Singapore between Cosmopolis and Nation

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Singapore is often seen from a postcolonial perspective as one of the anomalies left behind by the British empire; a port-city trying to become a state. This paper takes an opposite perspective, grounded in the long history of "central Southeast Asia", the corridor between Bangkok and Jakarta. The Peninsula, and the hinterland of the two vital Straits of Melaka and Sunda, has for millennia been a place of exchanges, transshipments and portages. It is an area "made for merchandise", with poor agricultural soils but many strategic locations for the necessary points of exchange between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. The mixed population of Chinese, Indians, Southeast Asians and Europeans in such cosmopolitan entrepôts was not an accident of colonial displacement, but a necessity for the regional role in world trade. Seen from this perspective, the anomaly may be the 20th century, with its attempt to impose an alien concept of nation on the cosmopoleis which had taken root there. The 21st century may well see a reversal of this pressure, and a return to the region's natural need for cosmopolis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSingapore from Temasek to the 21st Century: Reinventing the Global City
    Editors Karl Hack, Jean-Louis Margolin, and Karine Delaye
    Place of PublicationSingapore
    PublisherNUS Press - National University of Singapore
    ISBN (Print)9789971695156
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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