Summer in Singapore

Amy is a rising senior majoring in History with a global focus on the United States and Asia and minoring in Gender & Sexuality Studies. She realized her passion for the history of Southeast Asia this past Fall. She is using this grant to study the history of American film presence in Singapore in the 1920s and 1930s, which will serve as a springboard for her Honors Thesis in History. Her project is being funded by Northwestern University's Office of Undergraduate Research, specifically the Undergraduate Research Grant. She also received funding to complete this project from the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern.

Return

I returned from Asia about a week ago, and have had some time to reflect on my experiences in Singapore. It is a place and a time I will miss, and although I am incredibly grateful and lucky to have received funding allowing me to complete this project, I wish I could have stayed longer. The final few days came up quickly, and, as I think I mentioned in my last post, I would have liked to have had more time there, for research purposes and otherwise. But, alas, all good things must come to an end!

In my final few days, I did get a chance to catch the National Day celebrations, which commemorate Singapore’s independence in 1965. The celebrations are pretty elaborate, and there are street decorations for weeks prior, a televised celebration that occurs the night of August 9 in the National Stadium (I believe tickets to attend the actual celebration are auctioned off lottery style), a huge national day parade with fireworks and air shows, etc. I think what struck me most about National Day, though, was how much it permeated daily life – for example, for the week before and after National Day, malls across the city seemingly played only National Day music… “We are Singapore, Singaporeans,” I was reminded, every time I stopped for lunch. The day before National Day is when most schools have National Day celebrations, and I got to go to the high school my professor used to teach at to get a sense of what National Day is all about. It was pretty awesome to be in a high school environment and feel the excitement and buzz in the air, and also interesting to hear how committed everyone seems to the “national narrative,” per se, upheld on National Day and beyond. It would be too long to go into those reflections now, but if you’re interested, I’m happy and willing to discuss. Here’s a video of the assembly-style celebrations of National Day at the Anglo Chinese School (if you play with audio, you can hear one of the National Day songs):

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My final days in Singapore were spent in the library, finishing up reviewing the Malaya Tribune somewhat frantically, crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s. I got to say goodbye to a new friend, the one who showed me around after reading my blog, as well:

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It would probably be amiss not to mention that I traveled to Beijing to visit my roommate after my research. When in Asia, right? I knew there wouldn’t be another time in my life, or at least for a long time, where I would have a friend to show me around Beijing that spoke Chinese and could navigate anything from the shopping district to the hutongs. I was struck by comparisons and impressions of Singapore…Singaporeans warned me of traveling to Beijing that it would be dirty and crime ridden (which it was not), and Beijingers commented on Singapore’s relative cleanliness and contrived nature (which, to a degree, it is). In Beijing, I saw what I couldn’t in Singapore, as far as “old Beijing” goes. I also saw a little more authenticity than Singapore’s “Chinatown,” which functions more like Disneyland. I loved being in Beijing, and 5 days was the perfect amount of time to finish off my time abroad being just a tourist rather than a researcher. Here’s some highlights:

Camping at the Great Wall to see the sunrise:

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Exploring Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City:

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Checking out a few hutongs:

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While I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Beijing, that vacation similarly had to come to an end and I returned to the U.S. last week. The final week or so of my URG period will be spent reviewing the photographs I took of the Malaya Tribune and noting them in more detail so that analysis will be possible. This will likely be a task that will continue throughout the year as I work on my honors thesis.

Reflecting on my time in Singapore makes me proud that I feel I did the most with the amount of time that I had there. I hit the archives as often as I could and remain sane, met many inspiring, devoted individuals who reminded me to breathe and see Singapore when possible, and proved to myself that I can travel and plan my travels alone and be effective in doing so, a previous area of self-doubt. I also learned that research is something I could see myself doing in the future, but probably not the immediate future, and that I want to go abroad again, possibly to Southeast Asia, after graduation. I am incredibly grateful that I have been given the chance to conduct independent research, and learn not only about my project, but also about what it is like to be a researcher. I’m sure this learning will continue throughout the year, where I can’t wait to continue the act of research, even if in Evanston rather than Singapore.

Week 3 Musings

I have come to realize that it’s quite odd to be living in a place for three and half weeks, both trying to accomplish a task and be tourist. I’m not here long enough to really know where I’m going; since moving to the YMCA, I still have to use my offline map to figure out how to get to dinner or home from the library at night when the street signs are obscured. I’m not here long enough to feel comfortable “skipping” a museum day on a Sunday – I am, after all, only here for 3 and half weeks, and there is still so much to see.

