#SG50ReadingChallange: The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts by Lysa Hong and Jianli Huang

ori5dp8obikyflwt10it(OK, I’m a week or so late. Sorry!)

On January 1, 2015, I challenged myself to read twelve history books this Jubilee year to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, and blog about them.

January’s read was The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts by Lysa Hong and Jianli Huang. The essays in this volume, many previously-published, are historiographic works of “how” what might be called the “official” history of Singapore has been written. The authors of this volume deconstruct the “PAP-approved” history and discourse, museums, and Singapore’s portrayal of itself in the tourist market to “lay bare the messages that the PAP government is attempting to convey to its population and the world.”

This was an excellent book with which to kick off this challenge. It is not a history narrative, but a study of the constructed nature of history—here, the history endorsed by the state. I particularly enjoyed the following sections (given my personal and political interests): “Liturgy: Telling Singapore’s Past Through Oral History,” “Language Fault Lines: The Wang Gungwu Report on Nanyang University,” “Student Political Activism: Articulation, Contestation and Omission” and “Conscripting Diasporic Culture into National Identity: Taming of the Tiger Balm Gardens.”

Again, it is an academic text (as are many of the books on my list), and requires a certain fortitude to read. Still, I highly recommend it. Dr. Hong has a Facebook fan club and her blog is a must-read as well, methinks.