Page 1

I S S U E T E N / O C T O B E R 2 016




EDITOR’S NOTE Mnemozine (m-NEH-mo-zine, where the m is almost silent) ; So named after the personification of memory in Greek mythology; the ancestor of the Greek Muses, Mnemosyne.


o matter the distance that we travelled, or the lands that we surveyed and seas we sailed across,

nothing quells our hearts that yearn for home. Home is not just an ideal; it is the anchor that holds us down amid the changing tides of life, the one thing we feel attached to when everything is thrown away to change. Perhaps what we think about the idea of home goes beyond the physical and tangible, in whatever forms that it takes: be it in communities, practices or places. This cornerstone of our lives constantly evolves and becomes reshaped as the world turns. Beyond the nostalgia and romancing of certain ideas of home comes the hard truth; that not all homes are made equal and some may come into conflict with society itself. And as nature dictates, some may thrive while others die. Thus, the theme for this issue is “The Routes Home”, where we retrace our footsteps back in time and ask ourselves this simple question: “What constitutes home?” Our team set out to explore the meaning of home in Singapore, be it in the past or the present. Stepping away from Singaporeʼs grand and splendid self-image, we took a peek at familiar spaces, practices and items that we find home in. From the HDB flat that most of us live in (Min Lim, pg. 34-35), to the kopi-bing siew-tai that we drink (Alex Chan, pg. 15), and the home-cooked food that graced our tables (Joshua Goh, pg. 32-33), we attempt to rediscover these familiar spaces and understand their significance to everyday life. Beyond the typical, we sought to address communities that found home in contentious or forgotten spaces. From illegal motorcycling circuits (Alex Chow, pg. 20-21), to the tunes of xinyao (Yengfai, pg. 37), and a sunken island no more (Jiayi, pg. 24-25), these were either spaces that came into conflict with the state or has simply faded away from the memories of today. While we talk about tangible spaces and communities, we delve into intangible waters where home is more than just a place; it is a collusion of emotions, thoughts and feelings













“The Routes Home” marks the 10th issue of Mnemozine and my debut as Chief Editor. Mnemozine has always been an integral part of my university life, where I first started as an editor for the previous two issues. This journey is no small feat, from recruitment to writing, curating to editing, and finally printing out our hard work. The fact that Mnemozine has always produced credible and quality work meant that my team had to work hard to live up to these standards. In doing so, we hope that this publication means something for our readers who appreciate history (be it a NUS student, or a member of public stumbling upon our work). I thank the History Department for their kind support, my fellow editors for their dedication and astuteness, my writers for such beautiful articles and my designers for making Mnemozine look amazing. Finally, Mnemozine would not have come into fruition if not for readers like you. We have come a long way since Issue One, and we hope to continue writing and making Mnemozine a cornerstone in every history majorʼs life. I hope this finds you well. Chief Editor Chng Shao Kai





Chief Editor:


Chng Shao Kai

Deputy Editors: Ang Zhenye Calvin Chang Choo Ruizhi Jeremy Yong Joshua Lim Lok Hui Yi, Renee

Design Team Ang Min Wei Corinne Gan Emerald Gan Gloria Chung Samuel Chong

Contributors Alex Chan Alex Chow Darren Ng Emily Eng Goh Ngee Chae, Joshua Goh Swee Yik Joshua Goh Jude Leong Lim Jia Yi Loke Yeng Fai Marcus Tan Min Lim Nurul Qistina Bte Fadhillah Pang Khai Xin, Joyce Yong Jingyi

Public Relations Samuel Chong

HOME 04 Mnemozine 10 Editorial and Design Team 05 We Live in HISTERIA: History Camp 2016 06 For the people, by the people: Welcoming the 52nd HISSOC Executive Committee 08 The Pioneer Team: An Interview 10 Ready Player One: An interview with A/P Dimoia 12 Mnemozine: A Journey

FEATURE 14 Don’t Be A Stranger (Home, as imagined from Tokyo) 15 Cosmopolitan Kopitiams, Creating a Second Home with Coffee and Kaya Toast 16 All That Glitters Is Not Gold 18 Singlish, blur cock, you got speak or not? 20 Hellriders: The Brief Run of Singapore’s Motorcycle Gangs 22 Little Ironies 24 Forgotten Histories: Pulau Saigon, the island within Singapore River

26 Are you what you eat? 28 Have a Berry Good Time - Berry Picking in Finland 29 Calendar and Cohesion: Organising Conceptions of the Singaporean Nation

30 Rice, Water & Community in Imperial China 32 Tastes of Home: Home-cooked Food, Hawker Food and the Construction of Nostalgia

34 Is This Home, Truly? HDB Interior Designs and their Re�lection on Identity in the 1970s-1980s

REVIEW 36 Book Review: Eating Her Curries and Kway A Cultural History of Food in Singapore by Nicole Tarulevicz

Mnemozine is published by the NUS History Society and is distributed to all current students, staff, friends and benefactors of the society. As a non-pro�it entity, we welcome donations and other in-kind support. The views expressed by the writers remain solely their own and do not necessarily re�lect the of�icial view of the National University of Singapore and its af�iliates.

37 Movie Review: Songs from the Heart 38 Forum: What does home mean to you?

For more information, please email us at publications@nushissoc.org Want to relieve past memories? Find them at http://issuu.com/mnemozine 3



C h ief E d it or

Chng Shao Kai is a Year 2 History major. Mnemozine has been his �irst passion in NUS, where he dabbled in both editing and writing. He enjoys the simple things in life, like milo-ping on weekdays and teh-ping on weekends.

Choo Ruizhi is a fourth-year history major. If the past is another country then reading history is merely another way to sate his latent wanderlust. His favourite historical �igure (for now) is the ornery crocodile which escaped from the Singapore Botanical Gardens Zoo in the late 1880s, ate a few swans and peacocks, and was never caught.

Ang Zhen Ye is a Year 1 History major who aspires to be a full-time sloth. On the days which he isn’t sleeping, he can be found in AS8 reading and enjoying a good cup of coffee. His interest lies in hunting for good coffee and food, as well as listening to and playing music.

Calvin is a �irst year student with a sweet tooth. He enjoys reading up on historical events or current affairs, especially with a scoop of ice-cream or a bag of candies.

Lok Hui Yi, Renee is a Year 1 FASS student who prides herself in being a professional egg consumer. Her facourite things in the world include coffee with cheesecake, reading and marvelling at skies and oceans.

Lim Xiu Yu, Joshua is a full-time history buff. When he is not editing and writing articles for Mnemozine, he can be found chilling in museums, libraries or cafes... editing and writing for Mnemozine.

Yong Jie Li, Jeremy is a freshman who fervently reads music album reviews. When he isn’t dissecting popular culture (looking at you, Lady Gaga), he dives into Southeast Asian, American, social and cultural history.

Corinne spends her time drawing and making things that mostly end up hidden in between stacks of books and crinkly age-stained papers. She dabbles in illustration, design and mural art; and is a collector of nostalgia. ca rgo co l l e c t i ve . co m / co re yga ny t


Gloria Chung is a Year 2 History major who might be mistaken as a freshie in FASS since she still doesn’t know her way around after one year. In her spare time, she loves designing and making embarrassing Telegram stickers sets of her friends.

Samuel Chong is a Year 1 History major who listens to the music that your parents listened to. He takes a special interest in the idiosyncrasies of soldiers in war. If he isn’t doing that, then he’s probably traversing the entertainment spectrum in his quest for knowledge.

Ang Min Wei is a �irst year student still �inding her way in the maze of staircases in FASS. Her interests lie in the arts, culture and design especially in the Asia region, sparked by her love for painting as well as her musical journey as a Chinese Orchestra member.

Emerald Gan is a Second year sociology major and human (questionable) designing her second Mnemozine. As president of the Go-Home Club she has multiple achievements in nap taking and is currently living in perpetual existential crisis.


   Eric Ng | ericng212@gmail.com

The new academic year brings new opportunities and fresh faces - yes, I’m talking about the freshmen that are enrolling into the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) this year. The past summer break saw the continuation of NUS History Camp, with this year’s theme being HISTERIA. While past years’ camps adopted the historical themes closely, we decided to adopt a different approach this year by incorporating a superhero/comic theme. For this year, the camp revolved around Suicide Squad, a popular DC comic of a group of super-villains who are given the task of saving the world by ighting their own kind. Having attended last year's camp as a freshman, it is heartening to be back at this year's camp as the organizer. Seeing the last smiles of joy and laughter throughout this camp brought back the memories I had of last year’s camp. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my co-project director, Edward, programme directors, Stella, Clarissa and Keyun along with the organising committee, seniors, and the freshmen who made this camp a great success. The camp spirit is de ined by the memories and bonds forged during this occasion and I hope these bonds will continue on into the new semester. Orientation camps often serve as the irst step for freshmen in their university life. University is a time for freshmen to chart their own journey and explore many opportunities out there. With their seniors’ help and advice, these 3-4 years of study may become a fruitful and exciting time of their lives. Eric is a current Year 2 History major. His hobby involves travelling and he intends to focus on the history of Southeast Asian communities. 5

HISTORY FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE Chng Shao Kai | publications@nushissoc.org

The NUS History Society (HISSOC) is a student-run organization that aims to encourage and cultivate interest for history among NUS students and the general public. Its members include all History and European Studies majors, second majors, and minors. Membership and participation in the society is also open to other interested students. HISSOC is made up of people from its respective disciplines, where their heart-warming and quirky interactions breathe life into the society. From chionging assignments and group projects in the History Honours Room, engaging in historical debates while slurping yong tau fu at The Deck, and lamenting about the tons of readings that we have to do while walking towards the AS1 block. Beyond studies, we ind home amongst the community in various activities such as camps, retreats and outings. In such moments, we slow down and catch up with each others’ lives. With such a small membership, it is inevitable that strong bonds are forged within the History Society community. On 23rd August, HISSOC called for its Annual General Meeting (AGM), where a new Executive Committee (EXCO) was also elected. Here’s what the outgoing and the newly elected Presidents have to say!

What a year it has been for the History Society! Looking back, it was also an eventful one, as HISSOC strove to promote the betterment of the History and European Studies community in NUS, while also engaging the public in history-related events. With the welfare packs that are illed to the brim every semester, we hope that you have enjoyed the perks of being in this wonderful community. We also hope that the biannual publication, Mnemozine, will continue to be an excellent platform for us to broaden our interests in history beyond the classroom. We We have also launched several new initiatives such as Détente and Project Scribe: Remembering Rochor. The former was an overnight bonding event for all History and European Studies students held in between both semesters; the latter, an oral history competition that also introduces oral history methods and techniques to secondary school students. It is only through the support that you have provided, through attending and volunteering, that these events have become a success. Of course, we will not forget the contributions from you for Battle for Singapore and History Camp. On behalf of the EXCO, I would like to thank all of you once again for your unwavering support. Let us also remember the dedication, determination, and diligence of my fellow HISSOC EXCO members. To Clarissa, Alex, Jude, Jia Min, Vina, Natasha, Eric, Yi Ling, and Shao Kai, it was a privilege to have walked down this path with us. In In light of HISSOC being awarded the Student Leaders’ Award by FASS for Project Scribe, and the Students’ Achievement Award from the Of ice of Student Affairs for the second consecutive year, I hope that HISSOC can continue to remain a warm and close-knit family, and I hope that we can celebrate more achievements together in the years to come.


Our Annual General Meeting provides members with a chance to re lect upon the achievements of the Society, and the hard work of the outgoing 51st Executive Committee has certainly paid off. On behalf of everyone, I would like to thank the 51st Exco for committing their time and effort in service of the NUS History community. The fruits of their labour will serve as an inspiration to all of us. It is my immense pleasure to introduce the members of the NUS History Society's 52nd Executive Committee. We are Swee Yik, Madeline, Jeremy, Jonathan, Sebastian, Douglas, Alvina, Nabilah, Samuel and Shao Kai. Most of us are fresh faces, but we hope to make up for it with our dedication and enthusiasm. Together, we will continue to uphold the good name of our Society, and ensure that it remains the tight-knit, yet inclusive family that it is today.



Indeed, the History Society seems to have come a long way since the previous year and the new Exco is extremely excited to carry on the baton of bringing the society to greater heights! While we remember and learn from the valuable lessons of the previous year, we also look forward to carving out our own history for the Society.


READY PLAYER ONE an interview with Associate Prof Dimoia

Chng Shao Kai | publications@nushissoc.org & Jeremy Yong | secretary@nushissoc.org

Mnemozine welcomes AP John Paul Dimoia back to NUS after his yearlong sabbatical in Germany! We caught up with him over TV shows like Mr Robot and Deutschland 83 and his history of technology module From The Wheel To The Web (HY2251)! We asked about what does home mean to him from a Science, Technology and Society (STS) perspective, and from his personal experience as a seasoned traveller. What have you been up to lately after your sabbatical trip to Germany? One – I have to admit, my brain hasn’t fully returned yet. Mostly I’m trying to igure out what I want to do next. I’m obviously still working on Korea but increasingly in Southeast Asia, I’m trying to igure out ways of connecting Korea to Vietnam, Thailand, etc.. Professionally, I’m working on an edited volume about Korean construction in Vietnam and Thailand. But personally, that lets me travel for free, while working. That’s what a lot of professors do – you’re trying to igure how to make your hobby your work so you get paid for what you how want to do. So I’m trying to igure out how to travel more in Southeast Asia, by calling it work. How do you spend your free time? I still see a lot more movies than I’ve expected, since I came to Singapore in particular. Since The Projector opened about a year and a half ago…I don’t know why, I’m heavily into particularly older and cult movies so I go to The Projector a lot. I still play basketball at Kent Vale a couple of weeks. Of course it’s work but sometimes I travel just to travel. Mostly with free time, I like to keep active and move around a lot.


How do Science, Technology and Society (STS) affect what we de ine as home and shift understandings of space in today’s world? The idea of home is obviously constructed to a certain extent, even The though we do have a birthplace. STS reshapes the meaning of home in the sense that you recognize that anywhere can be home if you adapt to it in the right kind of ways. For me personally, that’s at least three places now: Philadelphia’s home, Seoul’s home, here’s home. My parents periodically ask, ‘When are you coming home?’ I’ve been here eight years; do you not get I’m probably not going back there just to live again? It means different things to different people. The idea is live suf iciently lexible. If you have a good net connection and good wireless access, you can pretty much live.

