Category Archives: academic papers



Singapore is a harmonious multicultural nation, with advanced First World status. The main racial groups accept their cultural and religious diversities in peaceful co-existence. Social cohesion is achieved through shared values and negotiations. National identity is enforced by accepting English as a neutral administrative and commercial language; Malay as National, and together with Chinese and Tamil as four official languages. The medium of instruction is in Standard English, but pupils are allowed to learn their own mother tongue. It is secular and based on meritocracy, in word and deed, without discrimination of race and religion. In 1965, in the struggle for economic survival, the nation opens the door, with minimal restrictions, to capital flow and talent from all over the world. It advocates a technocratic nationalism above all, with elements of cosmopolitanism. However, due to demographic ratio, multiculturalism in Singapore is a social and geopolitical reality. It is not described a melting pot society, but as a salad bowl, in the sense of mixing together harmoniously without integration. The differences are negotiated in what to add or take away from the common bowl, and each fully aware of the other’s sensitivities. With that introduction we shall examine how the celebration of National Day and the singing of the anthem in Singapore Gaga fit into the image/scene of multiculturalism as stated.
Singapore Gaga is a documentary film (lasting fifty five minutes) of random vignettes, with the themes of sights and sounds/music, around the city state. In its meandering journey of shifting from one scene or performer to another, the viewer has to make the connections to reconstruct in the text in order to obtain an overall understanding and meaning of the film. In GaGa, we are shown the performances of avant-garde pianist, Margaret Tan, and shows of popular street vendor and other marginal art performers, Chinese dialects and Singlish proponents, Madrasah celebratory sports day with colourful tudong lad girls, and the noises of Serangoon in Little India of metropolitan Singapore. The marginal groups and the elderly feel they are neglected or abandoned, and are yearning to belong to this mixed pot, in the fast modernity of the nation. All these selected vignettes impact on the viewers the concept of what constitutes multicultural nationalism in Singapore. The fireworks at the start of the show, and Singapore Airline return flight from overseas to “home”, a global city, where citizens found their common identity.
Home to many Singaporeans meant born and bred locally, and 85% own and lived in HDB, but at least 20% were “foreigners”, and willingly stayed in relocated or recommended residences conducive for multicultural association. However, it is the grand spectacle of National Day parade and the singing of National Anthem by all races and ages at the stadium that take the citizens to an imagined multicultural community which declared as an independent nation. The nation as a historical and cultural construct has to be concretized for identification and shared belonging. The long queue for tickets (and miscellanies) for the spectacular show is a mark of law-fearing “patriotiism”, besides providing entertainment for the festive occasions. It is euphoric for all to observe, above the open sky of the stadium, military helicopters carrying the national flag, with the symbolism of red, white, crescent and stars. The sight of the military is to show the seriousness of the nation in protecting its multicultural society. The national anthem, “Onward Singapore”, blasts and calls for “fellow Singaporeans” to unite as one, despite theirdifferences. Large crowd of participants wear the same national colour of red and white, and the atmosphere of the festive is exuberant. A triumphant Khoo Swee Chow climbs an inflatable mountain to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Thunderous applause vibrates across the stadium, unaware of the artificiality and farce of the propaganda show .Despite being a small nation, the many “Tops” and superlatives are national symbolism of achievement and excellences. The visual images and soundscape of the carnival and the recital of National Pledge embody a collective sense of nationhood and pride to be Singaporean. Tan Pin Pin’s in Singapore Gaga listens to the sound of National Day parade and anthem in the attempt of fostering solidarity among Singapore’s mixed pot society. High cost is spent on orchestrating such grandiose state ritual to show national identity and solidarity. The significance of depicting this iconic scene is interpreted by critics to show the financial autocratic bureaucrats that it will appear ludicrous for the state to “manage” or stage national identity, without consideration that marginal views are of different perception and interpretation. Nationalism as depicted in the film is ambivalent. The sense of belonging and shared values must be seen in the context of spontaneity. High and low culture and binary opposites co-exist in society. Privileging one over the other is suppression and hegemony. Dialogue and consensus among different racial groups or interest groups will be conducive for multicultural understanding. The omniscience is not without social cost in a changing world with changing values. Past mistakes are made, such as blind imitation of western practices or ideas, for instance, the recorder is preferred over harmonica, even though it incurred lower cost for the state, and relatively easier for beginners of music to learn.
Willingness to listen to differences and the ability to negotiate diversities well will be wholesome for social cohesion. The “big” picture in Tan’s GaGa is exploring the social and political reality of nationalism in multicultural Singapore. The government and people will gain if they were willing to attune their ears and hearts to the sound/voice around them. Failure to attune to the “music” will be what Freddie Fender, in the voice of Melvyn Cedello, results in “Wasted Days and Nights”, with citizens left behind. In fact Tan has Cedello plays his music at the beginning and end of the film, in the walkway of MRT station. Victor Khoo and his Charlie, despite sixty years of public service as a ventriloquist (and spoke from his gut) is not honored. Gn Kok Lin, the clog and harmonica juggler, and Liang Yu Tao’s “one dollar” Singlish rendition are petty vendors but still citizens of the state, with same human rights. The significance of multiculturalism, shared diversities or re-negotiated differences, need to be seen in the context of a wider aural ecology that characterized Singapore as a global city, forever evolving to meet future demands.
(1060 words)

