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Reimagining Southeast Asian History 2023 : Reimagining Southeast Asian History: Pre and Post-Colonial Narratives Beneath the Founding of Modern Singapore


When Aug 26, 2023 - Aug 27, 2023
Where Singapore
Submission Deadline Aug 10, 2023
Notification Due Aug 10, 2023
Final Version Due Aug 20, 2023
Categories    southeast asian history   post-colonial narratives   singapore   memory

Call For Papers

Reimagining Southeast Asian History: Pre and Post-Colonial Narratives Beneath the
Founding of Modern Singapore

The great post-colonial theorist Franz Fanon suggested that colonialism is a “total
project”—it leaves no part of the human person and their reality untouched. What does this mean for the historical narratives that we tell?

While Singapore has been a thriving and independent city-state for 50 years, the history
of its birth—perpetuated through textbooks and regaled in monuments—is still taught as
beginning in 1819 with the founding of a decrepit backwater by Sir Stamford Raffles. More recent archeological and historical work has challenged this narrative, showing that Singapore-Malacca was a thriving city port dating back to the 13-14th century. However, the myth that modern Singapore owes its success to British colonialism still persists through these popular histories.

How do vestiges of colonialism continue to influence the way that Singaporean history is
taught and institutionalized? Why are narratives of pre-modern Singapore left out in present-day Singapore’s collective memory? Why has the post-colonial Singaporean state internalized narratives forged during its colonial past? How has colonial mythmaking shaped widely-held narratives on the memory of the Southeast Asian past?

As part of the Davis Peace Project, we are pleased to announce a two-day conference in
Singapore that will critically examine these questions. Our conference aims to explore the mechanisms and deeper implications behind the entrenched myth that Europe brought
civilization to Southeast Asia while recentering Singapore’s “forgotten” pre-modern history.

The concept of “self-orientalization,” elucidated by post-Saidian scholars, will serve as one lens through which we explore the intricate dynamics of colonial-era myths and intellectual historiographies. By acknowledging that these narratives are no longer externally projected but have become internalized and self-imposed, we seek to unravel the complex reality that perpetuates them within Southeast Asian societies.

We thus invite researchers, historians, scholars, and graduate and undergraduate students to address these questions broadly, whether that involves a historical investigation of pre-colonial Southeast Asia or ethnographic studies on modern Singaporean society. The following is a list of
potential themes but is certainly not limited to:

· Reinterpreting Modern Southeast Asian History
· Colonial Mythmaking and its Impacts
· Methodological Innovations in Historical Research pertaining to Southeast Asian History
· Critical examinations of Singaporean historiography and memory
· Intellectual histories of Southeast Asian national identity and/or their relationship to vestiges of colonial thought
· Decolonization of Knowledge
· Novel historical or archaeological findings in pre-colonial Southeast Asian History

We welcome submissions from scholars across disciplines, including history, archaeology,
cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, and other related fields. Submissions should include an abstract (200-300 words) summarising the paper’s content, 5-10 potential sources, and a brief author biography (100 words). Please submit your proposals via email to by August 10.

Keynote speakers for the conference include:

● National University of Singapore Professor John Miksic, renowned for his
groundbreaking research on Singapore-Malacca’s pre-colonial history;
● Christopher Hale, author of the recently published A Brief History of Singapore and
Malaysia: Multiculturalism and Prosperity: The Shared History of Two Southeast Asian
● Historian, travel writer, and journalist Tim Hannigan, author of the prize-winning book
Raffles and the British Invasion of Java;
● Syed Farid Alatas, known for his work on decolonizing knowledge and a professor of
Sociology at the National University of Singapore.

The Conference will take place in Singapore on August 26th and 27th.

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