PAPER SESSION 4 - THURSDAY 26/8, 5–7pm (UTC +8)
P4.2 – Space and Place
Hamish Sewell (Australia) Location-Based Oral Histories: The New Transgressive Storied Spaces
For thousands of years there has been a long, complex and deeply interconnected relationship between places and stories/voices. If stories afford places a deeper meaning and connection, the act of standing on any given site and listening can provide us a more intimate and embodied experience by far. If this place-based listening is most often associated with the oral traditions of indigenous peoples or modern folklore, digital media is now unlocking a suite of new approaches to the embodied storied experience. Building on nine years work in the field of geo locative audio, and his work with indigenous and non-indigenous communities in regional Australia, sound producer and oral historian, Hamish Sewell, explores a number storied sites now publicly available via the cultural tourism app, Soundtrails: From the Myall Creek Massacre site—arguably Australia's most famous frontier war, massacre memorial; to the family voices in the Goonoowigall 'Aboriginal Fringe Camp’ to the intimate reflections of the first park ranger in the up-and-coming Bald Rock national park. Determined in part by the nature of one’s oral histories, the connection with the community that underwrites this collection, the affordances of the app platform and the skills of the audio producer, location based oral histories are now quite literally coming alive in our ever-increasingly mobile-augmented world and drawing us into a 'slower' and embodied approach to the art of listening.
Hamish Sewell is an international award winning radio producer, an oral historian and the founder of the geo-locative audio app, Soundtrails. He lives in Queensland Australia and is a PhD candidate studying locative audio.
Keywords: audio; augmented reality; embodied; location; stories
Kiang-Koh Lai Lin (Singapore) Documenting a River’s History through Oral History
The exhibition and publication on “Our Home by the Kallang River, Singapore: Past, Present and Future” were produced by the Kolam Ayer Citizens’ Consultative Committee in conjunction the Singapore Bicentennial in 2019. The National Heritage Board, the People’s Association, the National Library Board and the National Archives of Singapore jointly supported this project. The exhibition and publication was launched at 8 June 2019 at the National Library Building.
This paper describes how the project team using oral history methodology to select the interviewees, weaving their stories and memories into the eight chapters of the book and 24 exhibition panels. The team conducted oral history interviews with more than 50 elderly residents who reside at the Kallang River areas as well as historians and researchers, to create content of the exhibition and publication.
These eight chapters were Riveting River: The Story of the Singapore’s Longest River; Remembering the Beginning; Raffles: A turning Point in Singapore’s History; Reclamation: Paving the Way for Singapore’s Future; Republic: River of Independence; Repair & Recreation: Breathing New Life into the River; Residents: Hope Dreams and Memories; Rejuvenation: Making Waves for Years to Come.
The content of the oral history interviews brings us on a journey to discover how the river has helped shape Singapore over the centuries until today. This project exposed Singaporeans to not only the history of Kallang River, more importantly the way of life back then in the 1940s to 1970s and the rich cultural heritage activities of the Kallang River and Singapore history. It also offered a glimpse into the future. How the continued rejuvenation of the river will further beautify and enliven its surroundings, bringing more facilities, activities and waterfront homes to the community.
It helped to engage residents via sharing of the rich cultural history of Kallang River. In a bigger picture, to reflect on the value of openness, multiculturalism and self-determination that have evolved with us throughout the history of Singapore.
Kiang-Koh Lai Lin is a Consultant at the Oral History Centre, NAS. She has interviewed more than 160 people for more than 600 hours. She specialises in themes such as grassroots, community histories, Chinese clan associations, economic development, education, literary scene and visual arts. She has conducted talks and workshops on oral history methodology for students and volunteers and has participated in the Georgetown World Heritage Incorporated’s “Cherita Lebuh Chulia” and “Cherita Georgetown” oral history projects.
Keywords: Kallang River; oral history methodology; Residents: Hope, Dreams, and Memories; Riveting River: Repair & Recreation: Breathing New Life; Singapore bicentennial
Lai Chee Kien (Singapore) Concentric Entanglements: Merdeka Architecture and Cold-War Malaysia
I conducted a series of 17 oral interviews with architects, engineers and artists who contributed to the landscape of Kuala Lumpur at the time of Malaya's Independence in 1957. These interviews conducted between 2001 and 2007 discussed ten projects that endowed the capital city with key structures for a functioning nation, and created affect for citizenship in Malaysia.
The projects were constructed at a time when Malaya (and then Malaysia) was entangled not only with the project of nation building, but also regional and global events resulting from concentric range of politics.The era after World War II was not an easy time to be an architect or engineer, or more specifically, to be involved in government projects. The period of 1948 to 1962 was known as the Emergency in Malaya, but it was really a battle between the Communists and nationalists for sovereignty and political legitimacy. Following that, Indonesia declared a period for Konfrontasi against Malaysia from 1962 to 1966. The construction projects were directly or indirectly affected by these regional and global events. I argue in this paper that oral history of these architectural works should be attendant to concentric regional and international contexts and issues.
Lai Chee Kien is an architectural and urban historian, and a registered architect in Singapore. He graduated with a PhD in History of Architecture & Urban Design from the University of California, Berkeley (2005). His publications include Building Merdeka: Independence Architecture in Kuala Lumpur (2007), and The Merdeka Interviews (2018).
Keywords: architecture of Independence, the Emergency, and Cold War; engineering prowess; Kuala Lumpur; material scarcity; Merdeka
Madhulagna Halder (India/Canada) “Jail as Our University”: Remembering and Reimagining the Prison as a Site of ‘Affective Learning’
The paper is situated between the years of 1967-1977 in West Bengal and re- imagines the prison as a site of learning. In arguing for the “jail as University”, it uses the memories of everyday life of Naxal prisoners (political prisoners), who through new modalities of exchange (such as cooking, singing and addas) with Non Naxal prisoners that subsequently altered the space of the prison from that of a site of repression to a site of learning and affect. It uses oral interviews and autobiographical writings to corroborate and contrast the oral with written memory. The interviewees in their recall repeatedly mentioned the phrase, Jail amader biswavidyalay (Jail as our University), which then provides for a re-imagination of the prison. They also choose to gloss over their experiences of violence with an overbearing “narrative of love”, which is helps us understand the silences and distortion of individual memory.
The paper at firstly will illustrate the social and political contexts in which such an imagination proliferated, that is the CPI(ML) movement and its politics of rejecting higher education, which was later in a way supplemented in prison, through “affective learning”. Simultaneously, it will also narrate the ‘prison experience’, as recalled by the interviewees that, proved to be transformative, and introduced them to ‘new ideas and realities’, that their early life or even their political activism had failed to provide. The picture of the prison as a punitive space is challenged by these narratives of human endurance and also humanizing experiences. The prison was for some prisoners a new social space of learning that transcended the more repressive segregation to achieve new solidarities. In a sense, this provides a space for a re-conceptualisation of the prison set up, through the focus on the subjectivities of prisoners.
Madhulagna Halder is currently a PhD candidate in History and Classical Studies at McGill University, Canada. With an M.Phil. and M.A (Modern History) from JNU, she is interested in the history of gender and memory studies. She is a recipient of the Professor Papiya Ghosh Memorial Prize for her contribution at the Indian History Congress in 2018.
Keywords: CPI(ML) politics; love; Naxal prisoners; revolution; university