1. Laurence Wai-Teng Leong.(2001) Consuming The Nation: National Day Parades In Singapore.National University of Singapore New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 3, 2: pg 5-16. 08-03-2014

2. Yawning Bread. (2006) The sounds we make, the questions they raise. Singapore. 08-03-2014

3. Berylpieces (2012) Singapore: Model of a Pluralistic, Multicultural Society? Cited 08-03-2014

4. Tan Yan Shen el al. (2013) T2d Melting Pot vs Multiculturalism.Wiki Home Cited 08-03-2014

5. Tan Pin Pin. (2006) Singapore GaGa Official Website. Objectisf Film. 08-03-2014
6. Yasuko Hassall Kobayashi. (2012) Documentary filmmaking, civil activism and the new media in Singapore The case of Martyn See Film in Contemporary Southeast Asia. Cultural Interpretation And Social Intervention. David Lim (Eds).USA.Rouledge.
7.See Kam Tan,Jeremy Fernando.(2007)Singapore, in Melte Hjort and duncan J.Petrie (eds).The Cinema of Small Nations. Edinburge University Press.127-143

NB My apology for not providing citation, though the references are cited



It is an exercise of scopophilia to take an online explorer’s trip on the thousands of exhibits in British Museum. The images, educational, cultural or political propaganda, churn out wide ranging representations, meaning and cultural texts and context. The viewer searches the galleries, unaware of Barthes’ punctum (Sturken,18), and finds the theme of “Living and Dying” (Pompeii and Herculaneum) in Room 24 worthy of visit. The Freudian unconsciousness of fear compels the viewer to stay, interpellates and interacts with the exhibits.
The theme of “life and death” offers a perennial universal appeal. The display covers a wide range of cultural objects, ranging from gold and artistic artifacts, pharmacopoeia to sculptures, from several countries (New Zealand, Ghana, Solomon Island, North and South America), representing different cultural and religious approaches to combating illness, avoiding danger and threat, to placate relationship problems and to find harmony and meaning with the spiritual world. These different representations and genealogies appear to contest with one another, in the context of Bourdieu’s habitus (Sturken, 60). They are all inter-connected by the common theme of “life and death”. The ancient artifacts, such as the eagle-shaped coffin from Ghana, the primitive looking ancestral figurine from Soloman Island and the wooden beaker from Peru, share “high” aesthetic value, in the context of pleasure, beauty and creativity. (Sturken, 56). The different representation of images and artifacts, across time and culture, was enactment of different spaces and time, a heterotopia. Foucault considered the museum as a cemetery, where viewers, the relatives and families of the dead met and shared the common genealogy . A single space in Room 24 in British Museum has brought disparate objects together. Echoing Marshall McLuhan, the media conveyed the message that life and death were shared by all humanity. This would only be possible if there was the attunement of empathy, the feeling of shared global consciousness in timeless space.
Viewers can be sensitive while looking at the objects, and the representations evoke personal feelings to them, resulting in shift in egocentric patterns of thinking and living. In a globalized world viewers need to look at objects and images with different perspectives and accommodate the others’ interpretation, since cultural emplacement may contest one another. The knowledge of curators may be encyclopedic, but hegemonic ideologies may be hidden without awareness. The transience and limitation of living is shared by all humanity, across time and space, with the click of the keyboard. Propelled by the universality of disease and illness, life and death, happiness or sadness, viewers do share these common unifying themes, despite the diversities. By fostering global consciousness, the fragmentation and alienation experienced at the personal level is re-constructed. The desire to communicate such feelings and thought to one another results in self- understanding. Fostering global consciousness requires insight and transcendence that our lives are inter dependent and inter connected.
(489 words)


1. Lo, Patricket al.(2014) Links between Libraries and Museums: a Case Study of Library- Museum. Hong Kong. Vol. 5, n. 1 .
2. British Museum Explore/Galleries. Living And Dying (Room 24). E:\British Museum – Room 24 Living and Dying.htm cited 08-03-2014
3. Naisbitt,John, Globalization: Global Consciousness: Think locally, act globally. cited 08-03-2014
4.Sturken,M and Cartwright,L. (2009) Practices of Looking: An Introduction To Visual Culture. Oxford /NY, Oxford University Press.


The British Museum uses digital social media in its website to attract and interact with global viewers and users. The first gaze by the viewer is its name on the usual top left corner, for viewers and users want to know they have clicked on the right site. It uses different font sizes, with shades and contrasts, plus bars, columns, colours, and automating slides to guide the eyes in good precedence. The web design, with databases and search engines, can be navigated smoothly. The typography gives the impression that it is an advanced web designer technology, giving different visual weights to the eyes. Their services include high definition platform (Facebook and twitter) to workshops, camps, on-line games, lectures and even field research in very comprehensive ways. It thus gives their global viewers the desire to engage them in order to create knowledge, social and political power. The British Museum is a great museum of the British Empire and has the aura and authority to authenticate its artifacts, images and data, with its world-renowned legacy.
With the projected image as a signifier of knowledge and culture, the British museum attracts viewers to visit its website. It is astounding to note that it signifies a historical tradition of two hundred and sixty years, from the Renaissance to now, and is ever expanding in its scope and collections of objects. The twenty first century sees greater expansion with more gallery refurbishments, equipped with modern e-media technology. As cultured people, with good aesthetic taste, few can afford to be missed and excluded in such common wealth. Even a virtual walk-in into such a cultural palace will enhance the viewers’ own image. It will satisfy the desire to be recognized by our peers and to find our meaning in such relate.
The British Museum is a public institution, administered by a Board of Trustee, with its own elected chairman. It has some ten subcommittees, supervising a thousand paid staff and eight hundred volunteers. It will be a prestige to be among any level of staff, with better ego image in higher hierarchies. Job opportunity and conditions for work are opened freely to all, without prejudices. It shows fairness and justice to all, only if one is included in that exclusivity. However, it is still privileging the elite and famous curators.
Despite its comprehensiveness and inclusivity, there will be selection of data display and collections. Information and objects are enormous and the select committee has to focus on some and ignore others. What the viewers see are really choices of such representations or reproductions. The authority to “lock in” or “lock out” information depends on them and may be a political decision. Even the arrangement of images and what to display in the themes are ideological, in the frame of social and cultural perspective. Moreover it will be illusory for on-line viewers or users, with polysemous interpretation, to find common identity, for power landscape is never smooth or on even play field.
(501 words)

1 Sturken,M and Cartwright,L..(2009) Practices Of Looking: An Introduction To Visual Culture. Chapters 1 & 2, Oxford /NY. Oxford University Press.
2.British Museum, General History. cited 09-03-2014
3.British Museum: Current Job Opportunities. cited 09-03-2014
4.Collis Ta’eed.(2007)Nine Essential Principles for Good Web Design..–psd-56 cited 30-03-2014



Maps are graphic representation of the real and natural world. Though they are objective, they are simultaneously symbolic abstractions of reality. Maps are visual and silent narrative text. This dichotomy between the real and the symbolic, with display of cultural and physical features of geography, opens up the corresponding system of signifiers and signified, into the world of motivation and meaning. . There is semantic power in the way countries are projected as “centers” of the world and viewers are presented with images of land masses distortion and disorientation, depending on the cartographers’ political manipulation or motives. In colonialism, epistemic violence, rooted in racialism, are often committed in land disputes. Mapping geography and location in spatial connections are linked with Foucault’s trinity of knowledge, power and culture. The relations are thus social constructions that work politically.
With that introduction, we proceed to analyze the lie of “Terra Nullius”. Captain Cook and his team of convicts viewed the place as “uninhabited”, for there was no “settlement population”, powerful and organized enough, for him to negotiate deals on land rights .In the words of Frantz Fanon, the black aborigines had “no ontological resistance”, no identity to relate with white colonizers. Historical data revealed there were almost a million people in the continent then, with about 600 tribes, and each with a different language and indigenous sacred rites. It was the knowledge of maps and their mimetic perception and representation that initiated the colonial process of expanding territories, and subjugation of the colonized. The colonialists invented the white man’s “rules of the game” and expected the colonized to play by their rules, often backed by military or political might. Cartography, a powerful tool, worked liked a panoptic mechanism, in a hidden social construction that functions politically.
Incidentally, the British did not declare the Falkland Islands as “Terra Nullius”, for the French were there before their arrival, and therefore, the people there could be seen. Maps influence the way we understand the world and in international relations, and they construct meaning and are infused with political choices. We live in a spherical world, where top and bottom, east and west, ocean or land, depends on how it is presented and perceived. If they fail to support your views, discard the “objective and natural depictions”, chose whatever social or political construct to dominate. There are no longer innocent or objective, and can be manipulated. The voyage depends on the viewers’ gaze, his map reading skill and knowledge, and the way the eyes are drawn to the map and globe.
Political maps, liked the McMahan Line between Sino-Indian border, served colonial purpose of divide and rule, or subject contenting states in perpetual conflict. It is no longer wise for States to believe in the objectivity of maps and to hold on to their borders rigidly, for we know nations and civilizations change in the time and space. It may be best to negotiate and compromise and avoid the risk of mutually self -destruct or end in “clash of civilization”. Piers Fotiadis warned that covert power was often hidden in overt objectivity without our awareness. We must, therefore, understand the dominant narrative; deconstruct it to detect the falsity or truth of the maps. The media on both nations and international often contribute to the confusion, and they are part of this social construct, which have their own respective motives politically.
(563 Words)


