The Lectures

The Lectures

The Khaw and Na-Ranong family of Penang and ThailandPenang Story Lectures 11-12 May 2013
One hundred years after Phraya Ratsadanupradit Mahisorn Pakdi Khaw Sim Bee died in Penang (10 April 1913), this symposium will be held to commemorate the legacy of the Khaw and Na Ranong family in Penang and Southern Thailand. Phraya Ratsada was commissioner of Monthon Phuket or ‘greater Phuket circle’ which included seven provinces – Phuket, Thalang, Ranong, Phang-Nga, Takuapa, Krabi and Satun. Khaw Sim Bee is also remembered as the Father of the Rubber Industry in Thailand.Penang Story Logo
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Khaw family established a business empire of tin-mining, rubber and shipping that straddled Penang and southern Siam. Trusted by King Rama V and Prince Damrong, the family helped to develop the economy and modernise the administration of southern Siam by introducing talent, technology and institutional innovations from Penang. The Khaw family left a legacy of beautiful mansions and landmarks in Penang, including the valuable Ranong Ground which was donated to the public. The Khaw clan was given the noble title ‘Na Ranong’ by the King of Siam in 1913.
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Penang and Asia’s Migrant HistoryPenang Story Lectures 16 December 2012
Between 1840 and 1940, close to 50 million people moved across Asia’s frontiers: most of them were young men from southern China and eastern India who moved to and from Southeast Asia. They travelled under varying degrees of freedom and constraint—and, consciously or unknowingly, they transformed Asia’s future. lectures1
Penang was a central point in many of their journeys. As a result, Penang’s history provides us with a unique portal into a much larger history of Asian migration. Penang has much to offer historians of Asian migration—a deep archive of print culture and visual sources, a rich material and architectural heritage, a vibrant tradition of local history and heritage activism. The lecture will argue that Penang played a crucial role as a site of intersection between multiple Asian diasporas. It will locate Penang at the crossroads of many social and political worlds: the world of the Bay of Bengal, the Malay world, and the “Asian Mediterranean” stretching from China to Southeast Asia. The final part of the lecture will consider the legacies of this earlier era of migration for Penang’s position within the Indian Ocean today.
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Building bridges across the Bay of Bengal: Tagore and his contemporariesPenang Story Lectures 28 August 2012
A world-historical transformation is under way in the early twenty-first century as Asia recovers the global position it had lost in the late eighteenth century. Yet the idea of Asia and a spirit of Asian universalism were alive and articulated in a variety of registers during the period of European imperial domination. lectures2
One of the most creative exponents of an Asia-sense was Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. This lecture will explore the intellectual, cultural and political conversations across the Bay of Bengal between South and Southeast Asia conducted by Tagore and his contemporaries. Such an exploration may give us fresh insights into the modern intellectual history of Asia as well as theories of universalism, cosmopolitanism and internationalism.
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Plague Fighter Dr Wu Lien-teh
A Penang Hero who modernized medicine in China
Penang Story Lectures 19 May 2012
Almost one hundred years ago, when Manchuria, North Eastern part of China was invaded by a pneumonic plague, a valiant fighter against the disease emerged in the form of Dr. Wu Lien- teh. Leading a group of inspired medical personnel, Dr. Wu researched countless scientific methods in an attempt to contain the plague. His efforts eventually resulted in a breakthrough in the medical world. lectures3
Besides being recognized in China as the founding father of modern medicine, Dr Wu (1879-1960), was also known in Singapore and Malaya as one of the three editors of the “Straits Chinese Magazine”, he was a Public Health Expert, Medical Science historian and pioneer of the Plague Quarantine and Prevention. Born in Penang, Dr Wu was awarded the Queen’s Scholarship of the Straits Settlement at the age of 17 (1896), making him the first Chinese Medical Science student in Cambridge, England. In 1902, he obtained his Medical Science and Surgical degrees (B.A) from Cambridge University. Dr Wu was later separately awarded the Cambridge University Medical Science doctorate degree, the John Hopkins University Public Health Degree and an honorary doctorate degree by the Japanese Imperial University of Tokyo respectively in 1905, 1924 and 1926.
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Thinking & Feeling Gender in the History of Malaysia Penang Story Lectures 20 April 2012
How was ‘woman’ represented throughout Malaya’s and then Malaysia’s transition from one epochal moment to the other? This lecture will delve into the history of the nation by centralizing ‘woman’ as a subject of public imagination and social construction. In the early 20th century, modernity was the threshold which colonized peoples aspired to cross over. lectures4
In Malaya the Modern Girl was imagined across all communities from Straits Chinese to Muslim Malays. However, achieving ‘modernity’ was also strewn with battles on how this could be resolved and reconciled without challenging existing religious and cultural traditions. As Malaya moved on to seek decolonization and nationalism the Modern Girl made way for the trope of the Warrior Mother, or womanhood inducted into the perjuangan (struggles) for national liberation.Postcolonial, the reinvention of Woman took on the new rights-based identity of the Emancipated Woman or the Liberated Feminist. In the Malaysian case, we also see tropes of the Ibu Mithali (Exemplary Mother) and Isteri Taat (Obedient Wife) competing as symbols of the authentic woman in contemporary society. It is such that gender identity is never constant but subject to cultural, religious and political reinvention and contestation.