I wouldn’t want to live in a jungle. But almost anywhere else on the globe, if you have access to things and basic technologies you can reshape your environment to adapt. In Singapore, I ind home in The Projector, and sometimes And yeah, home for me is very lexible. Books Actually and I really like it there with all the cats roaming around the store. And also, this is going to sound With regards to STS, what would you consider to be strange, I don’t really enjoy the new Kinokuniya in Ngee your key expertise? Ann City, but I used to spend hours browsing in the old KiOf icially, icially, I am supposed to be trained in East Asian Sci- nokuniya which was fantastic. So yeah, I try to ind these ence, Technology and Medicine (EASTM). This is both true places that make the bigger space of Singapore more speand not true for myself, and I will explain why. EASTM was ci ic to me. To give you one more example, although Tokyo the name of a journal written mostly by Chinese scholars, is not really home anymore, there was a big Kinokuniya at and it was their way of making China seem more competi- Shinjuku Station (South Exit) which was like about 5-6 stotive with Europe for science and technology. But that was reys tall, and I still go there whenever I go Tokyo (once about 30-40 years ago. Now, what EASTM more broadly every two years). You ind places like these, for just whatmeans is basically almost all science and technology that is ever reasons, and you would feel that “This is where I want not from the West; we have Korea, Southeast Asia, and a bit to be”. of Arabic science as it get more and more big. There are more EASTM specialists like me who are trying to show Any words of wisdom and encouragement for younger that science and technology is not exclusively western, and batches of history majors and/or STS-interested stuwe should look at how and why. I guess, broadly speaking, dents? that EASTM and non-Western science is my big area of ex- I guess I would encourage history majors, in Prof Tim pertise. My smaller specialty, of course, would be modern Barnard’s words, to ind something that motivates you. I Korea and especially Korean science and technology insti- don’t know how history is taught in Junior College, but I’m tutions after 1945. I can go on about Korea for a very long guessing it’s something dry and conventional that people time, but I wouldn’t *chuckles*. When I was taking Korean are used to memorizing for exams. Find things inside of language, my Level 5 teacher and I had a 30-minute inter- history that stick with you and challenge your paradigm view and practice at the end of every semester. She asked throughout your university life; those would be good Honme about my Phd in Korean, so we talked about it for the ours ours Thesis topics that you could tap on as they motivate whole interview. She was like “Okay…” like she was taken you to explore more. I found my dissertation by accident aback by the whole conversation, but of course that’s my during the 2002 World Cup in Seoul when the South Korespecialty so I can talk about it in Korean so well. I’ve done ans beat the Italians before getting into the Round of Four; my dissertation in 2004, I have one book, and I’m starting it was absolutely crazy. I was having dinner with friends on another book soon too. While a career in academia and they talked about campus riots in Seoul during the meant that I had to travel all over the world, it really allows 1940s directed at the American military administration. I me to transform my hobby into my work if done in the right have never heard about that, and it was weird. These riots way. How often can you get paid to do your hobby? So an did happen, and now I know why as it became part of my way. academic career isn’t so bad. dissertation. Fourteen years later, I am still thinking about it. It’s a part of Korean history that isn’t publicized, but baWhat does home mean to you, especially when you sically the American military government reopened have been travelling a lot and living away from the US Korean universities in 1946 under their purview; where for an extended period of time? the irst President of Seoul National University was a white I guess what that means is that I try to ind home in each of American military captain. The Koreans did not like this, the three countries I mentioned earlier. In addition to the and they expressed themselves very directly. A while later countries that I talked about earlier, I’ve also lived in the they quietly changed the President to a Korean. When KoUK, Tokyo (well, Yokohama) and Germany too. So I’ve lived reans get angry, they go to the streets. It is a strong part of in at least six places. But, of those irst three which are the history, especially when their government gets out of line. ones where I go back more often, I try to ind places or And it’s very effective! The Korean government, generally spaces inside of each one (particularly the ones that are not speaking, fears popular will, as their demonstrations are my birthplace) that are just more comfortable for me for not peaceful. Find those little things and stories that motimy whatever reasons. In Seoul, there are these two bookstores vate you because these things make good history as you get (owned by Kyobo Moon-go) and the one in Kangnam that them out of your head. has a coffeeshop on the ground loor. For whatever reasons, whenever I am in Seoul I would just hang out at that For STS students, it’s simple: Don’t be afraid of science. For coffeeshop like a ritual, where this is my home in Seoul. hardcore STS, you got to do a bit of science in the area that you’re doing. In my medical module, I still get students who are intimidated they are not life science or medicine students. You just got to approach STS with an open mind, and maybe do a bit of extra readings. Recognise that science is not to be feared, but to be studied and mastered. 9

the pioneer team

Chng Shao Kai | publications@nushissoc.org

Jeremy Yong | secretary@nushissoc.org

Mnemozine has managed to catch up with our pioneer editorial team, mainly Alex Chow, Chew An Ee and Yong Chun Yuan, who are now working in diverse career paths. They share about their experiences in creating Mnemozine, and what the publication What have you been up to after graduation? Alex Chow: I’ve been working with Civil Defence. That’s my only job for the past three years. Chew An Ee: My �irst job was with MINDEF as a research analyst. I moved to Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. I’m in the international relations division doing a bit of lobbying and policy work. Yong Chun Yuan: My �irst job was in public relations. Then, I changed jobs and worked at the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority. Now, I’m helping out with my family business. This is the 10th issue of Mnemozine. What are your thoughts on Mnemozine today after �ive years? Alex: I’m pleasantly surprised that it has managed to last for so long. Mnemozine came a long way compared to the �irst issue. Now, it’s packaged a lot nicer. The articles are more varied and it’s interesting. People really put in a lot of effort and are interested to write the articles, not for the sake of writing. 10

Photography by Chng Shao Kai

AE: I noticed that Mnemozine have very different contributors. At the start, we were a little bit worried that Mnemozine would only have history students writing for their peers. Luckily, we had writers from different majors and faculties. I was looking at the last two issues and see people from Law contributing. It shows people that history is something that can be looked into and enjoyed by a diverse group of people. That’s what started Mnemozine. CY: It’s amazing to come ten issues. I’m glad to see so many people continuing the work. When we started out it was something that we thought was fun and meaningful. I think the magazine has gotten thicker over time. Like An Ee said, it’s about getting whoever’s interested to contribute. Not just history students trying, but for everybody. What inspired all of you to come together and create Mnemozine in the �irst place? Alex: At a point of time there wasn’t any platform for history students to contribute articles. Before Mnemozine, there were certain publications geared towards a very academic angle. Mnemozine is a lot more for students looking for something beyond the classroom.

AE: If you look at past history publications, a lot of were retouched model essays for modules. We thought that students would be writing essays throughout the whole semester, and maybe it’s time to have something a bit more fun. Initially, I thought that footnotes were a bit of a distraction. We also wanted to ensure that research is done properly. Thus, Mnemozine was a little bit academic, but not for the sake of being academic. Every publication needs to be credible. If you write something that is not accurate, people will �ind fault with it. It was a conscious decision to keep it as readable as possible. We didn’t want to have a magazine where the writers were the only ones reading. Why call it Mnemozine? What inspired the name? AL: I think I was just googling randomly for things that are history-related. I then came across this Wiki page about Mnemosyne, a Greek goddess of memory. I thought that maybe I can alter this form. AE: And we couldn’t use the muse of History, which is Clio. Cleo Magazine. [Laughs] But yeah, Alex was the one who came out with the idea. We thought it had a nice sound to it. As previous editors, which part of your roles do you enjoy the most? What parts were challenging? Alex: For me, what I enjoyed the most was building something up from scratch, and the satisfaction of seeing something from the start till the end is quite awesome. And since then, I don’t think I’ve quite done any self-initiated projects like this. CY: At �irst, the magazine was online and we didn’t have the money to print it. The physical magazine only came about when we had funding from the Department to print about 100 copies. The fact that they gave us funding and let us print out to distribute meant a lot to us, and when I saw the magazine in my hand I was like “Wow okay, we really came out with something!” We were all very proud of it, especially with all the efforts that people put in; be it writers or designers. AE: What I enjoyed out of Mnemozine is certainly not the editing; editing is not my strong suit. My two fellow editors probably enjoyed it more than I did. What I enjoyed was the interaction with stakeholders, where we are building up this small network of people that come together contribute for Mnemozine. I still recall when we were having this concept of Mnemozine where there was also a conscious decision to reach out beyond our History majors and get more people involved. Submissions don’t exactly have to be generated by NUS students solely, it could be submitted by anyone interested in history. It really showed that history can connect so many people together. The tough part of being editors is really about managing all these components; you got your OB markers, and certain standards to achieve, but at the end of the day it is all voluntary submissions. It’s not like we pay them to write something right? Some submissions were quite off the mark, so I had to politely tell them that it might not be suitable for publication.

Finally, do you have any advice for current undergraduates in NUS now? CY: The things we studied in school (like Foucault) may be fun and meaningful, but they may not be so relevant or practical in the working world. Looking back, I see that working and studying are very different things. In work, people are concerned about things that are not related to academics. The most important thing when you are in school is to have fun. I really miss my days in NUS where we really can try anything with little consequences. University is a time to try new things, where even if you fail or screw up, you can pick yourself up and move on. Whereas at work, if you fail and screw up, the bosses would want your head and sometimes your job is gone. At the end of the day, while it is good to think about all these as an undergraduate, you must remember to have fun because now is the time to do whatever you want. AE: I feel that NUS is an incubator. They shield you from the outside world and it is a safe space for you to do whatever you like or even to fail. I don’t want to generalize, but the danger may be that there will be a self-indulgent perception. When you move into a working life, it is hardly about you. It is what you can contribute to your employers. At the same time, don’t be too afraid about what jobs you’ll get into after graduation. Chances are, you wouldn’t stay in your �irst job for many years. There is a lot of anxiety especially during your �inal year with regards to job seeking, but you are probably going to quit after 1-2 years. If you are unsure of what you want in a career then you should go for internships and �ind out about potential career paths. In NUS, you should focus on your studies but if you worry about career choices, talk to more people and go for internships to �ind out more. When you �inally make a choice, don’t get too worried over it. Everything is a learning process anyway. Hopefully after awhile, maybe 1-2 years, you can move on to other jobs in life. At the end of the day, it is important to try. Alex: I think the people who needs advice are those who �ind themselves mindlessly spending their summer time without anything to do, perhaps because they lack the contacts and knowledge to �ind opportunities. If that may be the case, my advice is for them to make their own opportunities. If some things feel lacking, or that you �ind a niche that is unful�illed, then be the �irst one to start. Mnemozine was something like that for me to explore, and I hope this would inspire people to make their own opportunities.







#throwback Chng Shao Kai | publications@nushissoc.org

Mnemozine (m-NEH-mo-zine, where the m is almost silent) has been the �lagship publication of the NUS History Society (HISSOC) since 2011, where HISSOC publishes a new issue once every semester with the help of the History Department. From issues outside of Singapore, to those that are close at heart, Mnemozine attempts to give each and every one of our History majors and those who are interested in History a chance to express their thoughts and be published in print. Over the last 10 issues, Mnemozine has provided a comprehensive view of the ever-evolving Singaporean society where we track changes and continuities over time. Through this publication, HISSOC also hopes to reach out to fellow History/European studies majors and connect with them through this magazine.


Before Mnemozine, HISSOC and the History Department had published similar works such as the Journal of the Historical Society, the Journal of the History Society, and the History Journal. Most of these works mainly covered model essay questions from history modules, and were often academic in nature. In fact, some of our professors in the Faculty were writers/supervisors for these publications! As time passes, we hope that the efforts of previous teams of editors, writers and designers will not be forgotten with every new issue. In the spirit of “Home” as our theme, the Mnemozine 10 team would like to thank our predecessors for their efforts and hard work. It was with such history and legacy behind each publication that we all found ourselves a home in Mnemozine.


1 Journal of The Historical Society University of Singapore 1967

2 Journal of The History Society University of Singapore July 1977

3 Journal of The History Society University of Singapore July 1978

4 Journal of The History Society National University of Singapore 1982

5 Journal of The History Society National University of Singapore 1986

6 The History Journal

National University of Singapore 1993





1 6




1 Mnemozine #1

4 Mnemozine #4

7 Mnemozine #7

2 Mnemozine #2

5 Mnemozine #5

8 Mnemozine #8

3 Mnemozine #3

6 Mnemozine #6

9 Mnemozine #9

October 2011 The 1911 Chinese Revolution

February 2012 Bukit Brown

October 2012 The Social Memory Issue

March 2013 Foreigners in Singapore

October 2013 Education

April 2014 Media

April 2015 Freedom and Rights

October 2015 Forgotten Legacies

April 2016 Icons that shook Singapore


Don’t Be A Stranger Home, as imagined from Tokyo Marcus Tan | marcus.tan@u.nus.edu

With Mnemozine’s 10th issue touching on the topic of “home”, I thought that it would’ve been apt to include the perspectives of someone writing while away from home. After all, we tend to think more fondly of our experiences back in Singapore after extracting ourselves from the humdrum nature of everyday life. I mean, I realised that squeezing on the D2 shuttle bus isn’t all that bad when compared to the Tokyo subway. Hey, at least a trip on D2 was free. These thoughts arise out of an instinctive tendency to draw parallels between our lived experiences and the new experiences we encounter in our host country. We draw these parallels based on our ideas of “home”. In doing so, we de ine our identities based on the familiarities and conveniences of home. In de ining these identities, we tend not to question these unspoken assumptions about belonging and af iliation. These assumptions seem ironclad at irst glance. I am Singaporean. I live in a HDB. I call myself a “heartlander”. These are the conveniences of home: where the order of things are understood and taken for granted because they are familiar to us. We know our neighbourhoods. We know how bad the morning traf ic gets. Familiar faces and places constitute our ideas of home. These ideas create a sense of belonging, and forms an integral part of our identity. What we tend not to realise, however, is the inadequacy of these “familiar” foundations in determining our identities to those beyond Singaporean shores. One of the irst questions I had to answer in Tokyo was: “Where are you from?”. I answered “Singapore!”, but just answering “Singapore!” was no longer enough to be understood. See, most of those who asked only had an inkling of where Singapore was. Some genuinely had no idea. My idea of home had been nestled within a Singaporean context that was familiar to me. No such luxury exists when you move abroad. Here, ideas of home are no longer de ined by familiar comforts and conveniences. Preconceived notions of home and af iliations to familiar names and organisations no longer allowed me to immediately convey a sense of who I was. Familiar terms like “HDB”, or “heartlander”, were no longer implicitly understood by those around me. It may be my accent, perhaps my dressing, but I know that I have been perceived as different; not offensive, just different. In the eyes of the law, I am de ined by my status as an exchange student, my presence legitimised by my residence card. However, no convenient sign hangs above my head exists to allow the people I interact with to make sense of the stranger (me) that “comes today and stays tomorrow”.1 In these brief irst moments of contact, our identities are de ined in relation to our homes – of or, in my case, my being-away-from-home. 14

Overseas, the pressure to it in with one’s host society is immense: to make friends, to get by, to live, work, and play. However, my attempts at integrating into Japanese society have been far from seamless. The homogeneity of mainstream Japan’s racial composition, language use, mannerisms, and social norms have proved to be stumbling blocks for most new entrants looking to integrate into Japanese society. Ideas of “home”, here, appear to be rooted in exclusivity. More often than not, I remain a “stranger”. Of course, the exclusive nature of these imaginings of “home” are not unique to Japan. The honest confusion about “Chindian” families or Hindu-Muslim families that I experienced while being a senior’s groomsman testi ied to my own lack of awareness of families that did not it within the Singaporean C-M-I-O norm.2 In both Singapore and Tokyo, “strangers” – those deemed apart from the national norm – struggle with the right to call a place “home”. Upon re lection, however, not all seems lost. Strangers can begin bridging cultural differences by utilising the familiarities of home as parallels between two supposedly foreign cultures. I began understanding Tokyo by relating it to my Singaporean experiences. With time, two senses of belonging – both to Singapore, and to Tokyo – are slowly beginning to intertwine. These intertwining senses of belonging have helped me settle in, but they’ve also raised new questions. Having left our shores to study and work overseas for eleven months, I grappled with questions that our ancestors may have once grappled with: What, exactly, makes a home? Where, really, is my home? It’s an age-old question that migrants and sojourners have had to ind their own answers to. I admit: I do not have the answers yet. After all, the term “second home” exists, but I doubt that I can use the term “second” without prioritising one “home” over another. Living in Tokyo has sparked off a process of questioning – to seek Living a future here, back in Singapore, or elsewhere. It would either reafirm or reject my previously ironclad notion of Singapore as home, but it would be a decision that I would never have made if I had stayed nestled in my identity as a “HDB heartlander”. For the chance to leave the familiar – to leave home – behind, I am thankful. Marcus is a History major who’s spending his third year in Waseda University, Tokyo. He’ll be doing a few courses there in Japanese, International Relations, and he’ll (hopefully) learn how to cook, too! 1Bauman, Zygmunt. 1990. “Modernity and Ambivalence”. Theory, Culture & Society 7 (2): 143-69. p. 145 – 146, p. 149. 2C-M-I-O, or Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others, are the racial categories that appear on the identi ication cards of Singapore Citizens/Permanent Residents. The term itself has come under heavy criticism for its heavily exclusive nature. See Amanda Lee, “Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others categorisation a hindrance to cohesive society: Ho Kwon Ping”, TODAY. 10 April 2015. Cooppan, Vilashini. 2009. “Introduction: Inner Territories” in “Worlds Within: National Narratives and Global Connections in Postcolonial Writing”. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. 1-53. p. 5