1.Washabaugh.(2010)Sureveys,Maps&Power 11-03-2014

2.Cheryl McEwan. ‘Dismantling the Master’s House’?: Towards a postcolonial geography , School of Geography, University of Birmingham. Cited 03-03-2014



Cartographic projections have their own inherent strength and weaknesses, for it is not easy to transfer a spherical geographical globe, with uneven topography, into two dimensional piece of paper for charting or viewing. Mapping is thus not perfect, as projection will cause distortion in size of land mass, shape, location and distances. The data on the globe had to be transferred into developable geometric forms (cylindrical, conical and planar) for mapping. Projection is, therefore, highly subjective, referential and compromising, and depends on individual perceptive choices and motivations.
The Mercator was the first cylindrical, conformal map, and to preserve shape, scales had to vary when they intersected at meridians and parallel across the map. It thus gave the impression that the Polar Regions, American and Europe were much larger in relative comparisons to countries near the equator. The Mercator was useful as aeronautical and nautical charts, using the straight Rhumb line or Loxodromic for navigating. Being cylindrical and showed more of the globe than conical, the Mercator served as good world map, for school students on lessons on continents, oceans and nations. For digital and street mapping, Google used Mercator. The disadvantage was the limitation in viewing the entire globe, and the distortion could be visually misperceived as racist or political hegemony, or white centric, as it made the powerful “northern” nations larger than real, compared with the southern nations. From the sixteen century, western colonialists sailed and conquered the Far East using the straights lines (drawn from Mercator) with a constant compass bearing. However, that reason alone would be simplistic.
As a comparison, the Hobo-Dyer map projection is also cylindrical, but with equal area presentation. In contrast to Mercator, it showed the world’s land masses in actual comparison, and, in its double print, turned it upside down to challenge the habitual north upwards and south downwards perception to give a different perspective and reverse any misleading representation. For instance, it might show the south at the top, and the Pacific Ocean at its center and the Atlantic at the margins, in order to show another perspective of viewing the world. In other words, the different presentation showed the importance of the ocean, and de-emphasizes the land areas and population masses of the northern hemisphere. This change of perspective and perception was considered a “paradigm shift”, as it was a radical change of our way of conceiving the world and our knowledge of political geography, religion, navigation, population, human history and economics.
Since the Hobo-Dyer was also cylindrical, it might also distort at the poles, and it compensated by presenting eight other map projections To maintain equal area presentation in the shape, mathematical “corrections” could be made by shifting its axes of low angle distortion at standard parallel north-south or east-west distortion at 37.5 degree north and south at the equator, overcoming its shortcomings.
The Hobo-Dyer map projection was an attempt to rectify the privileging of Europe and countries in the northern hemisphere, as colonies in the east were gaining independence or fighting for liberation according to western ideologies, and the west had to appear to be politically “right”, as modern cartography was mapped by western powers. It had to be reminded that Admiral Cheng Ho had navigated the seas long before Christopher Columbus “found” his lands, without western maps.
In an irony of historical twist, terrorists or freedom fighters could use cartographic information available at web sites to damage colonial or imperial nuclear plants, oil fields or other military or security targets.
Mimesis in western cartographic practices had historically served colonial subjugation of non-western people, according to Homi Bhabba and Edward Said. Hobo-Dyer map projection could be considered as attempt to de or re territorialize other nation states, such as the re drawing of national boundaries, in Tibet/India/China, and other African states. Such creative cartographic revisionism, not infrequently, cause “territorial” or “boundary” disputes in post-colonial era. The “cartographic connections” provided “scientific” discourses for contestatory states to engage in unnecessary disputes or warfare instead of economic development and welfare. Nevertheless, away from political motivation, each map projection has its own vantage point and projects different world views. In other words, multiple map projections serve as metaphor for presenting multiple world views to promote global understanding. The Mercator and Hobo-Dyer have their respective benefits and drawbacks.
(714 words)

1. Ana Lois-Borzi.What American? E:\What American.Quodlibetica mecartor & hobo.htm Cited 03-03-2014
2.NickStockton. (2013) Get to Know a Projection: MercatorMapLab. E:\Get to Know a Projection Mercator – Wired Science.htmCited 03-03-2014
3. Katherine Schulz Richard. John Paul 03-03-2014
4. Denis Cosgrove. (2008) Cultural cartography : maps and mapping in cultural geography. ULCA,USA. 03-03-2014

5. Domitius Corbulo. (2012) Where is the historical West? Part 1 of 5. Occidental Observer. 03-03-2014


Basically, there are three different ways of viewing the maps, the viewer, the image or how maps are compiled and texted, and the referent or meaning (historical, textual and social). The discussion will show how maps can contribute to cultural or intellectual violence in three separate instances.