At the same time, I have to accomplish the typical tasks that come with long-term living, like shopping for groceries, doing laundry, and, most importantly, research. There is a very real contrast there – in some ways, I feel guilty in the library all day, realizing that even on this small island there is so much I won’t have seen in a month’s time. In other ways, I feel guilty leaving the library, because the sources I need are not available through ILL, and I’m on a bit of a clock. Anyway, it’s all a little bittersweet, and something I imagine people who have to travel for research experience often. It’s unreal that I only have a few days left here.

In terms of research “findings,” there isn’t exactly much to report. But believe me, that’s a good thing! The Malaya Tribune was taking me forever to go through on microfilm, if you recall. Before, I was using a strategy of note-taking on my computer when a relevant editorial, letter to the editor, or article came up. This slowed me down by 5-10 minutes every time I came across something relevant, which is why it took me about 4 days just to survey through 1932. Fortunately, I realized that was not going to work given how much time I have here. I have shifted to noting citations (title, author, date, etc.) and photographing all relevant articles for later note taking and analysis once I’m back in the states. That way, I can maximize my time here. I’ve gotten through 5 years total, I have about 500 images, there are about 4 years available in the states, and I suspect I can finish another 3-4 years in the few days I have left here. So, although I don’t have much to report, I’m feeling more confident with my research strategy.

There was one research moment this week that stands out. So far, I’ve been essentially reconstructing a scholar’s bibliography who wrote on a very similar topic to mine, scrutinizing and noting the sources she used to have a baseline for my study and also see if I find anything new. While searching the library’s catalogue for a book this scholar had used, I came across another autobiography from a Chinese woman in Singapore who was in her 20s during the 1930s. I flipped through it, mostly out of curiosity, not expecting to find anything particularly relevant. But I came across this passage:

“After dinner we went to a show. It was at the Capitol Cinema and though we went to the early show we were quite late reaching home. I will never forget the film and the title – “Damaged Lives”, as when I was sent home, I was confronted by father who had a stern look on his face. Kim Wah did not wait and left me to face the music. Father asked where we had been and upon being told that we went to a show demanded to know what type of show it was. I told him the title and said it was a documentary film. He asked me what it was about and when I told him it was about some sort of sickness and marriage and that I could not understand most of it because of the medical terms. He seemed to be more pleased than angry at my ignorance.” Lim San Neo, My Life My Memories My Story (Singapore: Epic Management Services Pte Ltd 1997), 38.

As it turns out, Damaged Lives was a 1933 Columbia Picture, Canadian/American Pre-Code film about an extramarital affair that leads to the violent end of a marriage. I won’t go into a full analysis of this quote because I haven’t analyzed or even collected all of my evidence (and I would probably bore you), but to me, this demonstrates that while Singaporean women and children were seen as especially vulnerable to the influences of film, they also often used the films as a means of negotiating their own agency within a system that typically oppressed them. The discussion of lascivious American films in the Boys’ Corner, Girls’ Corner, and Women’s Corner, as I posted about a couple of weeks ago, yielded a self-conscious negotiation of morals within these groups about modernity and patriarchy. Similarly, in feigning ignorance to her father, Lim San Neo (the author above), negotiates the typical media exposure she was allowed to receive by viewing this seemingly unforgettable film, and getting away with it. Anyway, these are just musings. I’m not certain that this is the take away, or that this will figure into my whole argument, but it’s an interesting angle to consider nonetheless.

It must be noted that my thesis advisor at Northwestern and his wife were visiting Singapore this week, and I got to get dinner with them and vent about my research, ask for advice, ask questions about Singapore, etc. How unbelievably lucky is that? It was so reassuring to see a familiar face and get to talk about how things are going. We ate off of banana leaves at a secluded (for Singapore) restaurant called Samy’s – an undergrad career moment I won’t forget.

And, a typical photo-dump. Here’s what I’ve been doing when I haven’t been in the library:

Exploring Disney-esque Chinatown. I went to the “50 cents fest” where you can try any number of Chinese dishes for just 50c each at food stalls.

Exploring Disney-esque Chinatown. I went to the "50 cents fest" where you can try any number of Chinese dishes for just 50c each at food stalls.

