Junior Scholar Seminar: 5 Feb 2021

The Storytelling State: Performing Life Histories in Singapore

Nien Yuan Cheng, Honorary Associate, University of Sydney

Friday 5 February, 4–5pm Singapore time, 7–8pm Sydney time, via Zoom

Today, oral histories of everyday Singaporeans are more widely circulated in the nation’s mediascape than ever before. At first glance, storytelling in Singapore appears to have lost its monolithic quality, becoming diffuse and diversified. Cheng’s research charts Singapore’s development into a storytelling state over the last decade, where the embodied performances of stories are systematically deployed as a new mode of governance. Bite-sized pieces of consumable lives are marketed as authentic windows to the private self, producing ways of being, doing and feeling. What does it mean to ‘have a life’ when the national mise-en-scène seems to be life itself?

Nien Yuan Cheng is a performance scholar and dramaturg. She is an Honorary Associate at the School of Literature, Art and Media at the University of Sydney, where she obtained her PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies in 2020. She has published in the Oral History Review, Performance Paradigm, and About Performance.

Cheng’s seminar is organised in collaboration with the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, University of Sydney


Charlene Rajendran is an Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University and Co-Director of the Asian Dramaturgs’ Network. Her research interests focus on contemporary interdisciplinary theatre, play-based pedagogy, issues of identity and thought leadership. 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.