The LIE of Terra Nullius
Terra Nullius implies no ownership of land. In 1770 Captain Cook , with the help of his Mercator map, sailed to Botany Bay, Sydney, and “discovered” the Australian continent, which the natives had been living there for centuries. According to prevailing International law, Britain viewed the place as “uninhabited” and settled there as if the land was vacant, and acted as if the aborigines were not “people”, and with the power of knowledge, legalized the settlement. It was an act of intellectual violence. After dispossessed of their land, their population decreased tremendously in war and diseases. They were then removed from their settlement and assimilated in “homes” and “protectorates”, or, in short, remapping their boundaries, and changing their social structure, contributing to cultural violence.

Montgomerie’s mapping of Tibet in 1870
In 1855, British colonial government appointed Montgomerie, who had no surveying or cartographic skills, to head a team of Indian surveyors, impersonated as Tibetan monks, to map the entire Sino-Indian border. In 1914, the purpose of the Simla Convention was for the British to annex territory in order to build a buffer state between Tibet and China. The McMahan Line was drawn indiscriminately using the watershed principles of the highest peaks, which included cultural city of Tawang. When the British ended their colonial rule in 1947, the Indians took this imaginary line as actual border and hence causing perennial intellectual and political violence between the two big neighbours.

Falkland Islands Sovereignty Dispute
British claim to sovereignty over the Falklands was disputable; despite located more than eight thousand miles away. Argentina disputed this claim and fought a lost war with UK in 1982. Falklands Island had been under various colonial rules, including France, Spain and America, and its economy was self-sufficient. The inhabitants today were no longer the same indigenous people, and thus the debate on appropriateness of self-determination. Spain had surrendered the Falklands to Argentina in 1810, and the island faced its continental shelf. However, when UK was strong militarily, and with American and European support, the violence was justified “intellectually”, for might could be constructed as right.

(399 words)

1. Prof Eklund, (2001) Terra Nullius and Australian Colonialism, cited 19th-02-2014
2 Evan Towt, (2010) Border Conflict and Tibet: The Asian Giants and Their History of Power Struggle, SIT Study Aboard, cited 19-02-2014
3. Hickman,Kenny.The Falklands War: An History cited 19-02-2014
4. Evan Towt. Border Conflict and Tibet: The Asian Giants and Their History of Power Struggle.SIT Study Abroad.2010. 03-03-2014
5.Gregory Clark.In Fear Of China.Chapter5: Sino-Indian Dispute. 03-03-2014
6. E Leanor Standford.Falklands Islands.Countries and Their Culture.Cited 03-03-2014


Postcolonial Criticism is the analysis of literary texts after colonialism in the late 19th and 20th century by western colonial powers. It explores discourses in the political, social, cultural, aesthetic effects of decolonization in a global context and inter-connections.

The Story of the Inky Boys was written by Heinrich Hoffman during the 19th Century as a moral story book for his children. It was seen in the context of racism or prejudices based on differences of skin colour perception. The black moor was jeered by a group of white boys on his walking tour. Such intolerance to colour differences or racism could often happen to colonizers and the colonized.

Prof Elizabeth Wesseling cautioned readers that the story be read as “a parody of Romantic Idealization of the child” in the said historical context. It was uncertain whether she meant as mimicry of similarities or differences, for caricatures could be misrepresentation, whether as humour or sarcasm. As punishment, the three white rowdy boys were dipped into the huge magic ink pot, and turned into “black, as black can be”. The language used, verses with end rhyme, might be pleasing to hear, but could be dehumanizing. The boys were transformed into silhouette, and followed the black as shadows. It was their ghosts that followed for their identity had to be shed for them to follow the black moor. The emphasis on differences was basically the same, and we saw the paradoxes of the otherness. The moor was not only black with curly hair and bare footed; he carried a green umbrella on a sunny day and wore orange-coloured pants, and made him a prominent target for teasing. It was not only the skin colour that distinguished them, but the costumes too. In other words, the colourful picture book enhanced the perception of differences. There was no merging into similarities in universal humanism.
Agrippa was a Christian saint in disguise, and he had the soft power of religion to “right” things, or possessed the ability to placate disobedient boys. He performed a “religious” ritual to the boys who dared to challenge his hegemony, and the strange attire had insignia of hierarchy, status and seduction. He was the symbol of power. It was an attempt to instil notions of black purity, an ideological displacement of white angst. That magic trick was no different from voodoo, except it was socially and culturally more acceptable to both the colonizers and colonized. Cultural supremacy was as obvious as race distinction, and they were all different aspects of discrimination. The idealism and the idealized images might be unconscious play of colonizers and colonized. The ambivalence was due to underlying anxiety caused the split in attempts to fix things not politically right. It was not a racist story, as stated by Professor Wesseling, but the racism “lurked” in the shadows of the idealism of the period. Yet we have to acknowledge the effort made in moral teaching, whether appropriate then or now. Postcolonial Criticism, together with other disciplines, teaches us to see the connections in our experience and to explore beyond racism in the story.

