The Hungry City: Singapore’s Food History in Global Perspective

27 May 2021 , 9.45am - 4.00pm

Online Zoom Webinar

Singapore has been one of Southeast Asia’s most important nodes for trade in food and raw goods since the 19th century, yet it has received little attention in the global historiography of food.

This public workshop seeks to uncover the political-economic and social-cultural dimensions of Singapore’s food history, investigate the extent to which Singapore’s edible past can generate new understandings of the island’s position in Asia and beyond, as well as provide insights into the modernisation of Singapore. The two-day session will bring together a diverse group of Singapore-based faculty, intellectuals, cultural workers, and history students to reflect on food’s multi-layered, omnipresent nature in old Singapore. The speakers will draw on a broad span of approaches to deepen understanding of traditional food. This includes examining the culinary, social, oral, environmental, political, and economic history, as well as the history of science, technology, and medicine behind food.

Day one’s presentations will explore the island’s history from the perspectives of memory, food work, and cultural identity. They include fresh research on Singapore’s hawker culture in time and space, considerations of other essential spaces such as coffeeshops (Kopitiam), histories of labour in home kitchens and restaurants, and voyages into the changing worlds of laksa, stingrays, salt consumption, and Singapore noodles.

Day two’s speakers will examine other novel ways of viewing Singapore’s food history, turning towards local food production sites, seascapes, and food as medicine. The presenters will explore the multi-dimensional histories of local horticulture, colonial-era slaughterhouses, and sustenance from the sea as well as the know-how which enabled plant and animal extracts to take on important meanings as once-popular remedies for local ailments.

View the full programme for 27 and 28 May 2021 here


Register for Day 1 here


Register for Day 2 here


The Hungry City is organised by Yale-NUS College and held in conjunction with the Singapore Heritage Festival 2021. Click here to learn more about the festival.