IMG_1858Trying dragon fruit for the first time. Yum. I prefer it to durian, the national fruit, the stench you can spot from outside any supermarket.

Trying dragon fruit for the first time. Yum. I prefer it to Durian, the national fruit, the stench you can spot from outside any supermarket.

Went to the Asian Civilizations Museum (the photos captured below), National Museum, National Gallery, Singapore Art Museum, and Peranakan Museum (whew). I think the National Museum and National Gallery were my favorite, but I unfortunately didn’t capture very many photos there.

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Saw the famous Raffles Hotel….from the outside at least.

Saw the famous Raffles Hotel

And explored new neighborhoods gearing up for National Day.

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National Day commemorates Singapore’s independence from Malaysia on August 9, 1965. Tomorrow, I am going to the junior college that my professor once taught at to see their National Day celebrations – think 4th of July, but more…extravagant. Will report back with details. That’s all for now!

Mickey Mouse & Betty Boop

Not to over-post, but I came across something really fun in a moment that I wasn’t even intending to do research!

I visited a couple of different museums today, and one of them is called the Peranakan Museum. Peranakan means “mixed race,” in Malay, and basically refers to the descendants of traders in the ancient world who traveled to Java, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula and married local wives. There are Jawi Peranakans, descending from Indian Muslims, Chitty Melakans, descending from Hindu traders, the Baba community, descending from the Chinese, and more. This museum is mostly focused on the Baba community.

So, basically, there are a lot of beautiful artifacts and beadwork on display from the 19th and 20th centuries showcasing Peranakan culture. One such item was these beaded slippers from the 1930s:

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Yes – a Peranakan woman actually wore these hand-beaded Betty Boop/Mickey Mouse slippers in the 1930s. Not quite the Hollywood stars I’m researching, but it fun to see that LA influence regardless! And Betty Boop was Paramount Pictures. Needless to say my tour group was perplexed by my fixated photography of this item…

On Solitude

This week, I got dinner with a friend of the professor advising my project, and I felt a solidarity in my research experience. She too had spent hours in the NUS library, the National Library and the National Archives conducting research on a BA thesis related to the “social problem,” meaning prostitution, in 1920s Singapore. So, she understood my frustrations working with the materials I’m working with, and trying to account for the experience of a historically “voiceless” population that doesn’t really leave archival materials behind (and if they do, it’s in a language I don’t read).

Out of curiosity, I looked up her thesis in the NUS archives and decided to read it after we’d gone out, trying to see just how she got at those “voices” to construct a cultural history of colonial intervention in a local enterprise. My favorite part about reading the BA theses I’ve read from this library is their acknowledgements; it gives me an idea of the intellectual journey that a thesis is, and makes me ponder whether the research is something I could actually consider as a career. This author described her experience as solitary and pensive, with “just a dash of despair.” She related that if her experience writing a thesis were translated into photographs, a photo of her in the Central Library’s dark and sad (my words) microform-viewing room would be on the cover.

I can really, really relate to that right now. And that’s not to say I’m not still finding the experience informative, and even fun, sometimes, when I come across the “grains of gold among the sand” (okay, maybe not EXACTLY what Tolstoy meant) in the archives. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a solitary experience, and spending as many hours of my trip as I am in the microform-viewing room can be draining. If I’m being honest, I’m also experiencing a lot of worry: worry about how I’ll be able to find direction in this project, where a 40-60 page thesis will coalesce from these primary sources, worry that I’m simply repeating a dissertation that has already been done. That worry culminated when I arrived at the National Library this week to find out that the film magazines I had reserved, “Singapore Cinema Review” and “Malayan Film Weekly” had been “damaged or destroyed.” Yes, the librarian actually used the word “destroyed,” which stung. These would have likely been quite rich sources for my project, and another researcher has used them within the past few years.

