Ishak bin Ahmad and the Politics of Malayan Fish
About the Seminar
This talk explores the work of Malayan nationalism through the career of Ishak bin Ahmad
(1887-1969), the father of Singapore’s first president Yusof bin Ishak (1910-1970). Of Minangkabau descent, Ishak became the first non-European to head a Malayan government department during the 1930s. At the heart of Ishak’s professional life and political work were fish and the economic lives they supported. By tracing the arc of Ishak’s journey from Kuala Trong, Perak, to Singapore in the first half of the 20th century, the talk seeks to shed light on how some local scientists leveraged their expertise and mobility in ways that both captured colonial opportunities and cultivated national horizons. In particular, it argues that Ishak’s knowledge of Malayan fish (and waters) shaped not only the prewar processes of urban and agricultural change but also, and more importantly, the postwar contours of social and political imagination.
About the Speaker
Anthony D. Medrano is the National University of Singapore (NUS) Presidential Young Professor of Environmental Studies at Yale-NUS College. He is also a research associate in the Inter-Asia Engagements cluster at the Asia Research Institute. His research explores the interplay between people and fish, science and society, and technology and nature in Southeast Asia in the long twentieth century. Prior to joining Yale-NUS College, he was a Ziff Environmental Fellow at Harvard University. Medrano’s forthcoming article titled “History between the Tides: How Estuaries and Migrants Transformed the Straits of Melaka, 1870s-1940s” will soon appear in the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. His book manuscript titled The Edible Ocean: Science, Industry, and the Rise of Urban Southeast Asia is under contract with Yale University Press. He has degrees from Humboldt (BA), Hawaii (MA), and Wisconsin (PhD).
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