The two day Malaysia-Singapore Forum kicked off on Monday the 7th of December and ended on Tuesday, December 8th. The programme for the SG-MY Forum, including abstracts, is available here. 2015 marks the 15th time the MY-SG Forum has been held; the biennial event alternates between NUS and University Malaya (UM) in Kuala Lumpur.
This year’s theme was “Politics of Heritage”, which has become a popular research area in Southeast Asian Studies, particularly as it pertains to Singapore and Malaysia. The Forum began with a session on “Reviewing Histories and Identities”. Associate Professor Sharmani Patricia Gabriel of UM’s English Department presented on “Identity, History, and Postcoloniality in Malaysia: Nation and the Artifice of Heritage”. This was followed by “The Connected Histories of Johor and Singapore” a talk by Adjunct Assoc Professor Kwa Chong Guan from the NUS Department of History. The final paper presentation, “The Role of the National Museum in Representing Malaysian Identity” was delivered by Yasaman Alsadat Hosseini, a Masters Candidate at UM’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
The second session focused on “Heritage and the Community”, and began with “Heritage Making and Value to the City: Challenges for Community and City”, a research presentation by Associate Professor Ho Kong Chong, NUS Department of Sociology. Next was “Orang Asli and Protected Areas: Are Jahai Partners or Muted Heritage in the Royal Belum State Park?” by Kamal Solhaimi Fadzil, Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at UM. Dr Susan Philip of the UM English Department ended the session with her talk titled “Mapping Heritage in the Streets: Helping to Reconnect Youth with Disappearing Heritages”.
Session III, “Re-reading Heritage in Texts and Literature” started with Dr Azhar Ibrahim (Visiting Fellow, NUS Department of Malay Studies) speaking on “Texting and Booking Heritage: The Euphoria in Heritage Making and Its Limit”. The second speaker, Dr Sivachandralingam Sundara Raja, Associate Professor at the UM History Department, presented a paper titled “Losing Historical Heritage to Politically Incubated Heritage: The Case of the Malaysian Indians”, and the final speaker, Dr Kelvin Lawrence, Postdoctoral Fellow at the NUS Department of History, gave a talk on “Reclaiming the Probable Amid Perpetuating Tenuity: Historicising Two Discursive Legacies in the Writings of Munsyi Abdulla”.
The next session, “Negotiating Modernization and Heritage”, featured a presentation on “A Tradition of Modernity: Reading the Past of Malaysian Science and Technology Through the Case of Rubber Research” by Leow Wei Yi, a PhD Candidate in Comparative Asian Studies at NUS, and another on “Demolition as an Act of Remembering: Old National Library Building” by Bernard Sim Yang Jun, who is a Masters Candidate at the NUS Department of Political Science.
Day two of the Forum commenced with the “Art and Artistry” panel, which included Associate Professor T.C. Chang’s (NUS Department of Geography) paper, “Illegal Art on Legal Walls: Graffiti in Singapore”, “Aging with Kumar’s Political Semiotics” by Jyh Wee Sew, a Lecturer at the NUS Centre for Language Studies, and PhD Candidate Janet Rata Noel’s (UM Gender Studies Programme) presentation, “Pua Kumbu and the Politics of Heritage”.
“Heritage in Situ”, the panel that followed, began with a paper, “The Past, Present and the Future: Chinese Cemeteries in Malaysia”, by Professor Danny Wong Tze Ken of the UM Department of History and Dr Ong Siew Kian of the UM Department of Chinese Studies. Next up was NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies Professor John N. Miksic’s talk on “Preservation of Colonial vs Precolonial Heritage on the Hills of Singapore and Melaka”. Lastly, Dr Lili Yulyadi Arnakim (UM Department of Southeast Asian Studies) spoke on “Conservation of Tangible Heritage: Some Lessons Learnt from Singapore and Malaysia’s Agreement on Tanjong Pagar Rail Station”.
The Forum’s concluding session, “Politicizing Cultural Representation”, started with PhD Candidate Ritu Jain’s (NUS South Asian Studies Programme) talk “Singapore’s (m)other Tongue Policy: the Case of the Indians in Singapore”. The second presenter, Pauline Luk (Department of Communications and New Media), also a PhD Candidate, spoke about “Cultural Heritage Politics of Chinese Medicine in Singapore”. The final presentation was “Understanding the Perceptions of the Host Country’s Food Culture among Myanmarese Domestic Workers in Singapore” by Kakit Cheong (Masters Candidate, NUS Department of Communications and New Media) and Eugene Gao, an independent researcher.