Why History?: Reflections on a Boring Major

So why history? Why still history? I realized I once told the story of how I stumbled, rather grudgingly, and awkwardly, into becoming a history major, some four+ years ago, but I’ve never told you about why I continued being a history major since. Because unlike some of my friends in other majors, who stagger to the […]

Read more "Why History?: Reflections on a Boring Major"

Suara Hutan I: “Mary”

“In many ways the great apes are very like us, yet we simultaneously hold the conviction that they are not like us..It may be true that they do not speak in the sense in which humans understand language, but they communicate, listen, and comprehend, and they teach…” – Robert J. Cribb, Wild Man from Borneo […]

Read more "Suara Hutan I: “Mary”"

Uses of Environmental History: Sandra Swart

This is the final post in the uses of environmental history series. The series has been adapted from contributions to a roundtable forum published in the first issue of the new Journal for Ecological History, edited by Renmin University’s Center for Ecological History.

“Feral Historians?”

By Sandra Swart

The greatest strength we have as historians—our secret superpower—is the ability to take an apparently immutable existing status quo and show that “it was not always so.” We can look at the present and expose the seemingly “natural order” for just how “unnatural” (how anthropogenically constructed) it really is. For example, gender historians have exploded the static, apparently unchanging, and ostensibly biological dualism between men and women—thereby opening up new ways of understanding the social order. After all, a key value of learning about the past is to defamiliarize the present. To simply know that “it was not always so” is amazingly potent. It…

View original post 1,179 more words

Read more "Uses of Environmental History: Sandra Swart"

The Hopelessness of a Humanities Education

The road less traveled is a lie. If you are reading this, you are either a humanities student yourself, or you came here to gloat and to confirm what you’ve always suspected about those students who have too much time on their hands, doing their “readings”. Or maybe not, since binaries are always so deceptive. […]

Read more "The Hopelessness of a Humanities Education"

Nature Condensed III: Confidence & Complications

At the polar bear enclosure in the Singapore Zoo, 26 December 1990 was supposed to have been a routine day.  Sheba, the first resident polar bear of the Singapore Zoo, had last been seen swimming nonchalantly in the enclosure’s pool the day before. Aside from the stereotypical behaviour characteristic of polar bears confined in small […]

Read more "Nature Condensed III: Confidence & Complications"

What is a Singaporean?

Do Singaporeans have belly-buttons? Not so long ago, there used to be a theorist of the nation, and his name was Ernest Gellner. He is said to have famously and provocatively asked the same question about nations: do nations have belly-buttons? By which he meant: do nations have a single, traceable origin? Are nations born? Where […]

Read more "What is a Singaporean?"

Nature Condensed II: Ah Meng & the Primates

It was getting dark at MacRitchie Reservoir. A large crowd had gathered, because Singaporeans usually enjoy a spectacle. At sunset on 31 March, 1982, a 102kg orangutan fell from a 25-metre tree, and fractured her left arm. The fall ended a three-day long episode at the reservoir involving the sudden escape of Ah Meng, Singapore’s […]

Read more "Nature Condensed II: Ah Meng & the Primates"