$04.010-*5"/Õ,01*5*".4 $YLH[PUNÕHÕ4LJVUKÕ)VTLÕ^P[OÕ$VMMLLÕHUKÕ,H`HÕ5VHZ[ Alex Chan | alexchanhuiyang@gmail.com

Coffee has long been considered the quintessential Singaporean morning beverage. Be it black or white, sweetened or iced, coffee has been a favorite among many Singaporeans for decades. It irst gained popularity during the 19th Century, when Singapore was under British colonial rule. The British were renowned for their appetite for tea, and it makes sense that its colonies would follow suit and develop a taste for tea. In British colonies such as Hong Kong, cha chan teng (tea In houses) lourished and became a hallmark of everyday life. British India would go on to become one of the largest tea producing countries in the world. Contrastingly, Singapore charted a different course from the one expected by British colonies in developing a strong love for coffee instead. Singaporeans affectionately call their coffee Kopi, and often enjoy a cup in the various Kopitiams (coffeehouses) around Singapore. The Hainanese migrant community heavily in luenced the development of Kopi and Kopitiams in colonial Singapore. As one of the diasporic communities to arrive later, many Hainaneses found themselves competing for jobs with established ethnic groups such as the Hokkiens and Teochews. These groups had already found their niches in the colonial economy, occupying the better-paid jobs. Consequently, the Hainanese could only take up menial occupations available: such as cooks, cleaners take and European household domestic helpers. Nevertheless, their resilience and general adherence to the Chinese idea of “Ka Ki Kang” (self-employment) inspired them to set up their own businesses. Speci ically, a large number of them utilized their experience cooking for the Europeans to set up small coffeehouses. Breakfast was simple, yet ful illing, comprising of coffee, eggs and toast. Toast was served with kaya, a fragrant jam paste made with coconut1. The Hainanese did not simply copy the European style of coffee making; instead they adapted and modi ied these methods to suit Southeast Asian climates, cultures and taste buds. They introduced the coffee sock ilter in lieu of traditional brewing devices, and added margarine and sugar to the beans during the roasting process2. The Arabica beans typically enjoyed by the Europeans could only be grown in high altitudes, which the lowland regions of Southeast Asia could not provide. Locals thus switched to the sturdier and cheaper Robusta beans, which could be grown at lower altitudes. Sugar and evaporated milk were also added into the end product in order to create the Kopi that Singaporeans have enjoyed ever since3. Furthermore, Robusta beans contained more caffeine than Arabica beans. Local coolies in Singapore who worked long hours felt a much greater kick from drinking coffee than tea, and eventually switched to coffee. It would not be uncommon for coolies to gather in Kopitiams (coffeehouses) to enjoy a cup of Kopi after a long day of hard work4.


Malay and Indian patronage suggested that Kopitiams were cosmopolitan places where people of any ethnic race could gather, regardless of the dominant Chinese ownership over Kopitiams. In a period where people were segregated into different housing areas by race, Kopitiams transcended ethnic boundaries and acted as an early microcosm of today’s multiethnic Singapore. As Singapore slowly undertook the path to wards independence after the Second World War, Kopitiams became even more cosmopolitan as people of all races and social status would congregate and discuss current affairs over coffee. In essence, the Kopitiam became a safe space for intellectual discourse where the common working class could discuss their views of colonialism and independence freely5. The prominent Malay journalist Said Zahari, Singapore’s longest political detainee, reminisced of the times when journalists working for the Utusan Melayu6 would often meet at Kopitiams to discuss sensitive political issues. While Kopitiams remain vibrant places today, it has lost its value as a cosmopolitan space for political discussion Much of the younger generation have traded these hot, open aired Kopitiams for swanky air-conditioned cafes. The adapting of a more Wah habist form of Islam has also turned many Malays away from these Kopitiams. This is due to the sale of pork and alcohol in Kopitiams, which go against Islamic beliefs. Despite this, Kopitiams continue to maintain an old world nostalgic charm, providing a sense of home in Singapore. There is certain simplicity to enjoying a traditional breakfast of Kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs and Kopi. Rapid economic growth and development has transformed Singapore into a modern city-state. Chic cafes and restaurants with exquisite interiors seem to embody the Western models of modernity and development that we pursue. Kopitiams thus serve as an alternative, where simplicity and the value of companionship are most important. Our forefathers did not have much, but are could appreciate a good cup of Kopi and good conversation. As this generation fades into history, there is a fear that the Kopitiam too, will fade. Alex Chan is a year 2 history major. A huge coffee lover, you may ind him making coffee at humble origins on rare occasions

Endnotes 1Ah Eng Lai, “The Kopitiam in Singapore: An Evolving Story about Migration and Cultural Diversity,”SSRN Electronic Journal. 2 Jean Duruz and Khoo Gaik Cheng, Eating Together: Food, Space, and Identity in Malaysia and Singapore (United States: Rowman & Little ield Publishers, 2014). 3 Judi Zienchuk, “An Introduction to Singaporean Kopi Culture - Epicure & Culture,” Epicure & Culture, June 13, 2013, http://epicureandculture.com/anintroduction-to-singaporean-kopi-culture/. 4 Ibid. 5 K. Aljunied, “Coffee-Shops in Colonial Singapore: Domains of Contentious Publics,” History Workshop Journal 77, no. 1 (November 21, 2013), p 68 - 85. 6 Ibid., 70-72.


"--Õ5)"5Õ(-*55&34Õ*4Õ/05Õ(0-% Nurul Qistina | qistinanurulburp@gmail.com

There is an island at the tip of a Southeast Asian peninsula. Given its proximity to the sea, it has been utilised as a trading port since the 14th century, and possibly the turn of the millennia1 . Records of that period, written by Wang Dayuan2, are unclear on the nature of that island's population – be it local3 or foreign4 pirates preying on passing trading ships at Longyamen5, or Chinese immigrants and locals coexisting in an area called Banzu6. called The presence of settled Chinese is unsurprising. After all, Admiral Zheng He’s expeditions occurred in that period, and he wasn’t the irst – or last – Chinese explorer to wander the world for trade. On the other hand, the locals are better known today as ‘Malays’7. Yes. I am referring to pre-colonial Singapore. How did Singapore’s pre-colonial homogenous comHow munity transform into a more diverse immigrant society? British in luences, of course! As part of their regional – I prefer colonial – interests, the British established Singapore as a Crown Colony and revived its previous status as a port city. While British colonizing efforts involved dubious methods, it triggered Singapore’s transition from a Malay enclave to an immigrant society. Yet, xenophobia is disturbingly rampant in modern Singapore, as if we have forgotten our own history. As Singapore’s population was merely at 30 in 18208, migration was necessary to establish the worker base essential for industrialization and production. By 1911, 80%9 of Singapore’s population was foreign born10 , with most immigrants originating from South Asia, the Chinese Mainland and – unsurprisingly – Malaya . And if you just mentally assigned these places respectively as the homelands of Singapore’s respectively Indians11, Chinese and Malays, you have grievously erred. Singapore’s major ethnic groups share common geographical origins: their ‘ethnic homelands’, being Straits-born12 , or being ‘Singapore’-born. Hence, there existed Straits-born Indians13 and even Brunei-born Malays! 16

Such was the extent of liberal and en masse immigration during the colonial era, smashing the notion that the various groups were merely homogenous entities with entirely similar experiences. This irst origin represented the largest proportion of colonial Singapore’s migrant population, who were mostly indentured ‘servants’. Better known as coolies, these migrants traded poverty back home for a pittance with long working hours, dismal pay and squalid living conditions14. Besides dealing with laboured exploitation, these immigrants confronted the contra diction of harbouring anti-British sentiment15 while cultivating a sense of belonging within the spaces of a British colony16. Essentially, they were forced to negotiate their ethnic identities. Under such harrowing conditions, most immigrants had little reason to stay – yet they did. While their impoverishment could explain their inability to return, they shared ethnic backgrounds with the locals. They found commonalities17 – through culture, life under colonial rule and perhaps the Japanese Occupation. Through similar experiences, ties of kinship formed between Singapore’s disparate groups, amplifying between their sense of belonging to Singapore and their decision to ultimately stay.

Map(Below) : Hack, K. & Margolin, J. Singapore from Temasek to the 21st Century: Reinventing the Global City (Singapore: NUS Press, 2010)

Endnotes Hack, K. & Margolin, J. Singapore from Temasek to the 21st Century: Reinventing the Global City (Singapore: NUS Press, 2010) p111 1

Fast forward to today: Singapore is now a modern, cosmopolitan nation-state. Ever Ever realised how our national day songs consistently stress on our shared past instead of our ethnicities? The crux of our national identity is not our ethnicities – it is how we swear fealty to our nation and state. Despite such multiculturalism, informal racial segregation still occurs, and at times even subtle racism18. Such could be seen in our public housing and military policies. Undercurrents of xenophobia are not completely unfathomable either, whereby naturalised migrants (Singaporeans) harbour hostility towards newer (foreign) migrants – speci ically, those from South Asia and the Philippines. Naturalised migrants who possess a unique Singaporean identity, in terms of their way of life and habits, may come in con lict with new migrants who feel foreign to them. At times, race becomes a de initive factor in xenophobic behaviour, as different races may con lict with each other over their way of life. Indeed, xenophobia is hostility towards the ‘other’. Since it is directed towards speci ic races here, it takes on a distinctly racial character. Nonetheless, we have a good system going. Our current culture of harmony is far better than most countries; race and religion are rendered less important, because the mutual desire to build ourselves a life matters more. To build a place we can call home.

2A Chinese Trader. He published his travel records in a text entitled, Dao yi zhi lue (or the Description of the Barbarian of the Isles) in 1349. See Hack & Margolin, p107-113 Hack & Margolin, p110


4Borschberg, P. “Portugese, Spanish and Dutch Plans to Construct a Fort in the Straits of Singapore, ca. 1584-1625. Archipel, vol 65, 2003. p 59 Dragon’s Tooth Strait’ in Chinese


The Chinese phonetic transliteration of Pancur Larangan (‘Forbidden Spring’ in Malay). Historians place this spring’s location at Bukit Larangan, or what is known as Fort Canning Hill today 6

Singapore’s indigenous population didn’t consider themselves as ‘Malay’, or orang laut (‘People of the Sea’). Outsiders did. ‘Malay’ (or ‘Melayu’) arose as a descriptor possibly due to the river the former situated themselves at, named ‘Malayu’ – or they were assimilated into ‘Malay culture’, espoused by the Johor Sultanate. 7

Reid, Anthony. “Malaysia/Singapore as Immigrant Societies”. ARI Working Paper, No. 141, July 2010. 8

http://www.ari.nus.edu.sg/wps/wps10_141.pdf , p5 9

Reid 2010, p7

Initially de ined as not Straits-born, then Malaya-born and inally Singapore-born.


Before 1965, Singapore was still considered part of Malaya – a quintet comprising itself, Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. 11

Someone born in the colonial territories of British Malaya, or the Straits Settlements 12

Chua, Ai Lin. “Nation, Race, and Language: Discussing transnational identities in colonial Singapore, circa 1930”, Modern Asian Studies, 46, 2012, p291 13

So why allow ourselves to be hindered by xenophobic19 attitudes? We could choose to discard our coloured lenses, tinted by stereotypes and prejudices. An embracing society includes, rather than excludes. Hostility only achieves the latter.

Wai Lin, Coultas. “The Coolies of Singapore, Our Greatest Risk Takers” Passage, Jan/Feb 2012. Retrieved from http://www.fom.sg/Passage/2012/01coolies.pdf 14

They were colonial subjects of the British, after all. Not British citizens, and de initely not ‘White’. 15

Why settle for less, when we can be so much better?

Chua 2012, p290


Nurul Qistina Bte Fadhillah is a Year 2 student currently majoring in Sociology and Social Work. She frequently ponders the meaning of existence and her love for video game characters – when she isn’t drowning in readings and assignments, of course.

Chua 2012, p286-287


A quick browse through the recent Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) study reveals that, summarised as a PowerPoint Presentation here: http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/ips/wpcontent/uploads/sites/2/2013/04/CNA-IPS-survey-on-racerelations_190816.pdf 18

Given how xenophobia is often racialised, I would argue that racism is the ‘core’ cause of discrimination and intolerance. That’s why I believe SG’s xenophobia actually re lects an undercurrent of racism, but it’s more acceptable because it’s directed at foreigners and not fellow Singaporeans. 19


Goh Swee Yik | goh.swee.yik@gmail.com

Singlish is a Singaporean staple. It is heard in our neighbourhoods, and at political rallies, where the political elite uses it to connect with their constituents. In an increasingly cosmopolitan country, this concise-, yet peculiar creole provides locals with something that is truly Singaporean.

The History of Singlish

Controversy over Singlish

The The evolution of Singlish can be traced back in our history. In colonial Singapore, where the English-educated elite ruled over a multiracial society, the in lux of immigrants heightened the need to bridge the linguistic barriers present within a diverse society. English was reserved for the ruling British elite, and those who could afford an English education. As the common people lacked a basic understanding of English, Bazaar Malay (pasar melayu) was adopted as an unof icial Bazaar lingua franca. This was compounded by Singapore's centrality in the Malay world. This Malay-based precursor to Singlish was peppered with loanwords from English and Mandarin (such as lang for Person and tayar for Tyre).

The government's practical adoption of the English as a The common language was vital in bridging the linguistic gaps present in a diverse society. English was also the language of economic growth. With Singapore desperate for foreign investments , an English-educated workforce was crucial in attracting Western multinationals. It was no surprise then that the government expressed alarm with the rise of Singlish, -a language incomprehensible to foreigners, with newspapers in 1999 blaming it for declining English-language standards .

While the post-1959 government recognised Malay as the de jure national language, English increased in prominence as the language of administration and commerce . This marked the decline of Bazaar Malay in Singapore. With the introduction of the colonial language into the national curriculum, Singaporeans who were more comfortable with their mother tongue began to mould English into a more familiar form. Thus Singlish, an English creole with a Chinese syntax , and Hokkien, Malay and Tamil loanwords was created.


