12 December 2013
At a networking event held at the British Council in Singapore this week, SOAS, University of London shone the spotlight on its profound and significant links with Southeast Asia.
Recent developments have underscored the importance of SOAS work in Southeast Asia, building on its expertise in the languages, civilisations and societies of the region. In October the School received an extraordinary £20 million donation to support the study and preservation of Southeast Asian art. The autumn also saw the launch of the new SOAS China Institute* and the third Indonesia Kontemporer was staged at SOAS’ campus in London’s central district of learning and heritage.
At the networking event, attended by Professor Michel Hockx, Chair of SOAS China Institute, Dr Carol Tan, Chair of the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies and Reader in Law, and Zeba Salman, Deputy Head of Development and Alumni Relations, two Southeast Asian graduates of SOAS told an enthusiastic audience of fellow alumni about the impact of their studies at the specialist institution.
Dr Farish Noor of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, who graduated from SOAS with an MA South East Asian Studies, gave a talk titled 'From SOAS to the Field: Living Out Historical Narratives Today.' The gathering also heard from Benjamin Ng who graduated from SOAS’ School of Law in July 2013 with an LL.B (hons) and has recently obtained a training contract from Freshfields, a ‘magic circle’ law firm in the City of London.
In his speech, Dr Farish A. Noor said: "Of course my own memory of SOAS has to be a particular, subjective one; as would be the memories of others. And this reminds us of the fact that there is no singular history of SOAS, and that there are, in fact, many 'SOASes', so to speak. For the SOAS of today is quite different from the SOAS I knew in the early 1990s, and is different from the SOAS of the 50s, 20s, or even earlier.
"SOAS is an institution of higher learning that is unique in the gallery of institutions of higher learning in the United Kingdom, and its history is inevitably intertwined with that of empire, colonialism, anti-colonialism, postcolonialism and the postmodern present. Living as we do in this postmodern age marked by our incredulity towards meta-narratives, perhaps we ought to accept that SOAS is likewise a contested signifier that has many meanings to many people; and as an institution of some historical weight and standing, perhaps the time has come for a complex accounting of itself as well."
Other notable SOAS alumni from the region are renowned broadcaster Desi Anwar, George Wei, Judicial Commissioner of the High Court of Singapore, Wong Hong Suen, a curator at the National Museum and author of several books on South East Asian Art and Lim Thuan Kuan, Singapore High Commissioner to India.