Reporting In! 1 April 2021 – 31 March 2022

New Naratif is the trading name of and is published by Observatory Southeast Asia Limited, whose objectives are:

  • Build a broader understanding and more diverse, complex view of the Southeast Asian region that helps contribute to solutions for important issues facing the people of the Southeast Asian region.
  • Innovate on research, news, and culture publication in the Southeast Asian region, in content, form, and channel, and offer an outlet for talented Southeast Asian researchers, journalists, and artists.
  • Promote the universal values of democracy, freedom of the media, and freedom of inquiry, information, and expression.

The financial report for FY2021/22 (1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022) can be found below or downloaded here (PDF). New Naratif made significant loses in this period, and memberships fell as the impact of the pandemic was felt. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia will undoubtedly also have significant effects on the global situation.

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Engendering Media: Series 4, Publication 3 – Insights from Indonesia and the Philippines

Given the increasingly hostile climate for media workers in Southeast Asia, New Naratif’s Media Freedom Insights publications set out to better understand their lived experiences. This report focuses on the experiences of twelve newsmakers of marginalised genders and sexualities from Indonesia and the Philippines, aiming not just to understand how the state, violence, and capital are emerging areas of concern, but also to list out key lessons learned from the experiences, ranging from representation to community-building.

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If You Talk Like a Coloniser and Eat Like a Coloniser…

In the past few decades, Singapore has seen increasing numbers of upscale restaurants and cafes housed in European-style, colonial-era buildings leased out by the state to business owners. These edifices are preserved and protected under law as heritage sites, and managed closely by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) or the Preservation of Sites and Monuments (PSM), the governing body housed within the National Heritage Board (NHB). The SLA leases such buildings for both residential and commercial purposes, wooing business owners to refurbish and repurpose them in what they refer to as “adaptive reuse”[1]. While black-and-white mansions make up the bulk of these buildings, other colonial buildings, including former chapels, have also proven popular.

Clearly, these buildings continue to be repositories of cultural cachet, featuring in articles in the New York Times[2], Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest and Singapore’s own Expat Living. Singapore’s national narrative also continues to present colonialism as an ultimately positive historical occurrence. Look no further than this year’s Bicentennial events, which mark 200 years since the arrival of Stamford Raffles, to see how cultural institutions depict the British as business-minded benefactors who launched Singapore on a trajectory that brought it to where it is today: a hyper-modern, developed gem of a nation; the jewel of Southeast Asia.

In this context, while upscale colonial-themed restaurants may seem an innocuous part of Singapore’s culture, they can also be thought of as cultural institutions in their own right, often unwittingly reproducing British colonial ideas about racial superiority. This article traces how some of these restaurants reinforce a popular narrative that equates colonialism with luxury—aligning Anglophile culture with upper class elites, and naturalising the displacement of indigenous Malay people, reflecting contemporary racial inequalities.

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