October 17, 2004

Imagining Singapore

Edited by Ban Kah Choon, Tong Chee Kiong, and Anne Pakir. This book is a collection of essays relating to Singapore, by a group of writers from various disciplines (what's more subtle is that the collection of writers are also multi-racial, thus another relection of Singapore).

The topics range from histrography, resource and recreation planning, bilingualism and population management, religion and politics, and gender. This 2004 second edition (first edition was in 1992) features two new essays "Imagining Freedom" and "Imagining the Singapore Exonomy in the Next Lap", in addition to revisions and updates to the original essays.
Featured essays
  1. Narrating Imagination - Ban Kah Choon
  2. Singapore: The City-State in History - Yong Mun Cheong
  3. The National past and the writing of the history of Singapore - Albert Lau
  4. Singapore's quest for a National Identity: The triumphs and trials of government policies - Hussin Mutalib
  5. Imagining Freedom - Simon SC Tay
  6. A small state's quest for security: Operationalising deterence in Singapore's strategic thinking - Bilveer Singh
  7. Mapping the concept of the Singapore leadership - Chua Fook Kee
  8. Imagining the Singapore economy in the Next Lap - Linda Low
  9. The ecomonics of a population policy - Lim Boon Tiong
  10. Singapore's Environmental ideology - Victor R. Savage
  11. Demand for recreation and leisure - Euston Quah
  12. English-knowing bilingualism in Singapore - Anne Pakir
  13. Towards a centre of study of world Chinese literatures - Wong Yoon Wah
  14. The rationalisation of religion in Singapore - Tong Chee Kiong
  15. Religious truth and the meaning of life - Chong Kim Chong
  16. Women and knowledge/ power: Notes on the Singaporean Dilemma - Nirmala PuruShotam
  17. Conclusion - Edwin Thumboo
Some articles can be quite academic (like the one on Singapore leaders), but on the whole I found them readable and insightful.

For instance, Singapore's policy on Bilingualism in the education policy (it's a weird but pleasant feeling reading this now, and going "So that's why I had to study those subjects in school"), the Singapore population policy, insights into the planning of recreational facilities (something I wasn't aware until I read the article), and the issue of a National Identity.

I thought it was interesting to have the article on "Religious Truth and the meaning of life" in this collection. Contrary to my expectation, it's not about politics or the workings of the government (as I thought it would, since the collection of essays are somewhat quite academic in nature). But it's really about philosophy, and increasingly as the Singapore society gets more sophisticated, more and more people would start articulating thoughts of such a nature. Now I bet our forefathers thought about the meaning of life too, but just not presented in this way.

This book would appeal to those who want a deeper insight into the workings of Singapore; what makes Singapore and Singaporeans tick.

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