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Title: Hidden culture : excavating Singapore's past through the bookworm short stories, 1985–1995
Authors: Lim, Rebekah Jia Yi
Keywords: Humanities::Literature
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Lim, R. J. Y. (2021). Hidden culture : excavating Singapore's past through the bookworm short stories, 1985–1995. Master's thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: The Bookworm Short Stories are a series of children’s books produced between 1988 and 1995. This period lies sandwiched between the 1983/4 recession (which sparked the postindustrial shift in Singapore’s economic landscape and policy), and the years leading up to and following the new millennium. The Bookworm Short Stories, as literary texts, and as material objects produced and consumed in Singapore provide a unique view of this time; of expressions and distinct ideas which elude official histories and accounts of the past, yet which might be drawn together to articulate new historical perspectives. Specifically, this thesis identifies a burgeoning shared culture which, moreso than the decades prior, underwent a process of formation and diversification specific to the local environment and identity during this period. And, as the product of a distinct period before the codification of “Singaporeaness,” this culture is foundational to the years that would follow – as lingering layers which undergird the shared structures and ideologies which continue to change alongside Singapore. This thesis’ findings specifically emerge through analysis of the Bookworm Short Stories as children’s literature, drawing on theories and concepts from children’s literature scholarship. The child and childhood (as defined, conceived, expressed, and situated in Singapore) within the Bookworm Short Stories illuminates wider patterns, and draws together sites of interaction which might be otherwise seen as disparate. Revealed through the text and paratext is a Singaporean culture which emerged both from concerted, state-led nation-building efforts, and through cultural, private processes of experiencing and negotiating Singapore during a time of accelerated social, political, and economic change. This thesis finds embedded across the series expectations, ideals, and anxieties that reflect those processes, and which might be located and interrogated as interconnecting and interacting strands within a Singaporean culture - such as between legislation, morality, and consumption. This thesis posits that the shared culture it identifies was the subject of dynamic diversification, while nevertheless shaping itself around core preoccupations which impacted how that culture chose to construct and articulate its priorities, consensus, and actions. Those core preoccupations were, firstly, the creation and focus on an ideal (defined specifically against an unideal), and, secondly, a preoccupation with potential futures. This thesis further contends that even as this distinct Singaporean culture expanded to incorporate new meanings and complex dynamics, it also, ironically, contracted and began to restrict itself. In deconstructing and making complex how these preoccupations might condition both past and present, this thesis argues for a view of the past that eschews static, homogenous versions of Singapore’s trajectory, suggesting that reframing the past is vital to negotiating Singapore’s present
DOI: 10.32657/10356/151101
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:SoH Theses

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