To combat this perceived threat, the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) was launched in April 2000 to reduce the use of Singlish . While SGEM still exists, it has seen minimal success. Years of government-sanctioned campaigning have proved unable to dampen a language so prevalent in the Singaporean psyche. It was a language that even teachers were guilty of using , let alone an older generation of Singaporeans who do not speak English . Over a decade after the SGEM's inwho ception, the government seemed to have cautiously embraced Singlish as an integral part of Singaporean culture, with loats containing the words "Lah" and "Blur like Sotong" making an appearance during National Day celebrations .

Singlish, part of the Singaporean identity In a country where evidence of a shared multicultural identity are few and far between, Singlish provides a rallying point for all Singaporeans. As a language with multicultural origins, it is one facet of society that is truly Singaporean. 14 As a common language that links people of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, Singlish becomes a metaphorical glue that binds Singaporean society. The presence of Singlish is a testament to the strength of Singapore's interracial bonds, for its existence depends on the need for different aforementioned groups to talk to each other. As a creole, Singlish is said to be simple to learn, yet nearly impossible for any foreigner to master.15 The tonal and grammatical intricacies of Singlish, which is not taught in any of icial capacity, meant that a luent speaker has to be exposed to it from young. One would have picked it up in the heartlands and in school with fellow Singaporeans. For those who went through national service (NS), the need to bridge men from different socio-economic backgrounds bridge meant that standard English is only reserved for formal parades and speeches.16 In adulthood, Singlish becomes a language for casual intimacy amongst friends and family. 17 Standard English is instead reserved for formal occasions and strangers. Singlish symbolises our common experiences and binds Singaporeans together. While Singlish evolved through the inclusion of different languages, it is exclusive to those who are able to speak it luently. This turns Singlish into a marker of one's Singaporean identity. It is used within Singaporean expatriate communities18, while immigrants have been encouraged by PM Lee Hsien Loong to integrate by picking up the creole.19 Conversely, an inability to understand Singlish puts one's Singaporean origins in doubt.20 At best, it hints of snobbishSingaporean ness stemming from a privileged upbringing. At worst, one risks becoming an object of ridicule. PM Lee learned this the hard way in 2006, where his inclusion of the phrase “Mee Siam Mai Hum” (Mee Siam without cockles) in a speech about political satire, became the subject of mockery by internet satirists like Mr Brown .21 Singlish has tahaned globalisation and government disapproval to remain an integral part of the Singaporean identity. As Singapore becomes more cosmopolitan, this crude, yet intricate Creole has an important part to play in developing our young culture and distinguishing Singaporeans from the rest of the world. Goh Swee Yik is a Year 1 History major. His interests include black humour, Matcha- lavoured desserts and drinking with friends. In spite of the latter, he has yet to develop a taste for booze.

Endnotes Tan, Dawn Karen. "How Did Singlish Come About? Like That, Lor." Channel Newsasia, December 15, 2015. Accessed July 14, 2016. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/how-didsinglish-come/2348118.html. 2 Ibid. 3 Bao, Zhiming, and Khin Aye Khin. Bazaar Malay Topics. John Benjamins Publishing Company 2010. Accessed July 14, 2016. https://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/ellbaozm/papers/baoaye10. pdf. 4 Gwee, Li Sui. "Do You Speak Singlish?" International New York Times, May 13, 2016. Accessed July 14, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/14/opinion/do-you-speaksinglish.html?_r=1. 5 Platt, John. "Social Class, Ethnicity and Language Choice: Language Use in Major Shopping Areas in Singapore." Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science 13, no. 1 (1985): 61-81. http://www.jstor.org.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/stable/24490897. 6 Gwee, "Do You Speak Singlish?" 7 Tan, "How Did Singlish Come About? Like That, Lor." 8 Yeo, Teresa Rebecca. "Singlish." Singapore Infopedia. 2010. Accessed July 14, 2016. http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_1745_2010 -12-29.html. 9 Nirmala, M. "Buck Up, Poor English Re lects Badly on Us: PM." The Straits Times (Singapore), April 30, 2000 10 Nirmala, "Buck Up, Poor English Re lects Badly on Us: PM." 11 Tan, Sumiko. "Singlish: Friend or Foe?" The Straits Times, June 5, 2016. Accessed July 15, 2016. http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/singlish-friend-or-foe. 12 "Campaign to Get Under-40s to Speak Good English." The Straits Times (Singapore), March 10, 2000. 13 Tan, "How Did Singlish Come About? Like That, Lor." 14 Tan, "How Did Singlish Come About? Like That, Lor." 15 Banerji, Urvija. "Singaporean English Is Almost Impossible to Pick Up." Atlas Obscura, May 2, 2016. Accessed July 14, 2016. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/singaporean-english-is almost-impossible-to-pick-up. 16 Gwee, "Do You Speak Singlish?" 17 Banerji, "Singaporean English Is Almost Impossible to Pick Up." 18 Buschfeld, Sarah, Thomas Hoffmann, Magnus Uber, and Alexander Kautzsch. The Evolution of Englishes: The Dynamic Model and beyond. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2014. 19 Lee, Hsien Loong. "Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West SMC Citizenship Ceremony (English)." Speech, Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West SMC Citizenship Ceremony, Singapore, July 26, 2016. July 7, 2012. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://www.pmo.gov.sg/mediacentre/speech-prime-ministerlee hsien-loong-ang-mo-kio-grc-and-sengkang-west-smc-citiz ship. 20 Wong, Tessa. "The Rise of Singlish." BBC News, August 6, 2015. Accessed July 14, 2016. http://www.bbc.cmaom/news/magazine-33809914. 21 Gwee, "Do You Speak Singlish?" 1

” inton wala chiong ah y h a l y a k o andao kiasu mai la “aiya re than badm lly ah u eh abuden a ai stead mai liddat lo re a o i m k n r h e e t s t r pa pon lor don’t say bojio hor pang chiobu buey tahan 19

hellriders: Alex Chow | czolbe88@gmail.com

The Brief Run of Singapore's Motorcycle Gangs A historical discussion of anti-social behaviour by Singaporeans would quite possibly feature secret societies, kiasu-ism and the phenomenon of ‘the Ugly Singaporean’ abroad. Most people would however, be less cognizant of Singapore’s hellrider gangs. These were groups of motorcyclists who scoffed at traf ic laws, endangered their own safety and that of other road-users, while being the perpetuators of a (highly illegal) street racing scene in the 1970s. In this article, I aim to provide a brief history of the hellriders, outlining their rise and fall, as well as a description of their customs and behaviour. Hellrider gangs sported names ranging from the prosaic to colourful, such as ‘Yamaha’, White Ghost and Revenge. They were generally blue-collared workers by day and motorcycle fanatics by night, engaging in acts of deviance while mounted atop their two-stroke engines. By following their trail of 2T-infused exhaust smoke, one could spot them at prominent haunts such as the Lido, where they displayed their motorcycles prominently while awaiting the midnight movies. They could also be heard as they throttled down highways in large packs, as heard an irate reader of the Straits Times once complained, about a group that “roared along Upper Ayer Rajah Road towards Jurong each Saturday night”, waking up the whole neighbourhood in the process1. Foremost however, they were street racers fond of feats of bravado, having no qualms towards endangering their own safety and that of other road users. They challenged each other to impromptu races on the road and occasionally engaged in street ights, earning the name motorsiao, or ‘motor-crazy’ in Hokkien, for their antics. The ‘height of lunacy’ as one newspaper termed it however, were the ‘midnight races’.


At irst, hellriders raced at the deserted parts of Singapore, and in the then undeveloped areas of Tuas, Sembawang and Old Changi Road2. As they grew in numbers and became emboldened, they began holding ‘midnight races’ in the urban heart of Singapore, most notably in the Orchard Road area, at what was called the ‘Bonza circuit’. These races attracted crowds of up to 2,500 people, made up of onlookers, supporters and punters who betted on their favourite ‘jockeys’3. The crowds were often unruly, becoming a cause of alarm for the traf ic police, when they “stoned [a] patrol car” and obstructed the police from pursuing hellriders racing in the circuit; as though the police did not already have a hard time catching these errant racers –one hellrider report edly led a traf ic police chase six times around the circuit before he was apprehended4. The rise of the hellriders has been attributed to a variety of factors. The most immediate would be the closure in 1973 of the annual Singapore Grand Prix - which had included motorcycles in its event line-up - due to mounting concerns for safety amidst a number of fatal accidents, as well as consideration for the disruption towards traf ic5. The loss of this sanctioned arena drove motorcycle racing ‘underground’ as racers and wannabes were racing forced to indulge in the sport illegally. In addition, the introduction of low cost, large displacement motorcycles around this time by Japanese manufacturers led to a growth in hellriding, as the cost-barrier for tearing up the asphalt was lowered. Figure 1 (Below): The scene of a midnight race at the Orchard Road area.

Figure 3 (Above): Traf ic Police rounding up suspected hellriders at Sims Road. Their motorcycles were later inspected at Maxwell Road Police Station for illegal modi ications.

The hellriding phenomenon peaked in the late 1970s, before going into decline when authorities introduced measures and stiffer measures to combat the hellriding problem. In 1980, the present three-tier licensing scheme replaced the P-plate system. Previously, anyone above the age of seventeen could ride inde initely without having to take a test. The new system, however, required would-be riders to attend compulsory riding courses and limited new riders to motorcycles below 200cc’s. This did much to discourage hellriding, as motorcyclists risked losing their painstakingly earned license(s). Other tactics such as seizure of hellriders’ motorcycles by the Registry of Vehicles (ROV) and routine checks for vehicle modi ications were also stepped up. By the mid-1980s, hellrider gangs were hardly visible on the streets anymore.Mention of their mischief in the press had dropped signi icantly. The annals of Singapore history have likewise been silent on the hellriders’ brief manic reign on the streets, perhaps undeservedly so as one of the last groups to openly defy the law on such a scale. Occasionally, one still encounters the term ‘hellrider’: in the comments section of a local video starring a rider’: reckless motorcyclist, or as a label for inconsiderate riders who disregard the safety of others. Despite having faded into obscurity and treated with indifference by oficial narratives of history, hellriders remain in the lexicon of Singaporeans.

Alex is an ex-history major, who graduated a few years ago. When not at work or watching net lix in his free time, he reads and rides his motorcycle, a Yamaha R3. His favourite haunts are the paradisiacal islands of tranquillity, also known as 24-hour coffee joints. He also does a bit of writing and photography in his spare time. Endnotes “The roar that shatters the night”, Straits Times, August 22, 1978, 15. Accessed 11 September, 2016. http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/str aitstimes19780822- 1

2“There Was a Time: Raising Hell”, MediaCorp, Accessed 11 September, 2016. http://video.toggle.sg/en/series/there-was-atime-s3/ep1/373981. “Court told of chase at the ‘circuit’”, Straits Times, November 23, 1977, 10. Accessed 11 September, 2016. http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/str aitstimes19771123-1.2.63.aspx 3



Sng, Angelyn, “Hellriders: An exploratory ethnographic study” (Honours thesis, National University of Singapore, 1982) 5

Figure 2 (Left): The Yamaha RD 400. A popular model amongst hellriders, able to consistently outrun the four-stroke Honda 550's of the Traf ic Police.


HOME, little ironies Emily Eng | emuwie@gmail.com

What is home? I have never bought the idea that home must be a physical space which you’ve attached a special meaning to. For many of us, home could be a person, a feeling, a community, or even an idea. Catherine Lim ties everything she knows as “home” very neatly Catherine into a bundle of short stories, aptly titled “Little Ironies”. Much Much like when a painter puts into sketch and color what she remembers from the attap houses of her past, the writer uses words to build images of how Singapore used to look before her modernization. These images strike a chord with the generation that grew up in the fast changing landscape of Singapore. Our parents’ generation witnessed kampongs strip away to make way for high-rise buildings, and missed the simple villages that they grew up in. The Journey [Page 51-60] “Richard remembered the old wooden house well. He was born in “Richard it; he grew up in it. It was the very essence of ilth and degradation. The loor was beaten dirt; it was only years later that his old other had the cement laid. The furniture was old and rickety and buginfested; the one mattress in the house was stuffed with coconut ibre, and was also bug-infested, and he remembered how he and his sisters had spent hours digging up the bugs hidden deep in the folds of the mattress, and killing them in a little saucer of kerosene. He never remembered himself and his sisters having proper towels, proper toilet soap, proper toilet paper His aunt cut up old newspapers into little squares for the purpose. The latrine was the one thing which, in his recollections, never failed to make him want to retch. It consisted of a raised wooden hut, four feet by two feet; the wooden loor had a round hole over which a person squatted directly over a waiting receptacle, an old rusty bucket.”


In The Journey, Richard was a man who had it the stereotypical bill of “success”- a rag-to-riches businessman now living in a luxuriously big house with his forward-thinking wife. Yet when he fell fatally ill, he wished to return to the kampong he grew up in instead of heading to the newest and grandest hospitals. His wife could not understand… How could she? He wanted to go home, and nearing the end of his life, he knew home was back at his dilapidated kampong with his mother and sisters. It was a his notion of home she would never know. Beyond that, Lim also describes vividly the traditions and cultures that were the basis of her community, and nostalgia is triggered by the familiar customs that her readers know so well. It might well be the practice of mahjong with neighbors on weekends, or the act of stuf ing money into biscuit tins hidden under the bed, but Lim weaves her stories with characters who perform outdated rites that readers might have grown up with. Lottery [Page 33-37] “A scarcity of dreams which caused Ah Boh to resort to other “A sources of winning numbers did have a rather unsettling effect on my household. One morning I found Ah Boh weighing my cat – a fat aggressive creature – on the kitchen scales, laboriously taking down the reading on a slip of paper with one hand while holding down the furious animal with the other. On another occasion, when a friend brought her month-old baby for a visit, Ah Boh, on the pretext of being entirely charmed by the cute thing, bore him the to the privacy of her room where she kept, in readiness, an empty cigarette tin into which she had put rolled pieces of paper bearing numbers. The entire contents were put on the chest of the baby as he lay on Ah Boh’s bed, Ah Boh watching eagerly for the irst rolled piece to fall off.”

We can all recall that one overly superstitious relative we have. These ‘Ah Bohs’ in our lives become exaggerated (and sometimes humorous) igures that come to mind whenever we think of home.

Male Child [Page 38-44] ‘He said suddenly to his wife, his void loud with annoyance, “And what is the use of waiting and waiting for a male child? You never seem to be able to give me a son. This is a curse upon both of us!”

Even Even speeches in her stories are tailored to the local ear, and one could almost hear the words in the voice of an uncle or aunty friends of one’s parents, laced with a hokkien accent badly masked.

She She said nothing, but looked at him very sadly. After a while she said slowly, “If it is a girl child again this time, you may take another wife, and I shall not complain. You may bring her to live in this house, and I shall be subject to her. I shall explain the matter to my old mother so that she too will accept it.”’

