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Contested Nationalisms in Singapore’s Decolonization | A Public Forum

Everyone is invited to a hybrid public forum, “Contested Nationalisms in Singapore’s Decolonization” on 17 April 2024, 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (PH Standard Time), at the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies (CIDS), Lower Ground Floor, Ang Bahay ng Alumni, Magsaysay Ave., University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. The forum will also be available via Zoom. The event is free and open to the public, but slots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.



How do we explain the deep seated conflicts that drove Singapore’s decolonization process? The official history of Singapore presents the conflict as between a “moderate” group of men led by Lee Kuan Yew, against “sinister” “communists,” led by Lim Chin Siong. This narrative, however, is a Cold War-era justification of the repression of Lee’s People’s Action Party. It continues to justify Singapore’s authoritarianism today, where attempts to tell more accurate histories have been violently suppressed.

In this lecture, Dr. Thum discusses how his book, Nationalism and Decolonisation in Singapore: The Malayan Generation, 1953 – 1963, provides a different framework for understanding Singapore’s decolonization: as a conflict over the content and shape of the identity of Malayan nationalism, stemming from four deep seated schisms in Singapore society: race, class, language, and the meaning of self-determination. These schisms drove the events of decolonization, the creation of Malaysia, and Singapore’s separation, and continue to actively shape Singapore today.  Finally, he discusses the lessons we can learn from these events and how they may be applied in the Philippines and globally. Learn more about Dr. Thum’s book.

Presenter and Reactor

The presenter, Thum Ping Tjin (“PJ”) is Founder and Managing Director of New Naratif, a movement to democratize democracy in Southeast Asia. A Rhodes Scholar, Commonwealth Scholar, Olympic athlete, and the only Singaporean to swim the English Channel, he has produced work that centers on the history of Malayan nationalism and decolonization. He obtained his DPhil from the University of Oxford in History in 2011, and where he held various positions from 2014 to 2022. Due to sustained harassment from the Singapore government, he lives in political exile in Manila, Philippines.

The reactor, Dr. Ramon Guillermo, is the Director of the Center for International Studies (CIS) of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), where he teaches subjects on Southeast Asia and Europe. He is the author of several books, which include Translation and Revolution: A Study of Jose Rizal’s Guillermo Tell (Ateneo De Manila University Press, 2009), Pook at Paninidigan: Kritika ng Pantayong Pananaw (UP Press, 2013), and the novel Ang Makina ni Mang Turing (UP Press, 2013) [Source: Asian Center and Forsea].

The Organizers

For queries, please email UP CIDS AltDev: [email protected].

The forum is organized by the UPD Center for International Studies and the UP CIDS Program on Alternative Development (AltDev). AltDev is one of the Research Programs of the Center for Integrative and Development Studies, the policy research unit of the University of the Philippines. AltDev aims to look at paradigms, policies, practices, and projects that are largely marginalized and excluded from the mainstream. Visit AltDev’s page and download their publications for free. Visit the UP CIDS database and download over 900+ policy papers for free.

Venue Map

The entrance to UP CIDS is on the left side of the Ang Bahay ng Alumni. It is located near and below Veterans Bank. View vicinity map (Google Maps). UP jeepneys, including Ikot, pass in front of Bahay ng Alumni. Limited parking slots are available in the venue.