To Freudians, the big goose- feathered pen was a clear phallic symbol and the large ink pot a vagina, or castrated penis. The boys were in a way metaphorically castrated for not obeying. However, the ink pot could also be interpreted as a large cultural pot, where blacks and whites intermingled to find common identity. The Adlerian school broke away from Freud, and looked at personality development in a different light. The negativity of the child in the initial stage of development was an incentive for improvement. Similarly, the superiority complex also took some negative turns, and the improvement could be achieved through personal striving or community help. Another school that broke with Freudian was Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy, who explored the meaning of living and life in all our striving. In this context, we learned to explore the meaning of intolerance of differences and the conflict or violence generated in our daily living, and we had a duty or responsibility to impart proper teaching to our next generation. Good parenting skill can be learned and is essential.
(693 words)

1.Hook,Derek. A Critical Psychology of the Postcolonial: The Mind of Apartheid Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology. Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 2012 London: Routledge, 2012. cited 15-11-2013
2.Wesseling, Elizabeth. Blacker than Black: Contextualising the Issue of White Supremacy in Heinrich Hoffmann’s ‘The Story of the Inky Boys’ International Research in Children’s Literature. Volume 2.2009. Cited 15-11-2013
3.Everthing.TheStoryof Inky Boys.2002&2003. cited 15-11-2013


Thumb sucking was interpreted using Freudian Theory of Infantile Sexuality in psychosexual development. The word sexuality caused confusion and controversy. It should be replaced with sensuality, related to the senses. Sexuality implies desire for sex or body parts, or lust, but a child at the oral stage (birth to one year old) had no notion of sex, or the language to construct concepts of sexual pleasure. At birth, the child was more body than mind, and the personality took time to interact and develop. At this first stage, the focus was activity around the mouth, such as feeding, sucking, and the interaction with others in the external world. The early thumb sucking was natural neural oro-rooting reflexes. Biologically this stage last a few years, and most children grew out of the habit. Freud reckoned it was the fixated pleasure of Id that would not allow the Reality (Principle) of ego to move on to the next stage. It could be due to the superego (conscience) of the “other” that demanded postponement of gratification. It was the repressed other that projected thumb sucking to the default of mother’s breasts in attempts to arouse the desire- experience, a symbolic return and fantasy for the adult rather than child.
The heart of psychoanalysis was the concept of psychic conflict, and hence persistence of thumb sucking habit resulted in ambivalence between child and mother (or another adult).However, it was an adult anxiety projected onto the child. We could observe such psychodrama in play in the cited story.
The story began with a lonely and unhappy boy that persisted in thumb sucking, probably beyond his age. The sexism was obvious between a male child and mother. The boy was addicted to his habit, and we assumed he found some innocent pleasure in it. The mother’s objection caused anxiety and shame in him. Freudian overlooked all these psycho-emotional conflict and instead picked on thumb sucking, ignoring the other human dimension, and failed to acknowledge people should have a choice, or guided properly by Adlerian or others. What the Freudians have analysed was interesting to read, and the explanation could be true, but it did not imply the interpretation was truth itself. The goal was to provide insight into the deep recesses of our unconsciousness to enable normal child development, but the plot of the story did not enlighten the reader in that respect.
As the dynamic picture story moved on, the mother heeded her child not to thumb suck in her absence, for fear that the tailor might harm him. The boy persisted in his habits, for it was already an addiction. As soon as she left the house, the tailor stormed into the house, chased the poor boy and cut off both his thumbs. The tailor’s was a power symbol, and he was both omniscient and omnipresent. He functioned liked a “panopticon”, putting the boy on constant surveillance, not without the mother’s passive consent. The climax of the story was the violent act of castration, metaphorically in Freudian interpretation of Oedipal complex, but the story showed the literal and bloody physical trauma, which would frightened any child, and adults at any historical period. Destructive power was never a good means to an end. Honestly, instilling fear to eradicate thumb sucking was never the goal of psychotherapy or analysis. Thereby, it was an uneasy task to depict the fantasy in the unconsciousness in children’s picture book. Freud had stated that the unconscious could only be understood in dreams. Jiddhu Krishnamurthi commented how something that could not understand itself could interpret what the unconscious mind generated. It was “framing” behaviour problem, identified “pathological differences” from the norm, with little awareness of power imbalance. The story sent a mixed message of the difficulties of being good to please adults. Despite this, Freudian psycho-sexual development of the infant did provide some insight into child development, and the Oedipal complex showed there was sensuous emotional relationship between the child and mother or significant others. Freudian psychoanalysis provided an understanding that there were many levels of mind, and helped to understand how past experiences affected human behavior and motivation in unique way.
(691 words)

1.Cherry,Kendra.Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Cited 15-11-2013
2.Children and Youth in History. 15-11-2013
3.Lacan.What does Lacan Say About Desire.lacanonline.com2009. cited 15-11-2013
4.e-Notes.Postcolonialism 15-11-2013
5.Maclure,Maggie et al.Becoming a Problem:How Children Develop a Reputation as “Naughty” in the Earliest Years at School. ESRC.2008

THE INKY BOYS – Cross Cultural Interpretation on Race

Gong Shu’s “Yi Shu: The Art of Living with Change” is adapted and simplified by me to provide a theoretical interpretation or cross cultural perspective of “The story of The Inky Boys”. The ancient Chinese Theory of Yin and Yang (as outlined in the premier classic, Yi Jing) is used predominantly to interpret the misbehaviour of “The Inky Boys”, in a dynamic picture book, “Struwwelpeter”, written by Heinrich Hoffman in the early 19th Century. It was a best seller then, but few parents would now read this book to their children. This article was my vain attempt in understanding the story using Chinese literary perspectives, and integrated them with western theories and knowledge in understanding racialism.

