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Catholic Studies Talk

15 February 2024

4 p.m. AS8 04-04

The island of Singapore has long thrived on the fusion of trade and culture, and this history goes back at least 700 years; a tradition which continues into Singapore’s immediate past. The open and friendly demeanor of the Malay world made the rise and spread of Peranakan communities and culture possible. It rose from a multitude of vastly different sources; from trader settlers and sojourners to even colonial invaders.

Beginning in 1832, this story is about the meeting of different cultures, who are united under a newfound religious faith. While most other communities at this time were bound by some degree of clan, racial affiliation or language, the newly formed Roman Catholic community was different. From its early days, it was an amalgam of people from different backgrounds. Beginning in 1834, intermarriages between these different groups began, mainly between China-born, Teochew men and Melaka Serani, Malay, Peranakan Chinese and Indian women. It is possible that divisions did exist, but there were also more opportunities to overcome them than previously recognized. In effect, this community predates modern concepts of multicultural and multiracial Singapore by at least a century.

In this talk, Marc Sebastian Rerceretnam will discuss his research about the history of Singapore Catholics and present the new edition of his book "A History of Immigrant Roman Catholics and Converts in Early Singapore 1832-1945."

About the Speaker: 

Marc Sebastian Rerceretnam is a Sydney-based freelance researcher, published author and social historian. He has a Ph.D. (Economic History) from Sydney University and has a special interest in social and political trends and movements in colonial and present-day Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. He was a 2019 recipient of a Lee Kong Chian National Library Board Fellowship. In 2021 he published his first book on the history of Singapore Catholics. 

Discussants: 

Cyprian Lim

Bruce Lockhart

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