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16 AUGUST 2014, SATURDAY. 7-10PM

Session 2 enters the silent spaces of The Singapore Story and brings to light fragments of other pasts. 

Imperium: Myths and the Nature of Governance in Singapore

Thum Ping Tjin
National University of Singapore


How are myths used to sustain and justify the policies of the People's Action Party? This paper examines three critical myths which underpin the core values of the ruling party.


The People's Action Party cites Singapore's vulnerability, its successful development of Singapore's economy, and the meritocratic system by which the best and smartest people in the country are drafted into the Party, as the reasons for its continued authoritarian rule and monopoly of power. How true are these myths, and what do they tell us about the nature of governance in Singapore?


Thum Ping Tjin (“PJ”) is Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore; and co-ordinator of Project Southeast Asia, University of Oxford. His work centres on decolonisation in Southeast Asia, and its continuing impact on Southeast Asian governance and politics. Recent publications include “The New Normal is the Old Normal: Lessons from Singapore’s History of Dissent,” in Donald Low (ed.), Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus. Singapore: NUS Press (2014) and “Flesh and Bone Reunited As One Body: Singapore’s Chinese-Speaking and their Perspectives on Merger”, in Hong, Lysa and Poh, Soo Kai (eds.), The 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore: Commemorating 50 Years. Kuala Lumpur: SIRD (2013).


Social Welfare in Singapore: Myth and History

Ho Chi Tim
University of Hawai’i at Manoa


Until fairly recently, political rhetoric has downplayed the role the state plays in social welfare in Singapore.


I suggest that such rhetoric has inadvertently ‘hidden’ a nuanced social welfare history of Singapore, one that has imperial and global origins but was also fundamentally shaped by local circumstances. My talk gives an overview of how the idea of state welfare came about in the first place and how its implementation within a colonial situation may have left its mark on Singapore's social welfare landscape.


Ho Chi Tim is presently completing a doctoral dissertation on the historical development of social welfare in late colonial Singapore.


Credit: The Online Citizen

Heritage in Singapore: Performance of Identities or Knowledge of the Past?

Wong Chee Meng

Nanyang Technological University


This seminar examines the relationship between official heritage and nationalism in Singapore. Our ‘cultural heritage’ has occupied a dehistoricised and depoliticised sphere under the CMIO scheme, which plays a secondary role to The Singapore Story.


From the official designation of heritage districts, to the staging of cultural identities through traditional dance forms at the National Day Parade and Singapore Heritage Festival, this heritage provides a sense of continuity that reinforces the development of Singapore as a global city. It is argued here, however, that cultural values and practices assumed to be thousands of years old, from Indian classical dance to Confucian work ethics, are also shaped by colonial and postcolonial history.


Wong Chee Meng obtained his PhD in heritage studies last year from the Brandenburg Technological University Cottbus in Germany, with a thesis on the use of intangible heritage as a medium for intercultural dialogue in Singapore as a multi-ethnic society. Since January 2014, he has been a postdoctoral research fellow at the NTU School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Under the research cluster of Literary and Cultural Studies, he is researching on theatre, dance and film as articulation of cultural identity, values and ideology. His general interest in the field of heritage studies includes issues of pluralism, urbanism and cultural memory.


Credit: The Online Citizen

Credit: The Online Citizen

Moderator and speakers





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