In Chinese cosmology, all phenomena in the natural world and in human relationship contain two opposing and yet complementary pair, the yin and yang. They interact with each other incessantly in interdependent and inter connected ways. In the yin, part of yang is contained, and the same is applied to the yang, whenever one is overwhelmed by the other. Not infrequently, the yang has the tendency to privilege over the Yin in Chinese family. There is thus caution to act in extreme mammer, if harmony is the goal. In other words, there is whiteness within blackness; responsibility in delinquency; beyond the Cartesian divide.  These fundamental forces are related to the five elements. The teasing and bullying of the boys are due to imbalance and disharmony between the yin and yang elements, resulting in the blockage of qi (energy) in body, mind and spirit. The traditional Chinese considered the qi body as yin, and the physical body as yang. The teasing arises out of fear or insecurity, due to misperception of the outside world. The imbalanced yin and yang trigger the mind to generate mental images, dreams and fantasies. The wood elements descend and dissipate causing malfunction of the liver elements, resulting not only in qi (energy) blockage, but also hormonal secretions.

In Ancient China, Racialism was unheard of, as 92% of the huge populations are Hans; the other 55 minorities lived in faraway border areas, where they hardly interact, until modern time. The Hans have been ruled by their own ethnic minorities in their dynastic history, and the rule last as long as citizens are well taken care of materially. There was no racialism as seen between colonial and colonised as in western countries. There are, however, regional or provincial protectionism. The Zen master once spoke that people might be divided into different regions or class but their Buddha nature was the same. Bodhidharma was a black Indian, but enlightenment did not depend on skin colour. Nevertheless, Chinese people preferred fair skin to darker skin people, not racial, but social and cultural discrimination. In India the caste system showed ferocious discrimination despite they were all black and Indian. It was not colour differences that result in racialism. It was political, economic, cultural domination and belief in the caste system. In Japan, there is no racialism as seen in the West, but the Japanese think they are more “white” than other Asians and, to them, whiteness  is associated with superiority, despite their cultural and moral debt to their neighbours.  In Malaysia, colour and religion are privileged are sine non quo to economic and political domination.   We, thereby, see various nationalities view skin colour quite differently, as evidenced in multicultural feminism.

In addition, Go Shu incorporated other teachings, such as Daoism, Confucianism, Zen Buddhism and other classics into her Yi Shu Theory. Confucianism would teach personal, family and community order, in a hierarchical way. Mencius would advise that the kids moved to another neighbourhood.  Mohism‘s “universal love” would be appalled by excessive power of Agrippa in blackening the naughty boys. Han Fei’s Legalist Theory might agree with the exercise of power in the punishment of strayed children, as he believed that people were naturally evil, and strict discipline would be necessary to bring social order. Even in China different schools had diverse theories of their own, and each interpreted them differently. We could not deny that external discipline might be required. Therefore, the theories and their interpretations were neither right nor wrong. What was relevant was the application to place them rightly to achieve harmony.

Gong Shu also draws on western critical theories, creative arts, Moreno’s psychodrama and sociometry, gestalt and other therapies, in a united way to assist her understanding, interpretation of the healing processes.  In the flow of feeling and emotions (tele), the white naughty inky boys will each learn their psycho-social distance as they relate.  They have to learn how they measure to others boys in the community and adult expectation. Maybe the bad conduct was triggered by herd mentality, in the sense that group identity emboldened them. The cheers at others might be perceived as jeer, and their fun was at the expense of others hurt.  Psychodrama would act out their inner feeling and emotion, the unconsciousness fear and insecurity about black people. Gong Shu might also provide art therapy, and allowed the kids to paint their perceived fears. Dance therapy might release their excessive negative energy.

In conclusion, western critical theories kept trumpeting that race is a social and cultural construct, but their sense of supremacy and domination have yet to be deconstructed.  The Inky Boys offered an opportunity that others do not view colour or race in colonial mindset. This article is a humble attempt to integrate western and eastern theories in literary interpretation.


