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Raffles Renounced: Towards a Merdeka History

Why did independent Singapore celebrate two hundred years of its founding as a British colony in 2019? What does Merdeka mean for Singaporeans? And what are the possibilities of doing decolonial history in Singapore? Raffles Renounced: Towards a Merdeka History presents essays by historians, literary scholars and artists which grapple with these questions. The volume also reproduces some of the source material used in the play Merdeka / 獨立 / சுதந்திரம் (Wild Rice, 2019). Taken together, the book shows how the contradictions of independent nationhood haunt Singaporeans' collective and personal stories about Merdeka. It points to the need for a Merdeka history: an open and fearless culture of historical reckoning that not only untangles us from colonial narratives, but proposes emancipatory possibilities.

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Raffles Renounced: Towards a Merdeka History

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Reviews

"Inspired by the Singapore Bicentennial, Raffles Renounced is an essential read for anyone interested in the intentions behind the construction of the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, stories that have now assumed the status of fact. It explores the political currents that have shaped such stories, and the manifold ironies and gaps inherent in their telling. The book raises questions I never thought to ask about Singapore, and provides frameworks that give coherence to previously inchoate dissonance: 1819 is commemorated, not 1959; the contemporary winners and losers of the deep legacy of colonialism; We ourselves as Colonials." —Tan Pin Pin, Director of documentaries To Singapore, With Love and Invisible City

“An important collection of essays and documents that topples the familiar monuments of the Singapore Story from their colonial pedestals, permitting a proliferation of new or recovered stories that reach far beyond the ‘founding’ of 1819 or the anguish of 1965. The essays in Raffles Renounced, and the artistic and critical practices they enact or describe, open up possibilities of new Singaporean stories that confront the trauma of the colonial past and its legacies, and yet which foster introspection, healing, and new connections in the present.” —Philip Holden, Scholar of Singapore and Southeast Asian Literature


“Raffles Renounced makes a rich and provocative intervention to debates on how to remember, re-read, and rethink the colonial and the decolonial, bringing multiple voices and perspectives to bear from history and historiography, literature, the performing arts, communities, and archives. By placing historical material alongside art, scholarship, and performance, it strikes up a lively conversation of enormous and enduring value for Southeast Asian and Singapore studies, and beyond them, the study of colonialism, post-colonialism, and contemporary state-making.” —Iza Hussin, University of Cambridge

EDITORS

Alfian Sa’at, Faris Joraimi, Sai Siew Min

CONTRIBUTORS

Alfian Sa’at, Neo Hai Bin, Hong Lysa, Huang Jianli, Sai Siew Min, Faris Joraimi, Azhar Ibrahim, Nicholas Lua, Jimmy Ong, Joanne Leow