Disrupting “Asian Religious Studies”: Knowledge (Re)production and the Co-construction of Religion in Singapore

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In this article, I begin with the position that knowledge production and reproduction is partial and situated. Through an examination of academic research on and teaching of religion in Singapore, I demonstrate how scholarly interventions at once re-present and conceal religion as experienced and lived. I posit that the partiality of such interventions is due to the influential official narrative about religion in Singapore, so that what is studied and taught reflects certain dimensions of religious life and religious-secular relations that dominate official discourse. In particular, through academic writing (and to a lesser extent, teaching), religion in Singapore is constructed as a particular mosaic of social, cultural, and political life, socially relevant, culturally rich, spatially manifested, transnationally linked, politically delicate, and historically steeped. Drawing from this reflection on Singapore, I emphasize the need to recognize the geography, sociology, and politics of knowledge (re)production, and to decenter the notion that there is an emerging “Asian religious studies.”

Disrupting “Asian Religious Studies”: Knowledge (Re)production and the Co-construction of Religion in Singapore

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2

Lee 2008. In his 2001 National Day Rally Goh Chok Tong then Prime Minister of Singapore urged the nation to take full opportunity of the fact that within a seven-hour flight radius Singapore had access to a “hinterland” with 2.8 billion people who were able to contribute to Singapore’s economic growth (Goh 2001). The term “little red dot” is credited to Former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie; it had reportedly been used to refer to Singapore disparagingly in 1998.

4

See Lim 1995Tong 2004 Aljunied 2006 and Kaur 2008. See also Topley 2011 especially the introduction and chapters 1–4 6 and 8.

5

National University of Singapore 2012.

6

Since the general election of 2011there has been a discernible dissatisfaction among the population over the old narrative and there is clearly a search for a new one among the leaders and the people (cf. Chang and Heng 2011 and Latif 2013).

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