Culture Kitchen
April 2, 2014 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Culture Kitchen
I was perturbed by the rising xenophobia (or at least, anti-immigrant sentiment) in my city-state of Singapore. I decide to start a series of events celebrating the food and art of our many communities. The idea is to put people who wouldn't typically find themselves in the same room, much less at the same dinner table, in the same place and feed them great food. In the first instalment, we had Bangladeshis and South Indians, mostly construction workers, come to have biryani with Singaporeans and white collar residents/expats. In the second, we had walking tours of Little Myanmar, showcased all of the culinary highlights of the country, and also showed a great little film from indie Myanmar filmmakers. Of course it's debatable really how much of an impact this can really have on policy, but my hope is that we can at least start conversations and friendships.
Role: mastermind
posted by popagandhi (5 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Oh man, I wish I was still in JB, I'd come to this.

Just a little note on phrasing: it's a little interesting that you'd make Bangladeshis and South Indians somehow distinct than Singaporeans and expats. I'm a child of Bangladeshi expats in Malaysia and I'm no less Malaysian for it - even though society expects me to be some foreign distinct culture.

I'm guessing you mean temporary migrants who are in Singapore just to work? But it might be worthwhile to question who gets counted as "local" or "Singaporean", and whether you need to be here permanently or not to count (especially when you may not be able to stay permanently) and talk about that. Especially since it seems that Singapore suffers from the same problem as Malaysia in terms of dividing everything into Malay/Chinese/Indian/Other rather than recognising actual diversity.

Good luck, if I'm back in town I'd love to check this out!
posted by divabat at 12:08 PM on April 3, 2014

and now I see that one of your team is Bangladeshi! ha.

Still might be worthwhile to talk about who counts as a local.
posted by divabat at 12:09 PM on April 3, 2014

@divabat Great points. I think the phrasing is the part I'm struggling with the most. Perhaps you can help. I think for me most of those distinctions are about class.

I'm all for people coming and staying for as long as they want but unfortunately when we talk about certain groups, for example South Asian labour class workers, their contracts literally state that they can't stay, can't marry local, can't do any of those humane things.

The broader idea of this project is to be able to feature different aspects of what it means to be "not CMIO" in Singapore. Or even if you are a C or an I — perhaps Sichuanese culture is completely different? Perhaps people know nothing about Kodava cuisine? Stuff like that.

Where are you based at the moment?
posted by popagandhi at 5:08 AM on April 4, 2014

Ooh, this is fantastic. I really love Singapore - I hope it's not jingoism, I'm not even Singaporean - but I really hope too that we can grow past this anti-immigrant sentiment. It'll be thanks in part to initiatives like this and the sentiments behind them, so thank you. I'd love to check this out soon!

(If I may butt in, I believe divabat's now based in San Francisco.)
posted by undue influence at 9:15 AM on April 6, 2014

For the next few months I will be in SF, yes.

And I know all too well the struggles of migrant labor. My dad had it easier because he was part of a professional class, but his career rise was fraught with a lot of difficulty and discrimination.

I would wager that there are a lot of, say, Bangladeshis in Singapore that are not part of the labor class. (One of my cousins just moved there to work in finance, in fact, and I'm sure there's more.) From my experience people really could not fathom that us "Others" could be anything other than labor class, especially since we weren't White or otherwise Western/European. In JB there wasn't necessarily that long-standing Bangladeshi community, but I think there is a fair bit in Singapore of Bangladeshis who'd been there generations, or are recent migrants with different jobs.
posted by divabat at 1:52 PM on April 6, 2014

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