Some of my favorite publishing companies and bookstores often curate their bookshelves according to events or themes. Verso books and Haymarket books did a great curation and sale of books during the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the unjust treatment of the protestors as a form of urgent reading for those of us who are not familiar with the crisis. I loved this idea, a simple list of books that would help you understand a situation better and often from the less dominant narrative. Inspired by this, I have decided to create a list of books that I feel should be required reading for every Singaporean. They are not listed in any order. However, they all generally goes against the grain of the standard, dominant narrative.
Singapore is a mythic nation. It is mythic in the sense that what Singaporeans take to be ‘reality’ and ‘common sense’ are in fact shaped by a group of myths. The popular idea that good, robust government policies are the main reason for Singapore’s success – and thus should remain mandatory – is an example of a such a myth. This myth astutely combines fact (Singapore is successful) and claim (the success is due mostly to government policies) to make a strong case for the country’s future orientation (the policies should continue).
Singapore intends to commemorate (and by extension celebrate) the bicentennial anniversary of colonial rule. As of 2019, it would have been 200 years since the British landed on our shores and strongarmed the local rulers to sign an unjust treaty. The prime minister has stated that it is not a time to celebrate, but a time to reflect on our history. It is no question that colonialism has brought nothing but harm around the world and there are present-day efforts to decolonize our actions, policies, and even thoughts. But how do you reflect when the state constantly places prestige, extravagance and credibility to even just the name “Raffles”?
Ratu Safiatuddin Tajul Alam, Ratu Nurul Alam Naqiatuddin Syah, Ratu Inayat Zaqiatuddin Syah, Ratu Kamalat Syah.
These were the names of the Aceh’s four queens who ruled for almost 60 years.