a1 Department of History, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, 11 Arts Link, AS1 05-27 Singapore 117570 Email: email@example.com
Around 1930, at a time of rising nationalisms in China and India, English-educated Chinese and Indians in the British colony of Singapore debated with great intensity the issue of national identity. They sought to clarify their own position as members of ethnic communities of immigrant origin, while remaining individuals who identified the territory of British Malaya as their home. Readers' letters published in the Malaya Tribune, an English-medium newspaper founded to serve the interests of Anglophone Asians, questioned prevailing assumptions of how to define a nation from the perspectives of territory, political loyalty, race, and language. Lived circumstances in Malaya proved that being Chinese or Indian could encompass a range of political, cultural, and linguistic characteristics, rather than a homogenous identity as promoted by nationalist movements of the time. Through these debates, Chinese and Indians in Malaya found ways to simultaneously reaffirm their ethnic pride as well as their sense of being ‘Malayan’.
(Online publication February 13 2012)