‘British Imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia’: Diaspora, Decolonization, and the Cold War University: Revisiting Singapore’s Nanyang University (1950s-60s)

NTU History_Postgraduate_Workshop_Series
17 Jan 2023 05.00 PM - 06.30 PM SHHK Meeting Room (SHHK-03-65) & Zoom Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public

This is a hybrid seminar.

Register here: https://tinyurl.com/ntuhist1701


This paper re-opens debates on Singapore’s Nanyang University—taking it one case study of how networks of Chinese scholars and students were reshaped after the 1949 revolution. Drawing on archival resources from American foundations, the British Inter-University Council, and local Chinese-language publications, I situate the formation of Nanyang University in the Cold War 1950s, within a broader context of multiple “Cold War University” projects aimed at educating the overseas Chinese in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In doing so, I ask how the question of “Chinese students” was posed differently across various migrant geographies in Cold War Asia, and how these differences shaped the subsequent trajectories of various institutions of higher-learning. Beyond the extensive corpus of writings of Nanyang’s student alumni themselves, I propose that more attention needs to be paid to professors, university administrators, and the institutions which sponsored them—largely invisible “capillaries of power” which structured knowledge networks. In doing so, I reflect on the aims and aspirations for higher-education—past and present—and their imbrications with nationalism, decolonization, and cultural representation at the mid-century moment of political change. 


Speaker: Joshua Tan (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Joshua Tan is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, working under the supervision of Dr. Shelly Chan. His dissertation focuses on diasporic Chinese student networks across Cold War Asia and Asian America (1950s-60s), and the state and nonstate (religious, philanthropic) actors which sponsored them. He is currently living in Singapore on a fellowship with the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, and in the process of researching and writing his dissertation.