09 June 2007

Singapore Historiography Workshop

There I was, attending a workshop on Singapore historiography at St. Antony's College, Oxford, in honour of Mary Turnbull whose book A History of Singapore has apparently been the first of its kind thirty years ago.

It quickly turned out that I was pretty much the only BA student among a bunch of PhDs or other researchers who kept asking me who I was working with and what I was looking into, the meaning of which took a while to register (namely, who the supervisor of my PhD dissertation was and what that was about).

Most people were from Oxbridge and some even had a PG from SOAS and came from as far as the NUS (National University of Singapore).
Still, I got some interesting insights into Singapore which is what I had come for considering that Singapore somehow got left out in my SEA GP class. As a response to that two people told me they could not imagine a history of Malaysia without a history of Singapore (true, it was the base of the British colonialists when they first arrived in the region).

At lunch, I got some really good (actually quite simple) advice concerning the Philippines from one of the presenters who came from the University of Amsterdam while he was chewing merrily on sth that we in Austria call K├╝mmelbraten, except that there was no cumin on it and he had poured soy sauce over it (my amusement at this was the icebreaker). I am mentioning the food because I was astonished to find how it resembles Austrian cuisine (I picked the filled pepper). They must have had Austria weeks at the college cantine. Anyway, it seems that in Amsterdam, I have just passed two years of big Philippines conferences which will probably come to an end because the professor behind it is retiring.

After the workshop, I still had some time to kill before my coach journey, so I took a walk through the city centre. Maybe it is just me but a city full of Oxford students (and little else) on a Saturday night is slightly disconcerting, especially as they mostly look the same: white (Oxford has been criticised for years for its diversity rates). Also, and understandably, a lot of them walk with the excess of self-confidence that being an Oxford student enhances (I have heard some insider horror stories from a transferred student at SOAS).

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