Pluralities in the Margin: Community, Religion and Agriculture along Singapore’s Abandoned Railway Lines


Speaker: Prof. Lai Chee-Kien, Singapore University of Technology and Design

Date: 23rd Oct 2015 (Thursday)

Time: 3:30pm – 5:30pm

Venue: 406B, Wong Foo Yuan Building, Chung Chi College, CUHK




Singapore’s main railway line to Malaysia was created in service of colonial commerce, transporting commodities to Singapore’s Keppel Harbour. When Singapore joined Malaysia, a branch line to Jurong industrial town was created. The land became abandoned by the state in the 1980s and, still under Malaysian jurisdiction but uncharted on official maps, the various sections along it were claimed surreptitiously by various groups for small-scale agriculture, and also Hindu and Taoist ritual activities. The land’s multi-ethnic users, nominally “Malay,” “Chinese,” and “Indian,” acknowledge the presence of other groups and co-exist cordially. The strange replication of Singapore’s and Malaysia’s official racial categories on the site is incidental, but I argue that the evidence of “alternative” everyday multiculturalism may be traced to the estranged pasts of both Malaysia and Singapore, and particularly as hauntings of their social, economic and political histories in this talk.