I am still finding useful material in the Malaya Tribune, though, especially among boys, girls and young women who wrote into the Tribune for their respective columns. In the early 1930s, there was a “Boys Corner” “Girls Corner” and “Women’s Corner” in the Tribune, where these groups could write letters to the editor about topics important to them, and this ranged quite a bit, from “ghosts,” to the “modern woman,” to “choosing a hobby,” to, yes, “cinema-going.” Today, I came across an argument over the course of a few weeks in 1931 between a number of boys in the “Boys Corner,” about whether “talkies” (sound films, notably originating in Hollywood) were sinful. One argued that “cinema going is just as bad as smoking,” because boys go there to “show off,” whereas K.K. Yam argued that cinema-going is a frivolous means of spending money. Meanwhile, one writer into the “Girl’s Corner,” Wee Alk Hock, thought that through watching talkies “one might obtain the best knowledge concerning the present occurrences of the world.” This editorial feud that spanned a few weeks demonstrates that opinions amongst anglophone Asians about cinema-going certainly weren’t uniform, and weren’t always concerned with modernity or America, as other authors have argued. I hope that as I continue my research, and later establish primary sources in the U.S. to supplement what I have done so far, I can explore further the impression that Hollywood films left on Singaporeans in this period, and what that might have meant for the potential status of America as an “empire of the mind” in Southeast Asia. On a lighter note, here’s my new view from the downtown library:

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Not all of my time has been spent alone – another mutual friend took me to the Singapore Garden Festival where I saw some truly other-worldly garden art….I don’t have any other way of describing it, so hopefully these images will suffice….

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The bottom- right image is of the “flower dome,” I haven’t been inside the “cloud forest” yet. See, I told you its other-worldly.

And today, I moved housing from the NUS campus to the YMCA on Orchard road. Orchard Road is sort of Michigan Avenue on steroids – huge span of malls and very high-end stores. Two Louis Vuitton’s within one block of each other, and that’s not counting the one in Singapore that exists on it’s own island – yes, that’s a thing.

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I’m feeling a little bit like I’ve been seeing the sights of Singapore in reverse order — in the past couple of weeks, I’ve visited a lot of smaller neighborhoods, nature reservoirs and areas on campus, and now I’m venturing into the big-city, where a lot more of the tourist attractions, museums and shopping malls are. I also can’t complain, because as solitary an enterprise as research can be, I’m really enjoying the alone time and the ability to move through the sources and sights at my own pace. Stay tuned for the metropolitan life:

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Week 1 Highlights

Yes, I’ve run out of clever titles. Regardless, I wanted to share some updates from my first week of research in Singapore!

First, research related updates:

I’ve been in the library about 6-8 hours a day Monday-Saturday, mostly because I hadn’t anticipated how long going through the microfilm would take me. I spent about 2 days on the Colonial Office archives to soon find out from a helpful librarian (thank you, thank you, thank you) that they are digitized with an employee log-in. So, he helped me get them onto a thumb drive to be analyzed once I have more time in the U.S.

As a result, I’ve been spending the rest of my time on the Malaya Tribune, which was an English newspaper with primarily anglophone Asian readership from 1914-1951. Now, because of some pesky copyright laws, the newspaper is not digitized at all, and therefore not searchable. And this was in some respects helpful – for example, it allowed me to make an argument for actually coming to Singapore to do this research. However, I guess I didn’t think through how long it would actually take me to go through this paper – it’s a slow-going process! I’ve been trying to hone in on some specific dates and events. For example, I’m looking at the visits of Hollywood stars to Singapore, checking dates of the paper that I know a new colonial order was placed regulating film, etc. I’ve been a little bit frustrated because finding the reviews or general opinions on film that say anything interesting has been taking a very long time. If anything, though, this process has shown me just how much influence American film had in Singapore during the interwar period. Every single day there was a “Cinema Review” section, where it seems like American films were almost always reviewed glowingly, and took precedence over British films or others. Similarly, Fridays featured an entire cinema page, where film correspondents analyzed the ins and outs of “blonde vs. brunette” in MGM studio pictures, or Joan Crawford’s fashion preferences. I find this especially interesting – the intense focus on the cosmetics of Hollywood. I’ve also found some scandalous movie advertisement that sometimes took up the entire front page — these are from 1932, when Hollywood was still in the “Pre-Code” (pre- Production Code), era, so the films were especially lascivious (or “illicit,” if you prefer).

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There have also been a few “slow news days” to keep me entertained…                                                  IMG_9992   IMG_0002

Will the skirts be shorter? Does kittie win?