The Taximan’s Story [Page 96-100] “… very hard for father when daughter is no good and go against “… her parents. Very sad, like punishment from God. Today, young people not like us when we are young. We obey. Our parents say don’t do this, we never do. Otherwise, the cane. My father caned me, I was big enough to be married, and still, got caning. My father he was very strict, and that is good thing for parents to be strict. If not, young boys and girls become very useless.” Language Language is part of our identities, and when you hear someone speak in an accent you know, you feel a queer sense of familiarity. Likewise when reading The Taximan’s Story, it was easy to imagine a typical Singaporean uncle delivering the words. Not everything she wrote about the past is scenic and glorious and perfect. However, Lim is critical of the paternal slant in traditional cultures, and outdated notions of love and marriage. Readers are reminded that home is also where you are made aware of shortcomings. These shortcomings, however maddening, however annoying, still de ine what we know as home. The Marriage [Page 73-79] “She particularly liked it when he came out of his of ice in the black marbled building and was escorted to his silver Mercedes 600 – one of the few in Singapore. But But in private – oh, in private he was intolerable – and Helen’s lips trembled in vexed distress. In private he took off his false teeth so that the irmness round his mouth collapsed inwards into a hideous pattern of wrinkles, and he looked even older than his sixty- ive years, he put on an old singlet and loose cotton briefs, so that the brown sagging muscles criss-crossed by green veins on his arms and legs, showed horribly, as he lay on the bed, waiting for her. It required a tremendous effort for her to go to waiting him and call him the names he liked to hear and fondle and caress him till he fell asleep, his mouth open cavernously and the spittle trickling out at the side.”

Catherine Lim is critical, to say the least, about the patriarchal rites that exist in her culture. In The Marriage, Helen had to care for and pretend to love an ugly, old man in order to be rich and upper class. In the Male Child, a wife was blamed for not having produced a baby boy, a fault that warrants the husband the right to have a mistress. As much as we would hate to admit, our traditions often support such chauvinistic ideals, and it is an aspect of home we have come to terms with. Most importantly, Lim’s stories show us that home is also being amongst a community of people who remember the kampong days. As a girl that grew up in a Malaysian kampong, her stories resonate so much with my memories of growing up. I remember the sights and sounds, the almost nonsensical traditions that I loved anyway, and felt a similar kind of denigration her characters felt as a woman. My kampong might have since ceased to exist, and some of my relatives are long gone, but when I pick up a book of hers I suddenly feel at home again.

Endnotes Lim, Catherine. Little Ironies: Stories of Singapore. Singapore: Heineman Educational Books (Asia), 1978. Images taken from Building Singapore (http://www.buildingsingapore.teoyusiang.com/)

Emily Eng is a Year 2 student majoring in Communications and New Media and Business. She loves history and literature, and she believes that linking history and literature is like having your youtiao with kopi – it’s not quite right without the other.?


6" 6 

.%.Ʋ" ('ƴƲ-!Ʋ",%'Ʋ0"-!"'Ʋ"' )(+Ʋ"/+

Lim Jia Yi | jiayi_lim@u.nus.edu

Rivers are rich depositories of memories, if you know where to look. Layers of history build up on the riverbeds and collect on the banks, gaining and losing meaning as time passes. These layered histories are lost as the river is developed, and even if excavations and records manage to preserve the artefacts, these stories are often shadows of the full picture. The Singapore River is a clear example of this. It is today a sanitised version of its past self: literally, the 1977 Great Singapore River Clean-Up left it slightly better smelling and a lot cleaner; iguratively, what was formerly a winding aquatic artery packed with goods-laden bumboats is today a straight passage where tourists cruise placidly up and down for a fee. Development comes at a cost, as most things do. In the rush for paved walkways and skyscrapers, historical artefacts have been buried permanently and — in the case of Pulau Saigon — an entire island illed in and assimilated into mainland Singapore. Pulau Saigon is, or was, a small triangular island in the middle of the Singapore River. Google Maps places it under the Central Expressway, while anecdotal and video evidence places it across the river from Liang Court.1 Strangely for such a unique geographical feature, Pulau Saigon does not feature in historical studies of Singapore and the Singapore River, save for research on the archaeological artefacts excavated from the island in 1988 by Mr Koh Lian What, Dr Kwa Chong Guan, Mr Lee Chor Lin, and Dr John Miksic.2 However, we can attempt to deduce what life on Pulau Saigon might have been like.


The origin of the island’s name is unclear. Some academics speculate that Pulau Saigon got its name from the sago mills and warehouses on it, while others argue that the island was “used to house produce from Indochina brought up by boats along the Singapore Riverâ€?.4 In any case, the island served multiple functions. Kampong Saigon appears to have been part of a network of Malay kampungs stretching all the way to Istana Kampong Glam,5 and other than the sago warehouses, Pulau Saigon’s warehouses (also known as godowns) stored goods like “rice, animal fodder‌and green peasâ€?.6 A railway depot on the island received rubber from Malayan plantations7. The island was later “developed for commercial and semi-industrial purposes including projects for rubbish incineration and cattle slaughterâ€?,7 with a 1925 The Singapore Free Press forum letter recording a particularly fascinating description of what living on or around Pulau Saigon was like: Mr E.M. Stephenson, resident of the nearby Institution Hill, complained of disrupted sleep due to the “nightly slaughtering of pigs at the Pulau Saigon abattoirâ€?.8 In the 1960s, Pulau Saigon was surrounded by old abandoned boats, where schoolchildren from the nearby Pearl’s Hill Primary School would search for spiders.9 Archaeological studies can reveal much about the history of places like Pulau Saigon, especially since riverside locations ensure high concentrations of artefacts. However, there was little governmental interest in Pulau Saigon’s excavation, and subsequently little of icial support for the rescue of artefacts. Artefacts such as ceramic and pottery fragments were discovered during the 1988 building of the Central Expressway tunnel10and brought to the attention of Mr Koh, then working in an of ice building opto posite the construction site.11 There was no intention of pausing or delaying the expressway construction, so excavation could only take place during the workers’ lunch breaks or on weekends, and Mr Koh would collect ceramic shards from the workers after the work day ended.12 It is an immense pity that such valuable indings could not be properly documented as they lay in the ground, and had to be hastily rescued from certain destruction.

Archaeological heritage is a crucial part of Singapore’s pre-modern history, yet its signi icance is only now being tentatively recognised. There is great emphasis on the magically rapid development of Singapore from sleepy ishing village to modern metropolis, to the point that many Singaporeans are unaware of the rich histories buried beneath (or destroyed by) our concrete buildings. A political rheto ric is in play here: shallow history generates vulnerability, and redirects focus onto communal responsibility for future success.13 This is dangerous for Singapore’s physical history. As new generations of policymakers and academics come into being, lack of understanding regarding historical preservation results in the destruction of important parts of Singapore’s history. Physical histories such as arte facts or heritage buildings embody a particular immediacy, a sense of history as we are living it, that even the most detailed of records cannot encapsulate. This forgetting did not begin with Pulau Saigon, nor does it look likely to end with Ellison Building, but small victories are being achieved: the expansion of the secondary school history syllabus to include pre-colonial archaeological history is a small but important step in the right direction. Pulau Saigon is an important part of Singapore’s history, but has long since been erased from both our collective memories and Singapore’s landscape. It is an important reminder of the histories of pre-independence and precolonial Singapore, memories that have been buried by expressways and skyscrapers. The next time you stroll past tourists mobbing the Merlion for sel ies, or buy a cone from the ice-cream uncle in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum, imagine what stories the River would tell about its missing island, if only it could speak.

Jia Yi is a third-year History major who wanted to be a marine archaeologist, before she realised it would probably sink her. She has many interests, chief among them pun-appreciation, and her fascination with Pulau Saigon started with a summer internship at the NUS Museum. She collects stories, and seeks to understand them, even if she knows that these histories may never be complete. Endnotes: 1Television Corporation of Singapore. 嘿!新加坡!Hey Singapore II Ep 7: The Search for the Merdeka Lions and the Lost Island - Pulau Saigon. Singapore: MediaCorp Pte Ltd, 1996. 7. 2Jennifer Barry, Pulau Saigon: A Post-Eighteenth Century Archaeological Assemblage Recovered from a Former Island in the Singapore River (Stamford, England: The Rheidol Press, 2000), p. 14 3Victor R. Savage and Brenda S A Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), p. 312 4 Jumaiyah bte Masbin, "Education in Singapore (Part 3: Malay/Tamil)." edited by Mohd Yussoff Ahmad, 13.00 - 18.00. (Singapore: Oral History Centre, 1991). 5“The Firemen Stood By”, The Straits Times (8 February 1951). 6Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, p. 312 7Barry, Pulau Saigon, p. 11 8E.M. Stephenson, “Letters to the Editor: The Nightly Pig Debacle”, The Singapore Free Press (19 October 1925) 9Koh Lian What, personal conversation, 9 March 2016 10Barry, Pulau Saigon, p. 14 11Koh, personal conversation, 9 March 2016 12Ibid. 13 Chua Beng Huat, Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 19, cited in Loh, “WITHIN THE SINGAPORE STORY”, p. 3 Image taken from the 1966 Singapore street directory map, provided by One Historical Map, Singapore Land Authority.


Yong Jing Yi | yongjingyi13@gmail.com

As a frequent traveller, the amount of time I spent out of Singapore and adapting to various cultures overseas has heightened my appreciation for things I would have otherwise taken for granted. The more places I visit, the more people I meet, the more I realise how little I know about Singapore beyond its streetlights, cemented roads, left-hand drive, and education system. Every return home after a long travelling stint is bittersweet, as I agonise between heading home straight for a rejuvenating siesta, or downing a bowl of Foochow (Fuzhou) fishball soup at Maxwell Food Centre in the heart of the city. Places are like food – some you like; others you don’t – once in a while, you encounter one you seek refuge in and call home. Both are means to experience home again – local food, family and friends, and familiarity. You are what you eat – a phrase we have probably heard at least once, or said inadvertently to our friends during meal times. Quite literally, the foods we consume affect our physiques, psychology, and emotions. Food is central to our sense of identity, and in an increasingly individualistic world, the foods we choose to consume (or not) have consequentially become identity markers. Does the bowl of Foochow fishball soup make me more Singaporean, or Chinese? Who is Foochow Fishball – a Singaporean-Chinese or Chinese Singaporean? Birthplace: Ethnicity: Skills:

Foochow City, Fujian Province white and smooth, like the other “fishballs” in Asia Minced pork fillings, melted pork gelatine

Foochow are of ancient Han Chinese stock, and migrated south to present day Foochow City, Fujian province to escape from the constant warfare during the Three Kingdom period (AD220 – 280) in today’s northern parts of China. Due to their erratic migrating patterns, Foochow culinary fares became an eclectic fusion of their northern ancestral style and southern influences over time. Foochow culinary style, which is part of larger Fujian cuisine, is popularly recognised as one of the eight native Chinese cuisines in China. Known for its expertise of the “xian wei” cooking style (retaining original flavour of the main ingredients in dishes), Foochow culinary style is prized for its


spectrum of taste and flavour in subtle harmony.1 Large intra-Asian migrations took place in the nineteenth century the advent of British imperialism, and later colonisation in the globalsouthern and eastern parts of the world. The Malay Archipelago, along with other locations, housed Chinese migrants who hailed primarily from southern China. During these movements, certain features of Chinese-ness were displaced or replaced with local customs. Religions localised, languages were altered; cultures negotiated. Food did not stand unchanged, although some dishes were preserved. One of the salient elements of the different overseas Chinese groups lies in their culinary traditions, retaining essences of their distinctive cuisines. Many dishes that characterise Chinese cuisine in Singapore today were originally brought here by Southern Chinese migrants, but were adapted to local availability of ingredients and influenced by other culinary traditions. For instance, Bak Kut Teh and Hokkien Mee are dishes born out of a few traditions. One may categorise Foochow fishballs under Chinese cuisine in Singapore today. However, I see it as important to make clear the fixities and formalities of food categories. Such categorisations delve into greater, underlying manifestations of identities, and what it means to be ‘Chinese” in contemporary Singapore. What is Maxwell Food Centre – a market of an institution? Date of Birth: Place of origin: Location:

c1960s unknown 1d16’50.7’’N 103d50’40.9’’E

Maxwell Food Centre is bustling with people, office personnel, retirees, young families… Finding a bowl of Foochow fishballs soup necessitates a constant meandering, traversing, and skilful manoeuvring; for me, it is a tiresome routine I have mastered. Shouldering these throngs of people are vendors of all stripes. An old couple greets customers while preparing bowls with the ingredients for each respective order. Customers watch on as they await their Foochow fishballs lathered with hot soup and a dash of coriander.

This scene is no novelty to residents of Singapore, but each hawkercentre experience nonetheless begets a sense of anticipation and fulfilment. Hawker centres are a ubiquitous feature of Singapore and it is precisely our mastery of navigating through the gridlock of various stalls that fascinates travellers. Singapore is dotted with eating establishments and a considerable portion is run by hawkers. You can hardly read any books “about Singapore” without encountering at least a slight mention of them. Economically, they facilitate the exchange of cooked-food services, and cater to the different income groups of Singapore.2 On the other hand, hawker centres are also national icons, with their own culture and history. Records show that many immigrants to Singapore in the midnineteenth century took on hawking as a form of employment due to the low barriers to entry. However, there is no coherent dating of the first hawking activity.3 As many of the new hawkers relied on their dialect and ethnic groups to acclimatise, hawking districts were formed in accordance to these group identities, thus accentuating the dialect and ethnic enclaves in Singapore. The Fujians (Hokkiens) for one, dominated Chinatown and Telok Ayer.4 In the face of 1960s’ globalisation where “health”, “structures” and “development” were the new catchphrases, there were massive urban resettlements in Singapore. Populations were relocated from overcrowded central areas into new neighbourhoods. Street hawking was seen as a hindrance to the new economic centres and as health hazards. Hawkers were relocated into allocated brick-and-mortar spaces known as hawker centres. The previously ethnic-based hawkers in enclaves serving ethnic cuisines and clientele, had to adjust to the new confining physical structures and licensing procedures under the Housing Board Development (HDB).5 Maxwell Food Centre was no exception. It was born amidst this localglobal nexus of economies. Traditional business practices were retained alongside the modernising and globalising economic structure the state adopted. The Chinese hawkers that were located in the vicinity were then housed into these urban spaces. Patrons of both

street hawking and hawker centres were then socialised into a new pattern of economic exchange. In this respect, hawker centres are social institutions. Conclusion If there is one thing food can teach us, it is that there are no absolutes – cuisine is an ongoing project of shifts, adaptations and negotiations. Foods are not timeless, symbolic monuments of Traditional Communities. Given that societies have rarely existed in states of complete isolation, what we eat today is a continuous outcome of communities adapting to different contexts over time and space. Foods hence serve as focal episodes of people(s): in the recollections of pasts and the personal tastes of the present moment. Just like how Foochow fishballs were a distinct dish of the Fujian province, they now belong to the category of syncretised Chinese cuisine in Singapore. We are what we eat, but we are not who we eat. No two Foochow fishballs are the same, and I like mine cooked properly in a licensed melting pot of Maxwell Hawker Centre. Yong Jing Yi is a Year 4.5 History major at National University of Singapore. She is by nature an optimist; by intellectual conviction a pessimist. In the language of history, there may never be asynchrony. But it is in acknowledging and dealing with these different tones that history is made; for history to be written. Endnotes 1 Nakayama

Tokiko, Kimura Haruko, Unami (xian-wei) in Chinese Food, in FoodReviews International Vol. 14 No. 2, (1998) 2 Sharit K. Bhowmik, Introduction, in Street Vendors in the Global Urban Economy, (Routledge: 2010) pp. 1 3 Kheng-Lock, Thio, A Study of “twenty Singapore hawkers”, (University of Singapore: 1963) pp. 60 4 Ah Eng, Lai, The Kopitiam in Singapore: An Evolving Story About Migration and Cultural Diversity, (Asia Research Institute: 2010) 5 Genzberger, Christine, Singapore Business: The Portable Encyclopaedia for Doing Business with Singapore, (World Trade Press: 1994)


