my talk on identity at The Economist’s Open Future Festival

DON_4155 copy

Dear friends, click below to watch my ten-minute talk on identity and multiculturalism in Asia at The Economist’s Open Future Festival in Hong Kong on October 5th.

I cite the different approaches to ethnic/cultural identity that we find in China, India and Singapore, and give my reasons why we all need to think a bit harder about our identity choices, given current larger forces at play in the world today.

In a sense, this Economist talk is a direct product of the brownface brouhaha in Singapore in July/August this year. I made a couple of videos on brownface and race, which got passed around by some of my former colleagues at The Economist Group in Singapore, Hong Kong and London. (Read more about my work there from 2006 to 2013.)

That in itself was surprising, because I thought the videos were hyper-local, what with my generous use of Singlish. I guess it shows that these issues are quite universal, no matter my bumbling delivery.

I took that as a cue, and decided to have a Singlish segment in this Economist talk. First time I’ve used so much Singlish at a “proper presentation” overseas. It went down well, especially with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party in Thailand, who was laughing away in the front row (and later introduced himself). I guess South-east Asians have a soft spot for our Singlish!

It was both tougher and easier than other talks I’ve given. Tougher because it’s a big topic for ten minutes; and I felt the pressure of both the live stream and the very tight timing, the clock counting down at me from a screen at my feet. I missed a couple of lines, but oh well. Happens.

But easier because I had lots of support and encouragement from the floor, including a bunch of former colleagues and bosses, some who gave me many opportunities to speak and write early in my career, some thirteen years ago now.

Also great to have Singaporean buddies Amanda and Mel in the crowd, who kindly took me out for a smashing time after. Long time since I partied in Lan Kwai Fong.

Many have asked me about whether it’s safe to travel to Hong Kong now. My response: it’s the best time! Fewer tourists, hotels are cheaper, easy to get around. The protests are very well organised and planned, so you know where to go or not, you know whether to take the MTR or taxi. I had a great time (while also acknowledging the pain others on all sides are enduring…).

And, finally, very grateful to Kaiyang Huang and Rohan Mukherjee for helping me refine my arguments.

***


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

***

There were many other cool segments at the conference, including this debate between Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s most famous pro-democracy activist, and the pro-Beijing Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group.

 

 

2 responses

  1. Whoa.

    I knew Halimah was Indian but I didn’t realise that people tried to erase her father’s ancestry on Wikipedia.

    Gosh.

    This is unbelievable.

    The state really doesn’t understand how their policies can have such negative effects.

    Also, on that note, I’m writing an article on queer minorities and the discrimination they face. Have been chatting with some folks as I interview them and it’s illuminating to me, not only as a gaybie but also as a Chinese Singaporean.

    I’m not sure if you might have any insight on that, but either ways, I’d be happy to chat with you on anything concerning identity some day in the near future. (Maybe after I read your book so I won’t frustrate you with repeat questions already dealt with in it.)

    Anyways, loved the talk, it was awesome and thanks for sharing it in your newsletter.

    Terima kasih. 🙂

    Cheers, Rachel

    On Tue, 15 Oct 2019 at 11:33, Musings from Singapore wrote:

    > Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh posted: ” Dear friends, click below to watch my > ten-minute talk on identity and multiculturalism in Asia at The Economist’s > Open Future Festival in Hong Kong on October 5th. > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzNuXzf7rqY&start=5905 I cite the > different approac” >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: