Living with Myths: Exploring Singapore’s Pasts and Futures (Project Synopsis)

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The Living with Myths project commenced in July 2014 as a public seminar series seeking to unpack the powerful myths that shape Singaporean values and identity. Over the course of a year, the project brought together 28 academics and independent researchers to investigate the nature and implications of these widely held myths. In the ten talks comprising the series, the speakers discussed various aspects of state-led myth making over the last fifty years, namely, the official discourses and policies on historical narratives, race and multiculturalism, poverty, immigration, citizenship and history education, technology, and literature and the arts. In considering the relevance of studying the past to the future, the speakers also explored more nuanced and inclusive ways of cultivating Singapore’s national values and identity beyond those upheld by the state-sanctioned Singapore Story narrative.

The talks were organised by a collective comprising three historians (Loh Kah Seng, Thum Pingtjin and Jack Chia), Select Books and volunteers. The project pursued various lines of collaboration beyond the academe. It was a core project of Project 50/100, undertaking a common endeavour to uncover and discuss new narratives and perspectives of Singapore. The project also collaborated with independent venues, many of which involved the arts community, namely, TheatreWorks, Artistry, the Centre of Contemporary Art, and Muse House. These venues will receive an honorarium for the free use of the venue for the talks, which is funded by a grant of $3,000 from Project 50/100. All the talks were well attended (often by over a hundred participants) and usually filled to capacity. Civil society activists, in addition to fellow academics, moderated the talks. The Living with Myths project was nominated for the 2015 Singapore Advocacy Awards.

As a series of public seminars, the aims of the project were two-fold: while speakers – most of whom are junior scholars – brought the results of their research to a wider audience, they would also embrace a meaningful social role as public intellectuals and thinkers outside of the academy. The series witnessed fruitful and oftentimes robust debates between the speakers and members of the audience. These served, hopefully, as important moments of self-reflexivity for both sides of what turned out to be a dialogic, though fraught, conversation on researching Singapore’s history and navigating the future.

Following the end of Living with Myths X in August 2015, the project has turned to editing the talks into a book on Singapore’s myths, to be published by Select Books in early 2016.

The Living with Myths Collective
Loh Kah Seng, Sogang University
Thum Pingtjin, Oxford University
Jack Chia, Cornell University
Select Books

August 2015

Project Website: http://livingwithmyths.wix.com/livingwithmyths

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