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*Registration Closed* SYMPOSIUM Asian Port Cities: Dialogues Between Past and Present

Ngee Ann Auditorium, Asian Civilisations Museum 12 Nov 2016 9am to 5.30pm

Port cities have been described as the gateways to Asia. They represent sites of intense economic, cultural, and social exchange. The focus of port cities is predominantly maritime, and thus they provide connections between regions and also linkages between Asia with the broader maritime worlds of the Atlantic and the Pacific.

This symposium brings together scholars and curators to explore new approaches and appraisals of some of Asia’s most prominent port cities. With topics ranging from material culture in Batavia and the lives of Dutch merchants based in Ayutthaya to Indian convicts and Malay lascars whose labour made port cities and shipboard life possible, our speakers will explore many facets of Asia’s port cities and the communities who made them work.

Our key questions:

How do we understand Asia’s port cities?

What are the challenges in “curating” the Asian port city?

What dialogues exist between the history of the port city and port cities in the present?

How do port-city cultures evolve? What communities emerge within a port, and what is their material culture.


Speakers and topics:

Peter Lee

Dressing Badly in the Ports: Experimental Hybrid Fashion

Dhiravat na Pombejra

Life, Work, and Gossip in the Dutch Settlement: Isaack Moerdijck’s dagregister of 1644

Jean Gelman Taylor

People and Possessions: Biography from Material Culture

John Solomon

Indian Convicts in 19th-Century Singapore

Tim Bunnell

Remapping Asian Ports in the long Atlantic 20th Century: Malays and other Lascars in Liverpool

Kelvin Lawrence

Imagining Abdullah Anew: Munsyi Abdullah's Two Fire Narratives, and the Threat of Fire to Life and Property in Early Colonial Singapore

Cuauhtémoc Villamar

Why Manila?

Donna Brunero

From The Deck of a Ship: Accounts of Asian Ports and The Asian Maritime World in The Age of Sail



Admission is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Register at with your full name and institutional affiliation, if applicable.

Confirmation of registration is required. Complimentary lunch and refreshments will be served.

Registration deadline: Wednesday, 9 November 2016.

Registration may be closed before the deadline if all slots have been taken.


This symposium is jointly organised the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Department of History, and with support of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore.

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Image: View of Singapore from Mount Wallich. Percy Carpenter. Singapore, 1856. National Museum of Singapore.