Have a Berry Good Time – Berry Picking in Finland


Pang Khai Xin Joyce | pangkhaixin@u.nus.edu

If Finland had a national fruit, it would most likely be one of its numerous berries. Since the Stone Age, berries have played an important role in Finnish society. During this period, farming and animal husbandry was yet to be developed, making most Finns hunter-gatherers who ventured into forests in search of sustenance. Finnish forests are teeming with berries, where around 500 million kilograms of wild berries are produced every year,1 of which almost 40 different types are edible.2 The abundance and wide variety of wild berries made them a reliable and relatively easy source of food. Berries not only filled the stomachs of Finns, but improved their health as well. They were believed to have medicinal properties and were prescribed for malaria and cough from around the 15th century.3 In the 19th century, cranberries were given out as a preventive step against scurvy and also as medicine for children who had intestinal worms, digestion problems, urinary inflammations and fever.4 Today, Finnish berries are seen as a “super food” due to their naturally rich vitamin and flavonoid content. 5 The strong belief in medicinal and health properties of berries could be evidenced by the sustained use of berries as health supplements and medication over the centuries. And yet, the prevalence of berries in Finnish society does not stop here. Berries can be found in both traditional and contemporary Finnish songs. Finnish children are exposed to not just the physical berry, but also to the hidden symbols and meanings of berries via nursery rhymes. In Finnish folklore, berries are often part of metaphors connected to precious items, such as home and beloved ones.6 These metaphors guide and caution people in how to act in various situations, and the presence of berries in these metaphors give berries a symbolic presence in the moral outlook of Finns. In addition, berries are featured in Finnish folklore. The Finnish national epic Kalevala, written in the 19th century, uses a wealth of berry terminology. Berries were used to describe beauty and acted as expressions of endearment for women.7 The storyline also reflected the importance of berries in Finnish society. The mother of the ruler of Karelia was named Marjatta, a berry-related name, and conceived him by consuming a berry.8 The choice of the berryrelated name Marjatta and the prominent role of the berry in the conception of the future ruler symbolize how the berry was seen as something powerful and life giving. Alongside these cultural developments, the tradition of berry picking continued even though berry picking today has evolved to become a social event for most Finns. Berries are recognised as common goods in Finland, where the traditional Finnish concept of “everyman’s right” enables people to pick wild berries for free.9 Although Finns often move far away from their home municipalities for school and work,10 they meet with friends, families, and other berry-lovers to explore the forests and pick 28

berries together. Berry picking is an especially popular Finnish activity for groups in the summer, where 56 percent of Finns go foraging in the forests at least seven times each summer.11 Berries thus play a role in strengthening friendships and familial ties by providing an avenue for people to gather and partake in the same activity. Berry picking also creates new communities, where likeminded people meet and bond over their common interest of foraging for berries. As berries often grow sparsely in forests, it is rare to find a spot that is densely populated with them. Hence, good berry picking spots are trade secret kept within a select community, so that the group would be able to revisit the same spot to gather berries. Berry picking increases the bonds between people by adding a dimension of shared space within a small community, where the secret spot is an exclusive space that all members identify with and gather at. Berries facilitate the strengthening and formation of communities, where they bring people together beyond the forests. After picking berries, it is common for Finns to head to the kitchen to make Finnish food together. Although a part of the berries would be frozen for consumption in winter, the rest of the berries would be turned into pastries, jams and juices. Berries are also key ingredients of popular foods, such as vispipuuro, a cold, whipped lingonberry porridge, and kiisseli, a fruit soup. Cooking and dining together under one roof facilitates interaction and conversation, helping to foster a sense of camaraderie in the community. Indeed, the whole process of gathering, cooking, and then eating food made from berries facilitates the feeling of togetherness and home. The presentation of berries as a gift is also a reflection of one’s good will to others, which pulls both parties closer. While many would have differing notions of what home is, berries and berry picking provide a way home for the Finns. It is a way to meet their friends and families, and spend hours or even days picking, cooking, and dining together. For Finns who have a tradition of berry picking, this path home is welcoming, where they would certainly be able to meet friends and family for a berry good time together. Joyce/Khai Xin is a third year History major currently on exchange at the University of Helsinki. She enjoys exploring and daydreaming about anything under the sun. Endnotes 1 Salla Korpela, “Treasures of the boreal forests”, 2013. Accessed September 2, 2016. http://finland.fi/lifesociety/treasures-of-the-boreal-forests/. 2 Darra Goldstein, "Finland's Obsession With Wild Berries", 2014. Accessed September 2, 2016. http://www.eatingwell.com/food_news_origins/food_travel/finlands_obsession_with_wild_berries. 3Klemettilä,Hannele,andLauraJaakkola.Mansimarjastapunapuolaan.Helsinki:MaahenkiOy,2011. 4Ibid. 5 Running 4 Women, “Wild Nordic super berries - enter the UK health food market”, n.d. Accessed September9,2016.http://www.running4women.com/wild-nordic-super-berries. 6Klemettilä,Hannele,andLauraJaakkola.Mansimarjastapunapuolaan.Helsinki:MaahenkiOy,2011. 7Ibid. 8 Internet archive, “Full text of "The Kalevala : the epic poem of Finland"”, n.d. Accessed October 4, 2016. https://archive.org/stream/kalevalaepicpoem01craw/kalevalaepicpoem01craw_djvu.txt. 9 Within certain boundaries as set by the Ministry of the Environment. Ministry of the Environment, "Everyman's Rights". Accessed September 2, 2016. http://www.ymparisto.fi/enUS/Nature/Everymans_rights(27721). 10 Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Migration [e-publication]. ISSN=1797-6782. 2015, Appendix figure 2. Propensity for intermunicipal migration by age 1992–2015. Accessed September 2, 2016. http://www.stat.fi/til/muutl/2015/muutl_2015_2016 -0517_kuv_002_en.html 11 Salla Korpela, “Treasures of the boreal forests”, 2013. Accessed September 2, 2016. http://finland.fi/lifesociety/treasures-of-the-boreal-forests/.

Calendar and Cohesion: Organising Conceptions of the Singaporean Nation Jude Leong | jude.mocha@gmail.com

During the French Revolution, revolutionaries promulgated the French Revolutionary Calendar in efforts to imagine and a break from the ancien regime.1 For subsequent French governments thereafter, it was crucial to reorganise conceptions of time to consolidate revolutionary fervour and symbolically establish the supremacy of revolutionary ideas. The practice of states organising conceptions of time is not limited to French republics or European states. An example of this is the Japanese imperial calendar that counts years with the start of each emperor’s reign. The establishment of a calendar is often an exercise of state power in "standardizing temporal frames of reference" to imagine a shared sense of community within temporal, spatial and cultural boundaries.2 Using public holidays and days of remembrance, the state lodges the commemoration of key dates within the national psyche. Fundamentally, these days are means by which amorphous time is given form to organise the lives of those within society. Days of remembrance and public holidays celebrated in Singapore are no exception to this rule. They are used to entrench state-sanctioned narratives of religious harmony and memorialise key imagined dates within national collective memory. This article will examine the role of public holidays and other days of remembrance such as Racial Harmony Day and Total Defence Day, in fostering the image of a racially and religiously harmonious Singapore.3 They also serve to accentuate perceptions of Singapore’s vulnerability to internal divisions and external threats. Six religious festivals are marked by the state as public holidays, with each major religion having one or two festivals.4 Allowing Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism to have a similar number of public holidays strengthens the state’s claim that it supports religious freedom within a secular state. It protects the freedom of the followers from each major religion to com-

memorate their religious festivals.5 Singaporeans of various religious affiliations are also reminded of the presence of other religious communities via these public holidays. Ultimately, it imprints subconsciously on the national consciousness the grand narrative that Singapore is a harmonious multi-religious society. This action complements other reminders of racial and religious harmony such as Racial Harmony Day. Racial Harmony Day continually reminds Singaporeans of the need for racial harmony, which in turn imprints the image of a racially harmonious Singaporean society on the popular consciousness. Thus, dates celebrating racial harmony and public holidays of religious significance contribute to the construction of perceptions of a harmonious Singaporean society. The commemorations of key dates within Singapore’s history foster a sense of imagined community. In particular, the celebration of National Day and Total Defence Day assist in organising Singaporeans’ conception of time around “important” days in the nation’s memory. The former marks Singapore’s divorce from the Malaysia on 9 August 1965. It builds on imaginations of a racially and religiously harmonious Singapore embedded within religious holidays and Racial Harmony Day by marking “51 years” and counting of Singapore’s history. The split from Malaysia was fundamentally based on ideological differences between the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) and United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) with regards to treatment of the different races. By marking Singaporean independence from Malaysia as a key date within national consciousness in the national calendar, the state emphasizes the history of Singapore from 1965 to the present. Consequently, Singapore’s history as an Asian port city and a colony of Britain in alternative narratives of Singapore history are deemphasized. Hence, the imagined community of Singapore is limited in the commemoration of National Day to those who lived through 9 August 1965 and subsequent generations.6 Total Defence Day underscores the perceived vulnerability of Singapore to foreign invasion. By celebrating Total Defence Day, the state is suggesting that 15 February 1942 was the awakening of a Singaporean consciousness. This national consciousness is closely allied to the need to stabilise and defend Singapore against internal and external threats, thereby legitimising state policies such as conscription. This exemplifies the subservience of national holidays to state aims of constructing a common sense of nation and maintaining stability within a Singaporean society. It also organises our sense of time by marking key dates within Singapore’s history to perpetuate state-sanctioned narratives. A study of the public holidays and days of remembrance of Singapore thus reveals the state’s preeminent role in instituting an annual commemorative cycle of sacrosanct moments. Through this, the state inclines Singaporeans to organise their conceptions of time and nation around the narrative hidden within such a calendar.7 They also symbolise a break in historical time, demarcating the temporal boundaries of a nation’s history which are equally important to delimiting the cultural and spatial boundaries of the nation. It is hence important to remain cognizant of the underlying mechanisms by which our conceptions of time, space and nation are influenced, lest they slip into the subconscious. Jude is a Year 2 student majoring in both History and Japanese Studies. He is interested in memory and East Asian history. In his free time, he enjoys playing frisbee, learning languages and taking things slow because university life is too fast-paced.

Endnotes 1 Sanja Perovic, The CalendarinRevolutionaryFrance: Perceptions of Time inLiterature,Culture, Politics,(Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress,2012),3. 2 David S. Landes, Revolution inTime:Clocks andthe Makingof the Modern World, (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2000) and Eviatar Zerubavel, The SevenDayCircle:The HistoryandMeaningof the Week, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), quoted in Jeffery K. Olick, Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi and Daniel Levy, “Introduction,” in TheCollectiveMemory Reader, ed. Jeffrey K. Olick et al. (New York: Oxford University Press:2011), 13. 3 “Thaipusam as public holiday: MOM replies,” Ministry of Manpower, February 14, 2015, accessed September 14, 2016, http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-replies/2015/thaipusam-as-public-holidaymom-replies. 4 Good Friday, Vesak Day, Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Raya Haji, Deepavali and Christmas. Taken from “Singapore Public Holidays 2016,” Publicholiday.sg, accessed September 9, 2016, http://www.publicholiday.sg/singapore-public-holidays-2016/. 5“Next year'spublic holidays: The StraitsTimes,21July1972,Page 5,”NewspaperSG,accessedSeptember14,2016, http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/digitised/article/straitstimes19720721-1.2.32.aspx. 6Benedict Anderson, ImaginedCommunities: Reflections onthe Origin and Spreadof Nationalism,(London: Verso,1983). 7 Eviatar Zurabavel, “Calendars and history: a comparative study of the social organization of national memory,” in Continuities, Conflicts and Transformations inNationalRetrospection, ed. Jeffrey K.Olick,(Durhamand London:DukeUniversityPress,2003),315–337,quotedinLeaDavid,“Impressionmanagementofacontestedpast:Serbia’sevolvingnationalcalendar,”MemoryStudies7(4)(2014),475. 29

Rice, Water & Community in Imperial China

Darren Ng | darrenngzr@gmail.com

The development of rural society in imperial China was intimately related to the demands of agriculture, especially in south China, a region famous today for intensive rice cultivation. While it is widely acknowledged that social organisation was the foundation of the Chinese agrarian economy1, the development of that foundation is not as commonly known. This article will outline Chinese social history in the context of environmental history, illustrating how the lynchpin of rice agriculture – water control – required and prompted the complex social organisation of Chinese rural society. Chinese agriculture �irst began in north China along the upper Yellow River, within a nuclear area spanning modern-day Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Henan2. The highland region – covered by �ine, fertile layers of wind-borne loess – offered little resistance to primitive digging implements, and was as such conducive to early attempts at cultivation3. These �irst Chinese agriculturalists, however, were greatly restricted by the area’s semiarid steppe climate, so dry crops such as foxtail (sù) and broomcorn millet (shǔ or jì) came to predominate as the diet staple. Chinese agriculture thus began as a distinctively stubborn tradition of dryland cultivation, with limited to no dependence on irrigation methods. Even as wheat and barley cultivation – which was based on �lood plains and irrigation in Mesopotamia – came to be introduced in north China, they were grown boldly as dryland crops4. This dryland tradition would soon change with the coming of rice. While millet was well-suited to the dry climate conditions of the loess highlands, rice (gēng or xiān) was


not. Wild rice was a plant that grew in perennially wet soil, so successful domestication and cultivation required an adaptation to seasonal water conditions5. Excavations at Chuodun reveal that the earliest agriculturalists6 along the Yangzi River depended on rudimentary paddy �ields – �looded tracts of land supplied by a dugout water reservoir – to grow rice7. The crucial development was thus water control, which not only allowed the cultivator to grow the plant but also increased yield8. Larger and more complex paddy �ield sites even suggest that the development of these Yangzi agricultural societies brought a concurrent ability to mobilise larger groups for construction9, much akin to the pattern of Chinese agriculture in the imperial period. By the third millennium BCE, the development of the paddy �ield had culminated in the spread of the rice-paddy system northward to Chinese cultivators in the Yellow River basin10. Irrigation networks, moreover, were not the only form of waterworks that required cooperative labour; drainage and �lood-control waterworks also enabled cultivators to drain and convert previously unsuitable wetlands into rice paddies. By the Warring States period, waterworks such as the polders around the important Chu city of Yicheng brought new land into intensive cultivation, establishing an important foundation for the �lourishing of rice culture11. Waterworks – especially large and complex networks – thus required the cooperative labour of groups of people. Crucial power was vested in the individual or institution that held decisive power over communal labour12, and as Chinese rural society developed, these institutions became local landowning families.

米 Mǐ: Rice

水 Shuǐ: Water

The importance of landowning families in water control is demonstrated simply in the organisation of communal labour in later imperial China. State-initiated waterworks projects were rarely undertaken by imperial of�icials alone; they required important contributions from major landowning families in the form of labour (and money)13. In places such as Hunan, powerful landowning families were often even able to privately construct and control waterworks such as dikes, and empowered communal administrators to mobilise labour for repair works14. In fact, in certain cases, this ability to organise communal labour allowed rural societies to erect waterworks even without or against state authority. In an example from Xiangyin County, Hunan, in 1756, a group of lower gentry led by a local notable, Jiang Changtai, openly de�ied a provincial edict by constructing a dike and bribing of�icials to conceal its illegality15. The incident thus illustrates the independence and complexity of rural societies, which were able to organise labour through social agreements within or between landowning families, while exploiting social ties to protect such illegal initiatives. Social organisation in Chinese rural society thus rested in large part on the ability to organise communal labour for waterworks projects, which in turn is tied closely to the demands of a water-intensive rice agriculture. This pattern can thus be seen as an important social response to the limitations imposed by ecology on agriculture.

