Sangeetha Thanapal burst onto the scene in 2013 with her anti-racist activism in Singapore. In a country where any talk of race is shied away from, her scrutiny of racism in the Southeast Asian state, which is rooted in her own experiences and education in Critical Race Theory (CRT), was fresh and invigorating —and a contestation of the great Singapore narrative. The term and theory around Chinese Privilege is a result of this.
Drawing on interdisciplinary concepts from CRT, Critical Theory and Post-Colonialism, Thanapal traces how race functions in Singapore from the colonial era to the modern world. She dispels any assumptions on Singapore that one might have as she unflinchingly demonstrates how racism has systematically disenfranchised the country’s indigenous and minority populations.
In contrast to the conventional belief that Singapore has solved its racial problems and is a model for other diverse countries, Thanapal argues that Singapore hides its troubles under a veneer of multiculturalism while utilizing stark laws to silence dissent. Her work represents a direct challenge to the post-racial rhetoric of the Singapore state, for which she has been detained, interrogated and threatened with sedition.
About the speaker
Sangeetha Thanapal is a PhD Candidate at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. She holds a Bachelor’s in Social Sciences from the National University of Singapore, a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the Nanyang Technological University and a Master of Arts in Social and Political Thought from the University of Sussex. Her doctoral work brings her activism into academia as it explores how the concept of Chinese Privilege can be used to comprehend race in Singapore, as well as how expanding the current discourse on white privilege into an understanding of racial privileges in non-western countries can further deepen our considerations of race.
Thanapal is also a speaker and a cultural commentator with a large social media following. She has spoken at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, the Emerging Writer’s Festival etc., and her writing has been published in Eureka Street, The Interpreter, Wear Your Voice Magazine and many more. In 2018, her public criticisms of the movie Crazy Rich Asians led to interviews with various international publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Associated Press. She has recently returned to Melbourne from a stint as Activist-In-Residence at Massey University.
This event is co-hosted with the Malaysia and Singapore Society of Australia (MASSA).
Photo credit: Anne and David via Flickr
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