Festival of Ideas in the Humanities and Social Sciences: “Singapura before Raffles: early modern Asia in the Global Renaissance”

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The Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences cluster at SUTD is excited to invite you to a roundtable on the global Renaissance jointly organized by SUTD, NUS, and the Ministry of Education’s inaugural Festival of Ideas in the Humanities and Social Sciences, a month-long celebration of innovative ideas in the arts.

Is it true that Singapore was a small fishing village before Sir Stamford Raffles set foot in Southeast Asia? Or is there more to discover about Singapore’s story in the early global age? This panel will discuss how early modern Singapore and Asia played important roles in shaping global ideas about maritime trade, global commerce, international law, political governance, and literary and artistic flourishing. Drawing on new and exciting interdisciplinary research from teachers and scholars across Singapore’s universities and the wider Asia region, this interactive event will allow audience members to uncover some of the untold stories about Singapore and Asia’s historical and cultural importance for the global exchange of ideas and goods—stories that begin more than 500 years ago and continue to unfold in our present time.

Our speakers will be Rhema Hokama (SUTD), Walter Lim (NUS), Andrew Hui (Yale-NUS), Emily Soon (SMU), Joshua Ehrlich (University of Macau), Melissa Tu (SUTD), Hannah Smith-Drelich (NUS College), and Roweena Yip (NUS College). Join us for a lively conversation as we aim to shed new light on important stories about Asia’s diverse, inclusive, and vibrant past as we look ahead to the next chapter in our shared Singapore story.

Tea, coffee, and refreshment will be served.

In person registration: https://forms.office.com/r/rXgDSXzRY9
Zoom registration: https://tinyurl.com/yc6pyhey

Festival of Ideas in the Humanities and Social Sciences: “Singapura before Raffles: early modern Asia in the Global Renaissance”


Rhema Mei Lan Hokama (Assistant Professor of English Literature, HASS, SUTD)

Rhema Hokama received her PhD in English literature from Harvard University and is Assistant Professor of English literature at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), where she teaches classes on Shakespeare, Milton, lyric poetry, and global literature. She is the author of Devotional Experience and Erotic Knowledge in the Literary Culture of the English Reformation (Oxford, 2023), and recently completed a second book project about how the Reformation gave rise to new frameworks for thinking about national, political, and religious inclusion in the global Renaissance. Rhema is passionate about making Shakespeare and Renaissance literature accessible and rewarding for SUTD’s engineering students who hail from Singapore, Southeast Asia, the wider Asia-Pacific region, and the Indian Ocean world. Rhema is always excited to learn alongside her students, and to help them discover the perennial value of literature for our daily experience and in our ordinary lives.

Walter S. H. Lim (Associate Professor of English Literature, NUS)

Walter S. H. Lim is Associate Professor of English Literature in the Department of English, Linguistics and Theatre Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He teaches classes on the English Renaissance, William Shakespeare, and the relationship between religion and politics in Elizabethan, Stuart, and Revolutionary England. He is the author of Shakespeare and the Theater of Religious Conviction in Early Modern England (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023), Narratives of Diaspora: Representations of Asia in Chinese American Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), John Milton, Radical Politics, and Biblical Republicanism (University of Delaware Press, 2006), and The Arts of Empire: The Poetics of Colonialism from Ralegh to Milton (University of Delaware Press, 1998). Lim also coedited The English Renaissance, Orientalism, and the Idea of Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). He is currently working on two book projects: one on the Anglophone Chinese diaspora, and another on John Milton and the English Reformation.

Joshua Ehrlich (Assistant Professor of History, University of Macau)

Joshua Ehrlich is an award-winning historian of knowledge and political thought with a focus on the East India Company and the British Empire in South and Southeast Asia. Currently Assistant Professor of History at the University of Macau, he received his PhD and MA from Harvard University and his BA from the University of Chicago. Ehrlich’s first book, The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge (Cambridge, 2023) reveals how the Company used its commitment to knowledge to justify its commercial and political power. It advances a new approach – the history of ideas of knowledge – to recover a world of debate among Indian and European thinkers on the political uses of knowledge. Ehrlich’s many articles – on topics including the boundaries and boundedness of port cities, the making and unmaking of libraries through plunder, the crisis of liberal reform in India, and the origins of Indian print culture – have appeared in journals including Past & Present, The Historical Journal, Modern Asian Studies, and Modern Intellectual History.

Andrew Hui (Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Yale-NUS College)

Andrew Hui received a PhD in comparative literature from Princeton University and writes on the history of ideas in the early modern world. He is the author of The Poetics of Ruins in Renaissance Literature, A Theory of the Aphorism from Confucius to Twitter (translated into five languages), and the forthcoming The Study: The Inner Life of Libraries. He is currently a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Emily Soon (Lecturer of English Literature, College of Integrative Studies, SMU)

Emily Soon is a Lecturer of English literature at the Singapore Management University (SMU). Her research focuses on cross-cultural literary exchange between Asia and Europe in the premodern and modern eras, with a particular emphasis on Southeast Asia. Her doctoral dissertation, which she completed at King’s College London, explored how the East Indies (South and Southeast Asia) inspired early modern English writers, and she is currently developing this thesis into a monograph on Southeast Asia and early modern religious exchange. Prior to joining SMU, she served as a Research Fellow at the National Museum of Singapore, where she studied Shakespeare’s role in colonial Singapore. Her work has been published in England’s Asian Renaissance, Modern Philology, and Shakespeare Survey.

Hannah Smith-Drelich (Lecturer in Humanities, NUS College)

Hannah Smith-Drelich is a lecturer in Humanities at NUS College, and holds a PhD in English literature from Stanford University. Her research explores the intersection of food and literature in early modern England. Before completing her PhD from Stanford University, she received her BA from Williams College, an MA in Food Studies from New York University, and an MA in English from McGill University. Her current project Altered Appetites: Food and Metaphor in Early Modern England situates appetite as a metaphoric nexus of early modern experience, drawing from fields that include the history of science and medicine, food history, manuscript and early print recipe traditions, and records of trade, agriculture, and food production. Her work has appeared in Early Modern Foodways: A Critical Anthology, The Ben Jonson Journal, Shakespeare Newsletter, and The Oxford Companion to Sweets.

Melissa Shao-Hsuan Tu (Lecturer in English Literature, HASS, SUTD)

Melissa Tu is a Lecturer of English literature in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). She earned a BA in comparative literature from Princeton University in 2015, graduating summa cum laude (with highest honours) and winning the Joseph R. Strayer Prize in medieval studies. She obtained an MPhil in medieval and Renaissance literature from Cambridge University in 2016, and a PhD in English language and literature from Yale University in 2023. At Yale, her research and writing was awarded the Noah Webster Prize, and she worked as a Digital Humanities consultant in the Yale DH Lab. She has published work in Digital Philology and Brill’s Female-Voice Song and Women’s Musical Agency in the Middle Ages. Her research and teaching interests include medieval English literature, media theory, lyric studies, manuscript studies, sound and voice studies, and music and musical performance. She also plays the piano and violin.

Roweena Yip (Lecturer in the Humanities, NUS College)

Roweena Yip is a Lecturer in the Humanities at NUS College, the undergraduate honours college of the National University of Singapore (NUS). She teaches courses in the humanities, specialising in theatre and performance. She completed her PhD in theatre studies at NUS and is currently adapting her thesis into a monograph. Her research focuses on the performativity of gender in stagings of Shakespeare’s plays by Asian theatre practitioners, particularly the ways in which gender is a central modality through which these practitioners engage in intercultural negotiations with Shakespeare and his legacy. Her other interests include the politics of adaptation and trauma theory. Her work has been published in The Routledge Companion to Theatre Fiction (2023) and Asian Theatre Journal (2022). She is Assistant Director at the Asian Shakespeare Intercultural Archive, a multilingual digital repository of performances and data on performances of Shakespeare in East and Southeast Asia.

For more information on our event, please visit: https://www.ideasfestival.edu.sg/events/week-5/singapura-before-raffles/

For more information about the Ideas Festival and to look at the full lineup of events, please visit: https://www.ideasfestival.edu.sg

For enquiries, please email SUTD’s Festival representative Rhema Hokama at rhema_hokama@sutd.edu.sg.

Thank you!