Darren Ng is a Year 3 History student here at NUS. His key interests are in Chinese and nomadic (Eurasian) history, as well as in the related �ields of archaeology, anthropology, and environmental history. In his spare time, he likes to read, play historical games (EUIV, anyone?) and spend time with his exceptional family.

Tuán: Community

Endnotes 1 Hugh R. Clark, “The Fu of Minnan: A Local Clan in Late Tang and Song China (9th-13th Centuries),” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 38 (1995): 2. 2 Ping-Ti Ho, “The Loess and the Origin of Chinese Agriculture,” The American Historical Review 75 (1969): 5. These Neolithic, proto-Chinese agriculturalists are known archaeologically as the Yangshao Culture (c. 5000 – 3000), which later developed into the Longshan Culture (YEAR). See Ho, “The Loess,” 2–4. 3 Ibid, 12–13. 4 Ibid, 30–31. 5 Peter Bellwood, “The Checkered Prehistory of Rice Movement Southwards as a Domesticated Cereal—from the Yangzi to the Equator,” Rice 4 (2011): 95. 6 Scholars have theorised that these early agriculturalists might have been proto-Austronesians, which eventually migrated or were pushed southward and overseas. See Peter Bellwood, James J. Fox and Darrell Tryon, eds., The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (Canberra: ANU E Press, 2006), 103–118. 7 Dorian Q Fuller & Ling Qin, “Water Management and Labour in the Origins and Dispersal of Asian Rice,” World Archaeology 41 (2009): 96–97. 8 Ibid, 91. Thus, citing White, Fuller and Qin state that “early rice cultivation was more about management of environment than about individual plants.” This environment, of course, included the availability of water. 9 Ibid, 99–100. 10 Ibid, 101. 11 Brian Lander, “State Management of River Dikes in Early China: New Sources on the Environmental History of the Central Yangzi Region,” T’oung Pao 100 (2014): 340–343. 12 Owen Lattimore, Inner Asian Frontiers of China (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962), 33. 13 Peter Perdue, “Of�icial Goals and Local Interests: Water Control in the Dongting Lake Region during the Ming and Qing Periods,” The Journal of Asian Studies 41 (1982): 748. 14 Ibid, 750. 15 Ibid, 756.


Tastes of home:

home-cooked food, hawker food and the construction of nostalgia Goh Ngee Chae Joshua | E0026316@u.nus.edu

What does home taste like? While While a seemingly preposterous question, ictional French food critic Anton Ego of the ilm Ratatouille apparently felt that home tastes like vegetable stew. 1 Though composed of leftovers, the ilm’s titular dish evoked in Ego heartfelt memories of a loving home simply because his mother had prepared it.2 As As a comfort food, home-cooking brings us solace by invoking nostalgia for the homes of our childhood.3 Nostalgia, according to Hage, is not a manifestation of homesickness. Rather, it is “a memory of a past experience imagined, from the standpoint of the present, to be homely”.4 Built upon feelings like familiarity and community, home does not only exist as a physical place but also as an idealized space within our childhood memories.5 Memories of this space are triggered by the sense of comfort brought to the table by home cooked dishes. Strangely enough, Singaporeans rarely use home-cooking as a lens to imagine their childhood. In the many memoirs about childhood life during the 1950s to the 1970s, homecooking has received scant mention. Instead, hawker food appears to dominate the construction of childhood memory. Amateur heritage writer Lam Chun See’s account of childhood life in post-independence Singapore goes to the extent of declaring that the variety of food peddled by iterant hawkers, from roti to yong tau foo, were his “fondest memories of the good old kampong days”.6


I contend that memoirists like Lam have not ‘forgotten’ about home-cooking. It is instead imagined away through “selective amnesia”. By placing more emphasis on hawker food while giving scant attention to home-cooking, they create an “enchanted space which memory accords to childhood”.7 A world far removed from “the harshness and deprivation of growing up”, this “enchanted space” evokes an idyllic childhood characterized by “a great deal of an enjoyment”.8 While it may be tempting to attribute the hegemonic dominance of hawker foods in the construction of childhood memory to the growing tendency for Singaporeans to eat out9, we should remember that many were too poor to eat hawker food on a daily basis for much of Singapore’s early post-independence years.10 It was only with increasing afluence and the rise of the dual-income households that eating hawker food became a more routine affair.11 Unsurprisingly, the relatively luxurious status of hawker food made its consumption a memorable event. Urban studies expert Tan Kok Yang’s account of childhood life in a Queenstown lat fondly recalls instances when char kway teow ( lat rice noodles) was brought home as an “occasional supper” to be shared with family. Too expensive to be eaten daily, char kway teow was used to celebrate a family member’s good fortune. Although Tan only had a “few member’s mouthfuls”, this rare treat assumed special signi icance as the focal point of an “informal food gathering” which “brought warmth and cheer to all family members”.12

On the other hand, childhood memoirs of that era tend to associate home-cooked fare with unwelcome memories of poverty and scarcity. Lam’s account of childhood life in a 1960s kampong recounts that his family was so poor that meat like chicken drumsticks were considered a treat reserved for special occasions such as birthdays. He thus had to make do with simple fare such as like porridge with chye poh (preserved turnip). 13 chye poh In order to enshrine hawker food as an “enchanted space” of childhood, these memoirists appear to have adopted varied rhetorical strategies to deemphasize the role of home-cooking in the construction of childhood memory. For instance, Peranakan memoirist Andrew Tan’s account about childhood life in the 1950s seems to have removed home-cooking from his idyllic childhood by situating it in a distant moral realm. Used as a platform for didactical moralizing, Andrew Tan’s account of his mother’s homecooking commends her virtue of “ingenuity and sense of economy”. To him, the fact that his mother’s cooking “looked scrumptious to visitors and the neighbors” was secondary to how the food “actually cost little”. 14 Similarly, Tan Kok Yang’s highly sentimental account of char kway teow stands in stark contrast to his dour description of home-cooking. By placing undue emphasis on cooking utensils such as the charcoal stove, he appears to be imagining away home-cooking by presenting it not in terms of its taste but rather its production. 15 Indeed, the notion that hawker food rather than homecooking has a greater part to play in the construction of childhood nostalgia is counterintuitive and discomforting. How can food cooked by complete strangers be more memorable than dishes prepared by the loving hands of a mother? Rather than see this phenomenon as a perversion from the norm, these counter-narratives actually help us recognize the hegemonic ideal of home-cooking that we have unconsciously internalized.

An imagined relic of our pastoral past, the comforting image of a loving mother cooking nourishing dishes for her children has become a widespread cultural trope that “haunts” culinary biographies across Western cultures.16 By challenging this romanticized notion of gastronomic remembrance, these memoirs invite us to critically reconsider the idea of home cooking as the “enchanted space” of an idyllic childhood. In retrospect, it seems absurd to expect home to taste like plain old porridge. While an undeniable part of childhood, porridge’s mundaneness has no place in the “enchanted space” of childhood. It is no wonder memoirists like Tan Kok Yang found that home tasted like Char Kway Teow. Goh Ngee Chae Joshua is a irst year student who intends to major in history. Endnotes:

1See Pinkava, Jan; . Jim Capobianco and Brad Bird. Ratatouille. Directed by Brad Bird. California: Pixar, 2007. 2See "Ratatouille, n." OED Online. December 2008. 3rd Ed. Oxford University Press. Web. 2 August 2016. <http://dictionary.oed.com/>. 3"Comfort Food, n" OED Online.1997. Oxford University Press. Web. 2 August 2016. Draft Additions 1997<http://dictionary.oed.com/>. 4Ghassan Hage, “At Home in the Entrails of the West: Multi-culturism, ‘Ethnic Food’ and Migrant Home-building,” in Home/World: Space, community and Marginality in Sydney’s West, ed. Helen Grace et al. (Annandale, N.S.W.: Pluto, 1997), 105 5 I have applied Hage’s analysis of the homebuilding process in the context of how we construct the idealized home of our childhood memory. See Hage, “At Home in the Entrails of the West”, 102 6Lam Chun See, “Good Morning Yesterday: Growing Up in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s”. (Singapore: Hoshin Consulting, 2012), pg.61-66 7Raphael Samuel, Island Stories Unravelling Britain. (London: Verso, 1998), pg 337-8 Andrew Tan Chee Khoon. “Papa as a Little Boy Named Ah Khoon”. (Singapore: Ring of Light Publishers, 2007). Pg.2 8See Lim Yi Han, “Cook at home? It's a hassle for many”. The Straits Times, June 6, 2014. 9Chua Beng Huat, “Taking the Street Out of Street Food,” in Food, Foodways and Food scapes: Culture, Community and Consumption in Post-Colonial Singapore, ed. Lily Kong, 10 Vineeta Sinha. (Singapore: World Scienti ic Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd, 2016) , pg. 28 11Chua Beng Huat, “Taking the Street Out of Street Food,”38 12Tan Kok Yang. “From the Blue Windows: Recollections of Life in Queenstown: Singapore, in the 1960s and 1970s”. ”. (Singapore: NUS Press, 2013), pg 23 13Lam Chun See, “Good Morning Yesterday: Growing Up in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s”. (Singapore: Hoshin Consulting, 2012), pg.55 14Andrew Tan Chee Khoon. “Papa as a Little Boy Named Ah Khoon”. (Singapore: Ring of Light Publishers, 2007), pg.53 15See Tan Kok Yang. “From the Blue Windows: Recollections of Life in Queenstown”, pg. 36-38 16Jean Duruz. Haunted Kitchens: Cooking and Remembering, Gastronomica 4, no. 1 (2004): 57-68



Whenever people visit my dorm room, their irst remark is usually: “Wow Min, your room is so bare.” The conversation usually goes on to encouraging me to decorate my room, so that it accurately re lects my personality – how can a designer like me have bare walls? Their words are not unfamiliar. Indeed, many discourses exist on how the interior design of spaces can re lect and express one’s identity1. In particular, scholarly analyses have noted how residents could “cultivate a sense of self” through household objects and design2. Notably, these works examine how residents’ interactions with their interiors allow them to “create and re-create their identity”3. How are such observations realised in the context of Singapore, particularly in our ubiquitous Housing Development Board housing? HDB home-owners are constantly interacting and negotiating with their interior spaces to express their identity. Yet, is this self-expression just a simple question of interior taste? Or could interior design choices elucidate wider questions of identity and state? My article will examine how these HDB interiors re lect the state’s imagination of families and individuals, by projecting how they should order and shape their living spaces. There is currently only limited scholarship on how residents manage their interior spaces4. This is despite the presence of an excellent historical archive on the interior designs of lats, providing an insight to private spaces we rarely are able to glimpse into, over a few decades5. Our Home, a HDB-produced magazine series, features home decoration advice in various forms, providing an avenue to “see past the often uniform exteriors” of high-rises to to examine “varied outcomes of interior styling”6. Between 1972 and 1989, the quarterly magazine was circulated to over 200,000 households per issue, reaching 400,000 at its peak7. While we are unsure of the actual consumption of the magazine, these substantial readership numbers suggest that the magazine achieved signi icant nationwide in luence. Below: Issues of “Our Home” (Writer’s pictures)


Admittedly, the interior spaces featured in Our Home are likely to “have conformed to of icial ideals for HDB interiors”8. Furthermore, it may be problematic to fully form conclusions on the interaction between individuals and their homes singularly from a state-produced magazine. Yet, perhaps there is still merit to this iltered perspective – the magazines do re lect how the state, in par ticular, has imagined the domestic sphere9. Notably, the interior spaces in Our Home emphasises the family unit as a de ining institution in relation to one’s individual identity. In the issue of March/April 1973, the décor feature highlights the achievement of a “picturesque home” as a result of the couple’s “do-it-yourself efforts”10. Importantly, the article’s emphasis was not simply on the hands-on approach the couple took, but rather that they did it together11. In other words, here, the interior has become a space not for individual expression, but for the articulation of domestic cohesion through coupledom. Further, the featured household objects and spaces (that are lauded as “effectively placed” and “elegant”) are often explicitly related to raising a family, even when the family unit is not mentioned – a reminder of our familial relations12. The state’s vision of an ideal domestic space therefore appears to be one that reminds and deines our identity as part of a larger family. This is also congruent with state laws that dictate one’s ability to purchase a HDB lat, where couples are privileged. In fact, unmarried individuals can only own a lat if they are over 35 years of age13. The reality is however more complex – this articulation of The one’s identity as part of a larger familial unit may not have been without contention. Notably, in the December 1976 issue of Our Home, an article narrates the experience of a couple decorating their new lat. Rather than a narrative of marital bliss, the article highlighted how the wife had to set aside her personal desires to accommodate the opinions of her mother and husband, feeling “utterly miserions able and defeated”14. In this article the internal tensions between expressing the collective identity of a family institution rather than individual preference were aired. Through stories such as this the HDB acknowledged the gap that can exist between individual desire and ilial obligation. It was but one article amid a more common narra tive in the pages of Our Home that prioritized the cohesiveness of the collective taste of the family over that of the individual. Perhaps such occasional stories of individual frustration served to offer a point of identi ication, and so ultimately shored up the need for interior space to re lect the family collective, as this exception proves.

The writer would like to thank Professor Jane M Jacobs (Urban Studies), Yale-NUS College for her kind help and guidance in the writing of this article.

Excerpt from an issue of “Our Home” (Writer’s pictures) The pages of Our Home suggest that the interior of HDB units, as conceived by the state, also functions as a space where one’s identity is performed for public viewing. Interior styles in Our Home, for instance, can allow homeowners to curate how others perceive them to be, in a process of conspicuous consumption, that is, the purchase of goods to enhance one’s prestige. This presentation of one’s space may not always be constant. Stylistic choices in many features of Our Home for instance, emphasize the nature of the goods as “showpieces” to impress visitors, with their “entertainment” value prioritized15. An element of concealment is also present - households are encouraged to “hide” the things they do not want others to see – blemishes, cracks, unsightly but necessary objects – and to “show” desirable things instead through adjustments in their interior spaces16. The value of the good is evaluated by its deceiving qualities, being “as good as real”17. This potentially draws a greater divide between those of the household, and those who are not. Yet, it also brings across a more pressing point – the home is a space where one’s identity is potentially drawn and re-drawn by others. In other words, individuals interact with outsiders on how they wish to be perceived and de ined from their interiors, and this can constantly be in lux. Ultimately, like the individual, the home is a complex concept. Not only can it serve as a re lection of the individual families who inhabit them, but also how external parties imagine and interact with the family. These parties contribute to the entrenchment of national values, like the family as a primary social unit18. In the pages of Our Home we see how the government hoped for the space of the home to articulate individual identity as part of the family unit. But of course we might re lect on whether there is ever something as singular and isolated as “individual identity” awaiting expression. Are we not always also members of families and subjects of nations? Are we able to ever truly express just ourselves? Can there ever be a personal, singular home?

