HISTORIES SERIES - The Shape of Singapore’s Social and Urban History
Date : 17 Jan 2019
Time : 19:00 - 21:00
Venue : National Library Board
Level 16, The Pod
100 Victoria Street, Singapore 188064
Download Poster

This lecture series is organized by the National Library Board Singapore, in collaboration with the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Department of History and Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore.

Join three experts of Singapore’s urban social history to explore how the field has transformed over the last 30 years. In this panel discussion, James Warren, Loh Kah Seng and Lee Kah-Wee will offer critical insight into the evolution of social history in Singapore, as well as raise questions over its future development.

Starting with James F. Warren, author of two critically acclaimed social histories of the city: Rickshaw Coolie: A People's History of Singapore, 1880-1940 (1986) Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870-1940 (1992), Warren considers the two books’ reception in Singapore, then and now. Described as a ‘powerful corrective to the romantic image of colonial Singapore’, Warren’s research has been considered as a pivotal juncture in an emerging post-colonial social history of the city. His talk will focus on the sources for uncovering Singapore’s social history and women’s history, including oral history and prosopography. He will also think about how Singaporeans have read and re-presented his own works. 

Our second speaker is Loh Kah Seng, a social historian. His 2013 book, Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and The Making of Modern Singapore, drew on his personal experience of living in the one-room HDB flats built after the greatest and most important fire in Singapore history to explore how the disaster was a seminal event in the modern history of the country. Loh’s talk will consider the shape of social history in Singapore.

Finally, we will hear from Lee Kah-Wee who works on the intersections between urban transformation, nationalism and criminalisation in Singapore. His latest book, Las Vegas in Singapore, is a spatial history of the control of vice, showing how the control of popular illegalities like gambling is simultaneously a project in the control of space. 

Panel Speakers

James Francis Warren | Emeritus Professor of Southeast Asian Modern History at Murdoch University, Australia
Loh Kah Seng | Director at Chronicles Research & Education Pte. Ltd. 
Lee Kah-Wee | Associate Director of the Master of Urban Planning programme at the National University of Singapore.

Brenda S.A. Yeoh | Raffles Professor of Social Sciences, and Research Leader of the Asian Migration Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.


Free admission. Please register your interest to attend at this link: https://www.nlb.gov.sg/golibrary2/e/histories-series-the-shape-of-singapores-social-and-urban-history-70375954


This series highlights research on historical and related matters in Singapore and Southeast Asia, creating an appreciation of the role of humanities and social sciences research in contemporary society.

Contact Person(s)
Valerie YEO