Junior Scholar Seminar: 10 Mar 2021

Foreign Bodies, Local Language

Joshua Babcock, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, The University of Chicago

Wednesday, 10 March 2021, 9–10am Singapore time (GMT +8), via Zoom

What does a Singaporean look like? What do they sound like? Drawing on media texts, online comments, and ethnographic data, this seminar explores how young Black and mixed-race Singaporeans both use and talk about Singlish and Mandarin. While these individuals’ appearance leads many observers to assume they are “not Singaporean,” their ability to speak language varieties considered “uniquely Singaporean” is a crucial—but contestable—part of their efforts to claim belonging to the nation.

Joshua Babcock’s research examines the public politics of language, race, and belonging in Singapore. His research has been supported by the Fulbright U.S. Student Researcher Program, the Reed Foundation’s Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund, the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities (SUTD), and Department of English Language and Literature (NUS).

Babcock’s seminar is organised in collaboration with the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, Singapore University of Technology and Design.


Woo Yen Yen specialises in multicultural pedagogy. She is currently CEO of Yumcha Studios, a content and edtech company. She was formerly a Research Fellow and Lecturer at Teachers College, Columbia University, and an Associate Professor at Long Island University in New York. Her filmmaking credits include Singapore Dreaming. More.


The Singapore Studies Junior Scholar Seminars are organised by AcademiaSG, an international collective of Singaporean scholars, as part of our mission to promote research on Singapore. If you are a PhD student or post-doctoral scholar with research to share, read our Call for Proposals. We also welcome essays and commentaries for our Academic Views section. Write to our editors through our contact form to pitch an idea.