Min Lim Min Lim is a junior reading History at Yale-NUS College. She is interested in the socioeconomic history of the Roman Empire. Aside, she is also a graphic designer, aspiring writer, and photographer. Her works and thoughts can be found at http://minlim.com Endnotes 1For more scholarship on the interior of homes as an expression of identity, see Alison Blunt and Robyn Dowling, Home, (London: Routledge, 2006) and Sarah Pink, Home Truths, (United Kingdom: Berg, 2004) 2 Lilian Chee, “The Public Private Interior: Constructing the Modern Domestic Interior in Singapore’s Public Housing”, in Handbook of Interior Architecture and Design, ed. Graeme Brooker and Lois Weinthal (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), p.199 3Ibid., p.200 4 Apart from Chee (citation above), see Jane Jacobs and Stephen Cairns, “The modern touch: interior design and modernisation in post-independence Singapore”, Environment and Planning 40 (2008), p. 572 – 595, which offers perhaps the most comprehensive study of HDB interiors to date. I will be relying signi icantly on their study and analyses in this article. 5 I must thank Professor Jane Jacobs for her kind help and her introduction to this excellent historical archive not only on Singapore housing, but also on the Singaporean culture and identity of the 1970s to 1980s. Full copies of Our Home can be found in the NUS Central Library. 6 Jane Jacobs and Stephen Cairns, “The modern touch: interior design and modernisation in post-independence Singapore”, Environment and Planning 40 (2008), p. 573 7 Ibid., p.573 8Ibid., p.573 9 Ibid., p. 573 10 Our Home, Issue March/April 1973, Housing Development Board, Singapore 11 See for example the visual emphasis placed on the couple, or the constant references to objects in the household decorated or deliberately placed by them 12 See issues June 1985 and October 1985, for instances where household objects related to the family such as cots and hand-medowns, is explicitly mentioned and emphasized. 13 Eligibility Schemes, Housing Development Board, Singapore 14 Our Home, Issue December 1976, Housing Development Board, Singapore, p.4 15 See issues June 1981, August 1981, and April 1982 for examples of rooms “designed for entertainment”. In fact, almost all issues of Our Home feature such themes, be it in the articles or in the advertisements, which constantly emphasizes their product as showpieces that delineates one’s family from another. 16 See issues April 1980, April 1973, and June 1981 for examples of such. It is interesting how many issues also feature advice on the hairstyles of women and how they should present themselves, emphasizing heavily on appearance, which is also consistent with the message of the magazine on one’s interiors. Most amusingly in the issue of April 1986, we see advertisements for interior design companies placed side by side an advertisement for Slender Lady Beauty Centre – ‘now you can reshape your igure!’ 17 Our Home, Issue April 1982, Housing Development Board, Singapore, p.12 18 Shared Values, National Library Board, Singapore 35

Goh Seng Chuan Joshua | joshua.goh@u.nus.edu

Mention “Singapore” in a conversation with foreign friends, and chances are food will appear as a discussion topic. Eating, it has been said, is the collective pastime of Singaporeans. Be it a piping hot bowl of laksa or a fragrant plate of chicken rice, the centrality of food to Singaporean notions of home, community, and nation is well-known. Indeed, food is so deeply intertwined with notions of national identity in Singapore that we often uncritically thrust value-laden concepts such as ‘multiracialism” and “diversity” upon its metaphorical plate. Such tropes demand closer scrutiny, and this is what Nicole Tarulevicz does in Eating Her Curries and Kway: A Cultural History of Food in Singapore. Published in 2013, Tarulevicz’s book is likely the first comprehensive attempt at a culinary approach to Singapore’s history. This is surprising given the value Singaporeans attach to food. As embodied culture, food affords us, Tarulevicz opines, a prism with which to examine the structures of Singaporean society. More specifically, historicizing food complements traditional approaches to Singapore history that have been predominantly economic and political in nature. To accomplish this, Tarulevicz explores the entire culinary chain from production to consumption, eschewing a conventional narrative that focuses narrowly on food’s gustatory dimensions. As such, elements as varied as hawker centres, colonial cookbooks, and vintage food advertisements are all unpacked in Eating Her Curries and Kway. One key (and rather provocative) argument that emerges from Eating Her Curries and Kway regards the dominance of food in Singapore’s national narrative. Far from being a spontaneous occurrence, it is also the result of government attempts to coopt a socially acceptable symbol to tame society. Tarulevicz contends that to the Singapore authorities, “food offers a contained paradigm of sensual excess… a substitute for sex.”1 Food – with its connotations of unrestrained gluttony, exotic aromas and Kodak-worthy plating – offers a “safely sensual”2 branding of Singapore as its attempts to break out of its image as a ‘Fine City’. However, that food in Singapore is sanitized – as seen in the paradox of “hawker centres” – and that it is appropriated for purposes besides filling the stomach is not a contemporary development. Tarulevicz locates the roots of this discursive treatment of food in the British colonial era, when domestic science textbooks attempted to educate the population on what “Britishness” should be.3 For example, students were “taught to bake cakes in ovens that most household did not have,”4 in addition to receiving instruction on the appropriate roles and places of domestic servants. Textbooks thus served as ideological tools intimately interwoven with notions of power and authority.5 In the utilization of food as a means of social control, continuity rather than change seems to straddle the conventional colonial/independence divide. Another area which Tarulevicz’s discussion sheds light on is the contentious issue of multiracialism. Peeling away archetypal notions of “food-as-diversity”, she argues that the celebration of Singapore’s culinary smorgasbord is merely superficial, 36

for it masks greater racial cleavages for which the diversity of food is a poor substitute. For example, the invocation of Peranakan food in recent years as symbolic of Singapore’s cultural hybridity is to Tarulevicz worrying. It merely “negotiates the multiracial in an acceptable way” that avoids destabilizing existing racial hierarchies.6 “To (dine) out”, Taruelvicz contends, “is much more acceptable than to marry out.”7 Besides race, the family is also another societal structure susceptible to the state’s ideological moulding. Campaigns such as ‘Eat with your Family Day’ demonstrate how the state uses commensality as a device to reinforce particular familial conventions. Meanwhile, the figure of the “successful migrant” in business enterprises such as Ya Kun Kaya Toast also naturalizes developmental narratives of thrift and hard work.8 For historians examining the imposition of state policies in society, analysing food thus affords new means of conceptualizing statesociety relations, and suggests that state attempts at habituating society to ideal norms may be subtler than often imagined. Less well-examined in Eating Her Curries and Kway is the history of food production in Singapore. While Tarulevicz suggests that Singapore’s reliance on foreign sources of food was a constant throughout her history, she does not mention the lesser known fact that as late as the 1980s, Singapore was selfsufficient in pork and eggs.9 The lack of food production in Singapore is thus equally a result of deliberate policy choices in her history as it is of her geographical constraints. Examining the local food production scene in Singapore’s past may thus allow for an imagining of the alternative paths which Singapore’s history could have trod, and further enrich Tarulevicz’s account of how food intersected with the course of Singapore’s national history. Nevertheless, as a primer on the cultural history of food in Singapore, Eating Her Curries and Kway is more than worth a read. Perhaps the most significant implication of Tarulevicz’s work is her use of food to provide an approach to Singapore’s history that defies and problematizes simple linear trajectories. From the gendering of Singaporean kitchens to the use of domestic science as a “site of citizenship training”,10 Tarulevicz demonstrates that to understand Singapore’s complex past, an examination of its socio-cultural dimensions is as critical as the political narratives we are accustomed to. Goh Seng Chuan Joshua is a History major interested in East Asian histories, food, and local heritage issues. Endnotes 1 Nicole Tarulevicz, Eating Her Curries and Kway: A Cultural History of Food in Singapore (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2013), 159. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid., 79. 4 Ibid., 91. 5 Ibid., 79. 6 Ibid., 103. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid., 36. 9 Cynthia Chou, “Agriculture and the End of Farming in Singapore,” in Nature Contained: Environmental Histories of Singapore, ed. Timothy P. Barnard (Singapore: NUS Press, 2014), 217. 10 Tarulevicz, Eating, 91.

m o r F s t g r n a o e S H e h T Yeng Fai | lokeyengfai@gmail.com Using the subject of ‘xinyao’ music, director Eva Tang had conjured a documentary that had extended beyond the history of our homegrown music, into the history of Singaporean student movements, language policies and Chinese popular culture. ‘Xinyao’ created that generation’s de�initive folk songs. This music movement started as everyday students penned down their struggles of the increasingly stressful schooling culture and the experience of learning the English language in poetic Chinese lyrics. In a concise 120-minutes feature, Tang used a myriad of interviews with songwriters of the past and present; former alumni of ‘Nantah’ (Nanyang University); and various producers, who had allowed ‘xinyao’ music to seep into Singapore’s airwaves and television screens, to illustrate the signi�icance of this music movement to our homeland’s history. ‘Xinyao’ music and what it represented led many Singaporeans to feel a greater sense of belonging. Tang was mindful to suggest that ‘Xinyao’’s antecedent was inspired by the Chinese student movements from the ‘Nantah’ alumni. Although this link was not delineated, with only singer Liang Wern Fook brie�ly mentioning that he was moved by some of the ‘Nantah’ students’ Chinese poems, it was clear that the continued use of the Chinese language was an agent which had united many Chinese then. A substantial portion of the �irst third of the movie paid homage to the alumni from ‘Nantah’, who had sparked a renaissance of Chinese poems and simple folk songs. Tang highlighted that ‘Nantah’ students were more focused on pursuing their interests in music and poetry, rather than their studies. Before the scene ended, there were footages of these alumni gathering for a gala dinner, which had participants moved to tears when they sang their self-composed songs. Their shared memories and nostalgia showed the signi�icance of ‘Nantah’ in their hearts. Even after all these years, it remained a special place they considered home. As the movie moved on to focus on ‘xinyao’ music, Tang structured the narrative chronologically for viewers to observe the evolution of this movement, from a student group movement into producing local music celebrities. From the beginning, Tang emphasized that Junior College students spurred this movement. Eric Moo, the most recognizable celebrity from ‘xinyao’, candidly recounted how his peers would gather together to write songs about the pains of studying. Tang was also intentional in picking locations for her interviews as she had most of the interviews in the colleges, where her interviewees used to study. This heightened the symbolic value of these spaces as they were home to these budding musicians.

Lasting camaraderie built among the ‘xinyao’ musicians The Songs We Sang, "Gallery – Behind The Scenes."

Tang has credited several researchers for assisting with the archival materials, which allowed for rich amounts of primary sources to supplement the narrative. Tang was able to source for radio recordings from local radio stations in the late 1970s, featuring radio interviews with the musicians who played each other’s songs. The camaraderie built among the different musicians was unique to ‘xinyao’. Instead of viewing each other as competitors, they saw each other as collaborators and would frequently perform other band’s songs to show their admiration for them. The support from Singaporean listeners was also crucial to this music movement, as seen from the radio recordings and interviews with former Deejays and television programme producers. Deejay Lin Zi Hui was credited for showcasing ‘xinyao’ music by creating a programme called ‘Ge Yun Xin Sheng’ and had exposed more Singaporeans to homegrown artists. This was a turning point for ‘xinyao’ music as it became more popular, allowing artists to move away from performing for their friends to performing for the wider Singaporean public. Tang’s wide research has hence, enabled the viewer to understand the gamut of the various key characters involved in the evolution of ‘xinyao’ music. Tang had also avoided painting this movement in broad strokes by illustrating the diversity of ‘xinyao’ music. She gave musicians suf�icient interview time to show their own separate directions and visions for the future of ‘xinyao’. While the group ‘The Merlion’ and Eric Woo sought to be more marketable for the Singaporean market, Liang Wern Fook continued to use his songs as a voice of the everyday Singaporean. The concluding interview footage had a ‘xinyao’ songwriter asserting that ‘xinyao’ was signi�icant because the musicians were sincere and they sang the songs from their heart. Indeed, the ‘xinyao’ musicians were immensely popular because their songs were also the songs from Singaporeans’ hearts. They expressed the emotions of the little characters from our homeland’s history. For such a movie to be shown today, it would be poignant for viewers to consider the experiences, which had de�ined this generation of everyday Singaporeans. It would be the memories of these shared experiences and our honest expression through melodies and lyrics, that would render a special home in our hearts. Yeng Fai is a Year 3 History and Social Work major. He is primarily interested in the history of ordinary people. 37

“Home is a warmth that grows like a ball of light from within, a feeling that pricks your eyes with grateful tears, a touch that calms your beating heart, a sound that soothes an aching soul.” - S a r a L a u , Ye a r 2 FA S S S o c i o l o g y & S E A

“Home is where I belong where I keep my heart and soul (yep I kena brainwashed by our local nationalism).” - J o s h u a , Ye a r 3 FA S S P o l i t i c a l S c i e n c e

“Home is a place where I can sit back, relax and not give toss about the world. Unfortunately that includes my CAP, so that leaves school out of the picture.”

“Home is where I feel safe, where I can do whatever I want in private without being judged. It is also where I can �ind rely on my parents when I need help, and also where I can talk to my sister about anything under thhe weather.”

- G o h S w e e Y i k , Ye a r 2 FA S S H i s t o r y

- A d a m , Ye a r 2 FA S S E c o n o m i c s

“Home is a place where you involuntarily smile the moment you walk into its premises. A place that dissolves whatever troubles you've brought along with you, and embraces you after a long day away.” - A n g i e O n g , Ye a r 2 FA S S G l o b a l S t u d i e s

“Home is my safe haven. It is a place where I can let loose without any judgements and be the real me. I know that I can always depend on my family in times of doubt.” - C h a r l o t t e Ta n g , Ye a r 2 FA S S H i s t o r y

“ 客人来, 看爸爸。 爸爸不在家。我请客人先。”

(My father was not in when a guest came home to visit him. I welcomed him as a visitor.) - I s a b e l Ta n , Ye a r 3 FA S S E c o n o m i c s


To ti e in w what home

l of u s di ff er en t fo r al h om e ly al ic ys ph e w h at H om e m a y be - w ar m in g to se rt ea h ys a w al It is


“It's home, truly. A place where I must be. Home is where all my personal memories, nolstagia, and emotional attachments are kept. GDLL” - Ta n Ye e P i n g , Ye a r 4 FA S S H i s t o r y

“It is a place where I can feel belonged!” - A d a m , Ye a r 3 FA S S P o l i t i c a l S c i e n c e

“A home is not just a physical space, but an imagined conception. It is a homely place where we reside in, such as a house. Yet it can also be feelings of “homeliness” which resides within ourselves. Homes can be physical spaces, but can be in one’s own heart too.“ - C h a n W e n g K i n , Ye a r 4 FA S S G e o g r a p h y

“A place where you can live without any inhibitions.” - E r i c , Ye a r 2 FA S S H i s t o r y

“ Home is where I can be myself. ” - S a m u e l C h o n g , Ye a r 1 FA S S H i s t o r y


d er s w e a sk ed re a e, m o h f o e eʼ s th em w it h th is is su em . th to e m ea n t m e fe el in g. al l sh ar e th e sa in e. e w n w do ep , bu t de M n em oz yo n e h er e on m ea n s to ev er

“ Comfort, Security, Peace, Contentment. ” - Amanda Swee, Ye a r 3 SDE Industrial Design

“ Home is a landscape �illed with people and places that I have memories of. ” - O o i Yo n g A n n , Ye a r 4 FA S S S o u t h e a s t A s i a n


Profile for HISSOC Publications

Mnemozine: Issue Ten  

A publication of National University of Singapore's History Society

Mnemozine: Issue Ten  

A publication of National University of Singapore's History Society

Profile for mnemozine