When not hunched over the microform reader, I’m having some fun too…

A friend from NU showed me around the Marina Bay area:

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Also, a very kind Singaporean saw my blog because it was posted by one of my friends, and he offered to show me around some of his favorite spots in Singapore after expressing frustration that many Americans come to Singapore and only see more touristy spots. He showed me many places of worship in Singapore and showed me some of his favorite spots for Malay, Chinese, and Indian food. This was definitely one of my favorite days since I’ve been here – I felt like I could ask him about the history and contemporary political culture of Singapore and hear the opinions of someone who was born and raised here. If you’re curious, feel free to ask me – I don’t want to publish, but he had some very interesting things to say. It was also very heartwarming to see religious and cultural harmony here, especially as compared to the U.S. where there can be such polarization amongst religious groups. I entered Hindu and Buddhist temples within just a few yards of each other, and was welcomed kindly into a Sikh temple. This is definitely a day I’ll remember.

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Aaaaand last but not least, today I went to MacRitchie Reservoir Park and hiked 15 km through the beautiful forest, took an invigorating (aka terrifying) TreeTop walk, and of course said hi to the macaques (I don’t think I missed my calling as a nature photographer).

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Microfilm & more

Ever hear that new Beck song “Wow”? That’s how I’ve felt the past few days – “wow.” I keep having this thought that the first time I really became interested in Southeast Asia was this Fall, and here I am, less than a year later, able to conduct my own research on a topic related to history and culture in Singapore.

I feel so lucky to be here.

Okay, so a few research related updates:

I started working with microfilm a couple of days ago, and at first thought, “oh, this isn’t as annoying as people make it out to be,” and then, hours later, “oh, yes, it is.” For those who aren’t familiar, archives typically use(d) microfilm because it makes storing, and sometimes transporting, archival documents easier. They’re all on a film reel, so as opposed to storing stacks and stacks of official documents, they can be read and transported in one tiny package. Here’s what the microfilm reader/document looks like:

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So you can see how that handwriting might be difficult to read in a printed document, let alone illuminated on a screen: it is, after all, a British Colonial Office document from 1926.

My aim is to uncover how typical Singaporeans perceived American film in the interwar period, because some scholars have argued that this perception 1) led Singaporean’s to view America as a place of modernity, adopt Western cultural practices, etc. (Foster). Other scholars indicate that 2) British resented and worried about Singaporean perception of American films, because the films represented the white race in unfavorable ways, i.e. with vice. As colonialism virtually hinged on the justification of white racial superiority over Asian civilization and culture, the British thought this to be a problem. This is the sort of stuff I’m uncovering in these documents – for example, “…to the vast mass of black, brown, and yellow people the inner life of the European, and especially that side of it which flourishes in centres of crime and infamy, was unknown until the American films showed them a travesty of it” (CO 273/534/23). Many of these communications are concerned with this exactly: an “unfavorable” representation of European populations which could undermine the validity of colonial rule. There is also a fair amount of concern with the potential communist influence, and how an undermined vision of Europeans may lead to communist uprising (especially with the large Chinese population in Singapore and a burgeoning CCP). Anyway, cool stuff I’m finding here, but it should be said that this is by no means the first time these docs have been viewed – other scholars, like Foster, Stevenson, etc. have interpreted these documents in various lights, I might just be looking at them with a different set of eyes, objectives, etc.

I also found a BA thesis at NUS today concerned with Press and Film Censorship in Colonial Singapore, finished (in typewriter fashion) in 1989. So, that was pretty cool – someone before me also undertook a BA thesis on a very similar topic, white-outs, scribbles, ad-ins and all.

Ok, last bit of research update, and then other fun stuff – I met with two professors on the NUS campus today (to remain unnamed, not sure if they want to be traced on the internet in some undergrad’s blog) who were exceedingly helpful. I’m always so grateful and delightedly surprised by how much professors are so willing (and even excited) to mentor students, which makes me want to join an academic community in some capacity in the future.

For fun stuff, here’s a quick photo dump…

Kent Ridge Park, part of the Southern Ridges with some pretty neat walks:

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Explored Little India this evening with a good friend from NU who was so so so kind to take me to her favorite South Indian restaurant.

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Anyways, thanks for enduring this long post – so much in only two days that I didn’t want to miss a beat. The next few days entail more tours from locals – neighborhoods, food stops, religious sites, shopping and all. Plus, a lot more reading on that Microform reader — more to come!

 

Foggy Glasses, Foggy Brain

Disclaimer: I’ve slept about 6 of the last 48 hours. My brain feels fuzzy, every task I’ve completed so far related to research (including this post) is taking about twice as long as it should. As a traveler (and a person), I tend to “deal with it when I get there.” For example, someone advising me on the difficulties of a long travel day or plane ride does not phase me – well, I’ll just deal with it when I get to the airport. How bad can a 23 hour travel day really be, right? I’ll just tough it out.

