Imagining Malaya, practising multiculturalism: the Malayan consciousness of Singapore Chinese intellectuals in the 1950s
QUAH Sy Ren (Translated by TEO Eng Hao)
ABSTRACT Singapore in the 1950s had undergone a series of transitions, from 150 years of British colonial rule, followed by Japanese Occupation in the Second World War, to the anti-colonial independence movement, and presented a multifaceted, complex and active state in all social, political and cultural aspects. The Chinese intellectual circle as a community mainly comprised teachers, students, alumni et cetera, of the Chinese middle schools established after the War, and intellectuals from the cultural sphere and press industry. This community played an important role in the anti-colonial resistance and movements throughout the 1950s. In the historical context of the struggle for autonomy and independence, the Chinese intellectuals in Singapore—originally as part of Malaya—were promoters and activists in the construction of the imagination of a Malayan nation, as part of the wave of post-colonial struggles and movements taking place in colonies around the world after the War. As such, how the Chinese intellectuals of that period embraced multiculturalism as a mean of practice, to participate in the imagination of a Malayan nation, is a topic worth revisiting.
Keywords: Malayan Conciousness, Multiculturalism, Singapore Chinese Intellectuals
Quah Sy Ren [柯思仁] is Associate Professor at the Division of Chinese, Nanyang Technological University. His publications include Scenes: A Hundred Years of Singapore Chinese Language Theatre 1913-2013, Gao Xingjian and Transcultural Chinese Theater, and Keywords: Critical Terms for Chinese Literary Study (co-written).
Teo Eng Hao [張英豪] is MA candidate at the Division of Chinese, Nanyang Technological University. His research interests primarily lie in modern and contemporary literature, theatre and cultural studies, especially in the knowledge productions of Singapore and Malaysia. His MA topic is “Singapore Chinese Modern Poetry and the Idea of the Modern (1959-1982).” He is also the co-editor of Drama Box’s e-magazine Draft, and a freelance wordsmith, who writes, translates, and copyedits.