venue: Imagination Room, Level 5, National Library, 100 Victoria Street
date | time: Saturday, 5 Sep 2009 | 3.00 pm
This is the story of Singapore’s multicultural diversity seen through a unique feature – the kopitiam (coffeeshop) –
found mostly in the HDB estates in which 85% of Singapore’s population live. Often viewed as a quintessential feature of Singapore everyday life and public culture, the kopitiam is one among several institutions and spaces in Singapore
within which are embedded dynamic aspects and processes of migration and socialcultural diversity, set within the larger context of Singapore as a rapidly changing and globalizing city.
Originally a small-scale set-up serving drinks, nibbles and sometimes meal foods, the kopitiam has undergone a major transformation over the years. This talk examines the following aspects of the kopitiam’s cultural and social diversity: 1) foods and stalls, 2) owners, stallholders and workers, 3) customers, 4) social activities and cultural politics, and 5) local and international connections. In doing so, it explicates the historical, social and cultural evolution of the kopitiam as a site of Singaporean multi-culturalism.
LAI Ah Eng is senior research fellow at Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. She has worked in various research capacities at the Consumer’s’ association of Penang, Housing Development Board (Singapore), the National Archives of Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore) and Institute of Policy Studies (Singapore), and lectured at the Departments of Sociology and Social Work, National University of Singapore.
Her research areas include multiculturalism, migration, family and heritage. Her recent major publications include Meanings of Multiethnicity: A Case Study of Ethnicity and Ethnic Relations in Singapore (1995), Beyond Rituals
and Riots: Ethnic Pluralism and Social Cohesion in Singapore (ed.) (2004), Secularism and Spirituality: Striving for Integrated Knowledge and Success in Madrasah Education in Singapore (co-ed.) (2005), and Religious Diversity in Singapore (ed.) (2008). She has also written articles on ethnicity, religion, gender and family issues.
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