Well, it was tough. I arrived on July 18 at 1am Singapore time, and the travel day(s) have done me in. Trying to overcome jet lag in one fell swoop, I also decided to try to stay awake for the entire 23 hour travel day, and succeeded, if that’s really a word one would use to describe such a feat. I have a new appreciation for Northwestern students from Singapore and other far away places. I had a layover in the Hong Kong airport, which itself was pretty beautiful and makes me want to visit there someday – it’s surrounded by mountains on one end and ocean on the other.

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The heat and humidity have also been intense to say the least, another reality I decided to “deal with” here. I’m glad I was warned that the heat here can “hit you like a wall” as you walk out of air conditioned buildings, because that truly is the case. My glasses fog up every time I walk outside so I’ve been walking around campus in true nerd fashion.

Nonetheless, I have had an *awesome* first day here. I made my way over to the National University of Singapore in the morning, where I will be conducting the first half of my research project. First, I’ll be working with British Colonial Office Archives at the Central Library at NUS, and then I will also be working with materials from the Singapore/Malaysia Collection at NUS. I stopped by the library and requested my microfilm (yes – microfilm! That discarded technology that history professors curse) for tomorrow. I get to work with microfilm for the first time! I’ll be reading official British censorship documents of American film with titles like “Film Censorship in Singapore: Protests by First National Pictures.” Here’s the view from the library – I don’t think I’ll get sick of it.

IMG_9793I’m staying in a student dorm at Kent Ridge Hall, and I feel like a princess as compared to the Willard living I vaguely remember from my freshman year at Northwestern. My own bathroom, air conditioning, even! I was initially a little bit worried about staying here because it’s a little far from the UTown hub of campus, but I walked there in 15/20 minutes today. The receptionist at Kent Ridge clearly thought I was mistaken for requesting walking directions – the shuttles are so easy here, and it’s so hot to walk. Anyone who knows me, though, knows that I have an irrational dislike of shuttles (buses, fine, trains, fine, just not shuttles). And I think Central Library is even closer to me than the Utown housing, so that’s a plus!

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On tomorrow’s agenda: seek, strive, excel, wake up early to go on a long walk and check out Kent Ridge Park, a couple miles away with a heritage trail and apparently a lot of WWII history in the nearby Bukit Chandu museum, strain my eyes with microfilm 9-5, uncover the secrets of British censorship of American cinema in the interwar period, leading to my eventual discovery of Singaporean perceptions. Stay tuned!

Pre-Departure

Hi all! Amy here, and I’m so excited to share my experience in Singapore with whoever is able (read as: willing) to read.

As a quick introduction to myself and my project: I began with an interest in Southeast Asia this fall after having taking Southeast Asia in the Twentieth Century: A Playground for Empires? with Professor Wen-Qing Ngoei. Since then, I’ve done what I can to become more knowledgeable about Southeast Asian history and culture. Just two quarters after taking that class, I was awarded and Undergraduate Research Grant to pursue my own research on Southeast Asian history. On this grant, I will explore the history of American film presence in 1920s/1930s Singapore and will continue this research as a senior thesis project for the Honors Thesis in History. Luckily, the two professors helping to advise my research, Professor Cherry and Professor Ngoei, both have roots and connections in Singapore, and have done their best to keep me well connected for my visit.

I haven’t taken off for Singapore quite yet, but I have spent the past few weeks doing research for my trip. A vast amount of my time has been spent in the Saint Charles Public Library, flipping through books with elusive titles like Projections of Power, Imperial Leather and Culture, Empire and the Question of Being Modern, and conducting primary source research online. As my trip approaches (I leave on July 16th!) my anxiety mounts.

I haven’t ever been to Asia, let alone Southeast Asia. I didn’t study abroad; the only time I have traveled alone abroad was for a few days in Europe this winter. When I try to explain my project to friends and family members, their brows furrow and the interrogation (confusion) ensues:

“Singapore was a British colony?”

“Are you going with a group?”

“What language to they speak?”

and “Why American film?”

Well, this blog is here to answer those questions, and hopefully share a bit of my own excitements and anxieties with those of you kind enough to read. Check here for updates on a lone researcher tracking down former movie theaters, perusing Colonial Office archives and transitioning from the sweltering Singaporean heat & humidity to the frigid air of the archives.