On the margins of the "economic miracle": Non English-Literate Chinese Factory Workers in Singapore, 1980–90

Ernest Koh

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While the writing of Singapore's “history from below” has begun to gain momentum in academic circles, there is still a considerable lack of understanding about the contributions and experiences of the ordinary person to the city-state's remarkable growth after 1965. In Singapore's broader historiography, the success of the nation's economy is commonly attributed to the genius and foresight of key personalities, or in more recent times, the spirit of entrepreneurship by a select few. Thus, the non English-literate Chinese factory worker in Singapore currently only exists in a marginalised space in Singaporean historical discourse, in spite of their role in Singapore's transition “from Third World to First,” touse the parlance of Lee Kuan Yew. Through the use of collective reminiscence and biography, this paper seeks to present the lives of the workers in narrative. In doing so, it aims to solicit an alternative, Chinese working-class account of the “economic miracle” epoch.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-493
Number of pages28
JournalSoutheast Asian Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

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