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Trade between India and South-east Asia in the Early Modern Period Penang Story Lectures 17 September 2011
India had tradionally played a central role in the structure of the Indian Ocean trade in the early modern period. In part, this indeed was a function of the midway location of the subcontinent between west Asia on the one hand and southeast and east Asia on the other. But perhaps even more important was the subcontinent’s capacity to put on the market a wide lectures5
range of tradable goods at highly competitive prices. These included agricultural goods, both food items such as rice, sugar and oil as well as raw materials such as cotton and indigo.While the bulk of the trade in these goods was coastal, the high-seas trade component was by no means insignificant. The real strength of the subcontinent, however, lay in the provision of large quantities of manufactured goods, the most important amongst which was textiles of various kinds. While these included high value varieties such as the legendary Dhaka muslins and the Gujarat silk embroideries, the really important component for the Asian market was the coarse cotton varieties manufactures primarily on the Coromandel coast and in Gujarat.There was a large scale demand for these varieties both in the eastern markets of Indonesia, Malaya, Thailand and Burma as well as in the markets of the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and East Africa.
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Penang and Bombay: Indian Ocean port cities in the nineteenth century Penang Story Lectures 16 September 2011
In the 1960s and ’70s a number of studies treated the port cities of the Indian Ocean before and during the colonial period as comparative and connected societies. Thereafter, historians turned to more intensive local studies of parts of maritime South and Southeast Asia. This lecture returns to the earlier problem by examining Penang lectures6
and Bombay, located at different levels of the commercial system, but vital elements in the emergence of capitalist modernity across Asia.The lecture considers recent scholarly interpretations of ‘multiple modernities’ in the light of the belief of the nineteenth-century inhabitants of these cities that they did, in fact, uniquely embody novel forms of commerce, community relations and urban space. It goes on to consider their major resident communities, drawing comparisons between, for instance, the role of the Peranakan Babas in Penang and on the Straits of Malacca and the role of Parsis in Bombay and on the western Indian coast.It also examines the ethos and ideologies of the Muslim commercial communities of the two cities. The lecture then turns to the politics of the Penang and Bombay during the ‘long’ nineteenth century.
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Globalization and PenangPenang Story Lectures 28 July 2011
Think City is proud to have prominent Malaysian economist, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, in Penang to deliver his public lecture titled Globalisation and Penang.The lecture is the fourth installation of the Penang Story Lecture series, which is a joint initiative between Think City and Penang Heritage Trust, together lectures7
with its knowledge partners Universiti Sains Malaysia and the George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI), along with its venue partner Wawasan Open University.The event is part of the month-long George Town Festival that Penang and its visitors are currently celebrating to commemorate the inscription of the city on UNESCO’s World Heritage List on 7th July, 2008.
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Rabindranath Tagore and the Cosmopolitan VisionPenang Story Lectures 14 May 2011
The talk by Dr Saranindranath Tagore, Associate Professor and Deputy Head, Philosophy Department at the National University of Singapore, was titled “Rabindranath Tagore and the Cosmopolitan Vision.The poet Rabindranath Tagore was a social thinker whose ideas are remarkably relevant to today’s world. lectures8
He was one of the first thinkers of the 20th century to argue for the virtues of cosmopolitan and internationalism.In the talk Dr Saranindranath attempted to accomplish two tasks – first to develop the sense of cosmopolitanism that was at stake in Tagore’s vision and secondly, to show how this conception was related to Dr Rabindranath Tagore’s educational philosophy and practice.
It was in the speaker’s view that the poet’s opinions on education and cosmopolitanism steeped in the value of hospitable consciousness are deeply relevant in today’s world-conditions.The talk was moderated by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s vice chancellor Professor Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.
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The Bujang ValleyPenang Story Lectures 18 December 2010
This public lecture, the second in a series featuring significant events in the history of Penang and its region, was about the latest discoveries in Sungai Batu in the Bujang Valley. Dubbed “revisiting an old relationship” by The Hindu newspaper, Professor Mohd Mokhtar gave a very interesting lecture with revelations that the lectures9
archeological discoveries at Sg Batu extends the relationship between India and this region to the 1st century A.D. In fact, the Sg Batu site is the earliest Indianized settlement in Southeast Asia. The discoveries of iron-making factories are factual evidence to the Hikayat Mahameru as well as Tamil poems of that same period. Both Think City and co-organizers the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (MBRAS) regarded this discovery as most significant for it lays the basis for the wider theme of Penang and global history.
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Sino-Western Penang ResponsesInaugural Penang Story Lecture 20 November 2010
The Inaugural Penang Story Lecture was by Emeritus Professor Wang Gungwu titled “Sino-Western Penang Responses” on 20 November 2010. The Lecture shed light on the Chinese Diaspora in Penang and the role that they played in the region. The first Chinese people settled in Penang before Macartney met Emperor Qianlong.lectures10
The children from these early Chinese immigrants had began to study Western ways long before Sun Yat-sen went to English schools in Hawaii and Hong Kong. When Sun was just a baby, a boy born in Penang named Ku Hung-ming was sent to Britain to pursue his education. Later, Ku passed through Penang and never returned. In the meantime, Sun came to Penang 30 years later and was warmly received by those from whom Ku had turned away. The talk by Prof Wang discussed these early phases of globalisation.The Penang Story inaugural lecture also coincided with the 22Joint Conference of the Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling Memorials.
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