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History for Everyone?

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 10:36 authored by Nicole TaruleviczNicole Tarulevicz
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Singapore 's ruling People's Action Party (PAP) was overtly hostile to history, fearing its potential to divide the multiracial society along communal lines. In the 1980s this hostility gave way to ambivalence and by the 1990s, the PAP had been forced to address a growing interest in and nostalgia for, the past. Singaporeans – in letters to the editor, in poems and newspaper columns – started publicly expressing nostalgia. In 2006 the state sponsored website was launched; signally a new engagement with the Internet as a site of popular historical knowledge production. Singaporeans are being directly encouraged to produce historical knowledge in the form of oral histories, blogs and through projects such as ‘F riends and Family: A Singapore Album', in which a national collection of photographs is being assembled.

At the same time, the role of the historian has become more opaque. Many significant contributions to the study of the history of Singapore have come from scholars outside of the discipline. In the field of Geography and Urban Studies the history of Singapore 's built environment, especially the role of preservation and heritage tourist, has been well developed. Likewise, in both Literature and Anthropology considerable ‘historical knowledge' has been produced. Many of the historians writing about Singapore have done so in addition to their own field of research, as opposed to as a primary focus. That is, while scholars of other fields and the citizens' themselves have taken increasingly active roles in the production of historical knowledge about Singapore , Historians of Singapore have been less evident.

For the state, this has been satisfactory. In ‘democratizing' History and de-professionalizing it, there has been a process of de-politicizing as well. If History is something that anyone can produce then critiques of the State by professional Historians become one of many views of History, rather than the privileged account. The state has played an active role in bringing about this situation. In drawing attention to the public production of Historical knowledge, this paper raises issues concerning the study of Singaporean History more broadly.


Publication title

Narrating The Nation: Thirty Years of A History of Singapore, Abstracts


School of Humanities


Asian Studies Centre, Oxford

Place of publication


Event title

Narrating The Nation: Thirty Years of A History of Singapore

Event Venue

St Antony's College, University of Oxford, UK

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology

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