“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Raffles Renounced: Towards a Merdeka History

Posted: January 28th, 2021 | No Comments »

An interesting book about how we look at Singapore history Raffles Renounced from Singapore’s Ethos Books….

Drawing upon a wealth of historical documentation, including speeches, newspaper articles, petitions and songs, “Merdeka / 獨立 /சுதந்திரம்” confronts us with questions about our colonial past and how it still echoes through our present and into our future. Written by Alfian Sa’at in collaboration with Neo Hai Bin, this provocative and moving new play examines how our history and humanity have been shaped – and shattered – by the forces of colonialism.

Why did independent Singapore celebrate two hundred years of its founding as a British colony in 2019? What does Merdeka mean for Singaporeans? And what are the possibilities of doing decolonial history in Singapore? Raffles Renounced: Towards a Merdeka History presents essays by historians, literary scholars and artists which grapple with these questions. The volume also reproduces some of the source material used in the play Merdeka / 獨立 / சுதந்திரம் (Wild Rice, 2019). Taken together, the book shows how the contradictions of independent nationhood haunt Singaporeans’ collective and personal stories about Merdeka. It points to the need for a Merdeka history: an open and fearless culture of historical reckoning that not only untangles us from colonial narratives, but proposes emancipatory possibilities.

About the Editors

Alfian Sa’at is the Resident Playwright of Wild Rice. His plays with Wild Rice include Hotel (with Marcia Vanderstraaten), The Asian Boys Trilogy, Cooling-Off Day, The Optic Trilogy, Homesick and Merdeka / 獨立 / சுதந்திரம் (with Neo Hai Bin). He was the winner of the Golden Point Award for Poetry and the National Arts Council Young Artist Award for Literature in 2001. His publications include Collected Plays One, Two, and Three; poetry collections One Fierce Hour, A History of Amnesia and The Invisible Manuscript; and short-story collections Corridor and Malay Sketches.

Faris Joraimi is pursuing his BA(Hons) in History at the Yale-NUS College. His research interests lie in the narrative traditions, cultural politics and intellectual history of the Malay world. He hopes to pursue graduate studies and explore ways in which texts and their materiality reflect broader processes of exchange, circulation and consumption in the early modern Nusantara. He has written for a number of platforms, including s/pores, Mynah Magazine, New Naratif, Karyawan, Passage, Budi Kritik and 天下 (Commonwealth Magazine, Taiwan). 

Sai Siew Min is a Taipei-based Singaporean historian who researches Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia with a focus on imperial formation in Southeast Asia, the cultural politics of colonialism and nationalism, language, race and Chineseness. She is a founder member of the s/pores collective. Her essays on historiography in Singapore have appeared online in s/pores: new directions in Singapore Studies. Her academic writings have appeared in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Journal of Chinese Overseas, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. She is also co-editor of the book Reassessing Chinese Indonesians: History, Religion and Belonging.

Contributors

Alfian Sa’at • Neo Hai Bin • Hong Lysa • Huang Jianli • Sai Siew Min • Faris Joraimi • Azhar Ibrahim • Nicholas Lua • Jimmy Ong • Joanne Leow

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