1.Heinrich Hoffman,The Inky Boys,Struwwelpeter,

2.Gong Shu, Yi Shu:The Art of Living with Change,

Destitution As Reflected In Rizal’s “Touch Me Not” And Comparison with Haiti

Destitution implies absolute impoverishment or poverty. Materially, it refers to economic deprivation of basic human needs, such as food, shelter, education and personal safety. The repercussion causes extreme physical trauma and has serious effect on mental health, such as anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress, memory impairment, subject to abuses and violence, vulnerability to prostitution and suicide. Images of destitution, whether material or mental, are easily identified with the description of abandonment and hopelessness suffered by Sisa in the opening chapters of “A mother’s Tale” (Chapter 21), and the atrocities inflicted upon her by Dona Consolacion (Chapter 38).

These two chapters were the most emotive and tempestuous description of life and fate of Sisa in a feudal colony. She was the symbolism of motherhood in suffering and the epitome of native feminine oppression selected by the narrator. Rizal clearly differentiated the poor and the rich feminine characters in his book about “social cancer”.
Tortured by abandonment by her society, and in her angst of fear and hopelessness, she ran home in mad pursuit of her two missing children, who were falsely accused of stealing from the church. The mother’s predicament was described as “dark nights of a raging storm”. Forced by social circumstances, she became insane. The “untouchable” with reality provided insight into the decadence of society, and the urgent need for reform. The images of destitution represented resonated with existing social conditions under a feudal colonial system.

The destitution was caused by three major factors. Dona Consolacion atrocities on Sisa evoked strong image representation of the cruelties of Spanish civil services, comparable to her “limply whipping the madwoman’s naked feet”. The outpouring of verbal, physical and financial abuses on the symbolic native was indicative of a woman without love in her relationship. It showed “poor humanity”, with “Christ who shed blood for the sins of others” (page 196). The exploitation and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church was another major reason for such destitution. In the procession outlined in “Morning”, the patron saint in the fictitious town of San Diego contrasted sharply with St. Francis, in the measure of peoples’ expectation and those in authority. The friars were “holy orators”, and the monasteries were trading in disposable shrouds as “religious relic (page 195) to the naïve natives. Captain Tiago symbolized the comprador or middle merchant in their exploitation. The fund for education, infrastructure and social community work was wasted in expensive fiesta celebrations.

The Philippines shared these images of material and mental destitution with Haiti. They were both under colonial rule about three centuries ago. Haiti was ruled by the Spanish, French and the United States; whereas the Philippines by the Spanish and the United States. Co-incidentally, both countries had double independence, and were ruled by their local despots or dictators. Before the arrival of colonial power, both countries had their own ancestral religion or local belief; the Haitians, voodoo; the Filipinos, tribal rituals and pagan magic, with a small percentage of Muslims .Both population were converted to Christianity, mainly Roman Catholic in their similar percentage in population size, except the latter was about eight to ten times more .In their earlier centuries, both countries were relatively rich, compared with their neighbouring countries. Haiti was exported 60% coffee and 40% sugar to the West; whereas the Philippines, with rich fertile land and marine life, were exporting rice, tobacco, spices and agricultural products, and was richer than Taiwan then. Both countries suffered from repeated natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclone, inflicting basic material lost and grievances in death of relatives and adequate housing and medical care. The similarities extended to wide spread corruption, inequality, injustices, crimes, and varied manifestation of greed by their respective ruling class.

Despite their many similarities, the Philippines hold a better future than Haiti. The unemployment rate in the former is 7% compared with more than 40% in the latter. Moreover, seven million Filipinos remitted home a total of 22 US billion, which was 14 % of their national GDP. In the first quarter of 2013, Philippine growth rate was predicted to be 7.8%. The differences were in their level of education, especially in English, and the willingness of their females to work in any occupational work categories. The Haitians spoke French and Creole, with limited countries to travel. In 2008, Washington Post reported they remitted US 1.9 billion, about 25 % of their GDP, but in the recent earthquake, remittance was difficult because of breakdown of their economic conduit, and recovery was slow.

In his authorial clarification, Rizal wrote things as yet unwritten, and therefore “untouchable”. He hoped his narration, with powerful literary images and iconography would find resonance with a later generation, not in tune with his time. His symbolic representation might also find resonance with the Haitians, or elsewhere.

(797 words)


1. Burnett, John. Mental Health destitution and asylum, PAFRAS Papers, 2008—mental-health-destitution-and-asylum.pdf cited 18-07-2013
2. Israel, Tony (2010). Haiti and the Philippines: Cursed by the Gods? haiti-and-the-philippines-cursed-by-the-godhaiti-and-the-philippines-cursed-by-the-god
Cited 21-07-2013
3. Rhett, A.Butler, cited 21-07-2013
4.Sichrovsky,Hary (1983-87). Ferdinand Blumentritt,An Australian Life For The Philippine: Noli Me Tangere 21-07-2013
5. Lily B. Libo-on (2013).Khaleej Times. Overseas Filipinos remit $22 billion to families cited 21-07-2013 Comparison between Philippine and Haiti cited 21-07-2013
7.Rizal,Jose.Noli Me TangereTranslated by Harold Augenbraun(2006)Penguin Classics