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ICCS WPS 28 Beyond a racialized imagination of colonial quarantine: Recollecting the Many Pasts of St. John’s Island of Singapore


Author/Speaker|Desmond Hok-Man Sham

Publication Date|2020-07


Abstract

Abstract
St. John's Island off Singapore was historically used as a quarantine station. Unlike other (in)famous former quarantine stations, such as Ellis Island, San Francisco’s Angel Island, and Sydney’s North Head Quarantine Station, St. John's Island quarantine station was not preserved as museums, sites of commemoration, or destination of (dark) tourism. Even though there are remaining structures of the quarantine, the difficult memory is generally untouched in the official narrative in Singapore, unlike how they appropriate difficult memory of war for nation-building. Nevertheless, the difficult memory is found in some oral history and popular history, often racialized as 'Chinese' suffering.

In this paper, I am going to reposition St. John’s Island into the wider context of quarantine. I argue that the case of Singapore shows a different trajectory in colonial quarantine, in contrast to that of the settler colonies such as Australia and the United States. Without denying the contribution of quarantine in disease control, via archival materials, old newspapers, and other available materials, the chapter re-collects the many pasts of St. John’s Island The other uses together with and after the island functions as a quarantine station nevertheless gives one a better understanding of the operation logic behind the island. The ‘unsettling and awkward’ part of St. John’s Island that is difficult to reconcile may be actually on the many pasts, which the racialized imagination of pain quite often misses.

 

Author's Bio / 作者簡介:
Desmond Hok-Man Sham is a postdoctoral fellow at the International Center for Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University. His research interests are in postcolonial studies, Inter-Asia cultural studies, cultural heritage, and cultural memory.


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