely on the Chinese from the Straits. No substantial or significant work on any other ethnic group, or individual from another ethnic group, with perhaps the exception of Munshi Abdullah, has been carried out along similar lines. Moreover, the bi-cultural or external linkages explored by these studies cannot focus solely on Asia. The European colonial context from which a number of the ethnic groups in Singapore have derived a significant part of their cultures needs to be considered in the bi-cultural matrix as well. Bi-culturalism may have to be considered not just an Asian prerogative, but also one that includes the West.
In other words, this ethnic group saw itself to a certain extent as unique, and not Chinese or Malay, even though they were able to operate within the Chinese and Southeast Asian island spheres. The former is seen as an academically acceptable approach, while the latter is seen as a term coined within the context of the current political rhetoric. This dilemma may be resolved if the implications of hybridisation and bi-culturalism are better defined.
The best studies on these two sociological concepts are those that have been conducted in Western scholarship, particularly in the US, where these two concepts were originally conceptualised. Thus, it is essentially an approach for the reconstruction of the identity of ethnic groups that may have had to assimilate cultural traits from the other groups with which it has had to interact.
Bi-culturalism, on the other hand, was a topic of discourse first raised in the field of education studies. It was postulated and then framed as an approach used in an attempt to understand how migrant groups in the US were able to become fluent in two languages — their native tongue and the tongue of their domicile country.
Sociologists then used these studies to understand how migrant groups and individuals perceived and conducted themselves in the context of their domicile countries, the host community in which they operate and live, and their respective native communities within the domicile countries and communities Paulston In other words, bi-culturalism was intended to be a framework for the understanding of social groups and individuals, while pertaining to their functions within a given social context. In the discipline of sociology, bi-culturalism is no longer considered a viable approach for the study of social groups.
Nonetheless, in the field of history, it remains a viable approach. In other words, the history of Singaporeans may be represented by the functions and experiences of individuals or representative social groups within the Singapore population.
As an academic discourse, this approach lacks credibility. However, as a national discourse, it is possible for the population to imagine such a past, and to project its relevance onto their presentday circumstances. Academic historians may be able to provide the scholarship credibility via their research and writing on historic personalities of Singapore. This project is expected to include personalities from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
The project would eventually create the necessary critical mass of academically grounded profiles upon which the social aspect of the new national narrative can then be constructed. They are like Lim Boon Keng, descended from migrant Chinese families, but have individual and shared experiences that are based on their residency in Singapore.
Another example could be Munshi Abdullah, an early-nineteenth-century Malay scholar, who was firmly rooted in his native Malay culture, but developed a keen awareness of Western culture, which allowed him to operate effectively there so that he affected the Southeast Asian island and Malay worlds in a fundamental way in the early nineteenth century. In both cases, the key to successfully historicising the bi-cultural traits they embodied, and to apply that to the reconstruction of the social aspect of the new national narrative, may be to depersonalise the individuals, so that any possible linkages to identity, specifically ethnicbased identity, would be secondary.
These traits could then be synthesised and transformed into a singular narrative that would be generic and perceived as applicable to Singaporeans in general. He also highlighted that the result of that policy has been that Singapore has once again become a migrant society, with one in three new Singaporeans citizens or permanent residents being of foreign origin, and that one in four local marriages are between a Singaporean and a foreigner. The challenge for academic scholarship, at this point is to adopt a socio-scientific approach to the study of the history of Singaporeans that would ultimately be viable for adoption by the state as the appropriate way to reconstruct the new historical narrative.
This will have an impact on the larger collective memory of Singaporeans, which may ultimately determine if the academic scholarship speaks to a larger, more general home audience, as opposed to a more scholarly discourse on the history of Singapore. The same could be said of Chinese business networks Trocki , and Chinese modernization and reform movements, subsequently nationalist, as they used Singapore as an important node for similar flows Godley ; Yen ; Henley The British port of Singapore was similar in many ways to the Asian port cities studied in these volumes, both prior to and during the Portuguese and Dutch periods of expansion in the archipelago from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.
Yet, it was also different. Here, I shall focus on the role played by Singapore in the strategies of survival of three elite families from the kingdom of Johor in the face of Anglo-Dutch imperial expansion and regime change within the nineteenth and early twentieth century Malay world.