The myth of beneficial colonisation
: coloniality of knowledge production in constructing Singapore's history

  • Muneerah Ab Razak

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis argues that epistemic justice can only occur when we go beyond diversifying and dewesternising, and instead engage with knowledge production from the colonial difference. Engaging with indigenous and local narratives that are enacting ‘border thinking’ firstly critiques the partial stories of modernity by elucidating modernity/coloniality and secondly, offers alternatives to modernity/coloniality. I am guided by the scholarship on modernity/coloniality/decoloniality to examine knowledge production in Singapore. From the discussions of decolonial scholars on coloniality of knowledge, I arrive at a two-part decolonial framework for this thesis, in which I: (1) critique dominant, hegemonic Eurocentric narratives and expose experiences of modernity/coloniality and, (2) re-engage and reconstitute creative constructions of alternatives through the excavation of local knowledges and praxis that are responding to modernity/coloniality.

Within the first part of the framework, I excavate foundational narratives of modernity found in colonial-era history textbooks, written by the British colonial government, during the period of British colonisation in Malaya. I then examine to what extent these narratives were critiqued or reproduced by the contemporary Singapore government in the 2019 Bicentennial commemorations in Singapore. The discussion of diversifying and dewesternising arise when some of these critical efforts in the Bicentennial critiqued British colonisation without acknowledging modernity/coloniality. For the second part of the framework, I engage with Utusan Melayu, a Malay newspaper written in Jawi script based in Singapore, as an example of an alternative people’s history which demonstrates how speaking from the colonial difference offers a fuller story of modernity/coloniality. I also explore Utusan Melayu as a source of border thinking and ask whether it offers alternatives to modernity/coloniality. I conclude by illustrating how epistemic injustice manifests materially in Singapore – showing how the partial stories of modernity justify the pursuit of a Eurocentric modernity. This in turn allows global colonialities to be reproduced locally.
Date of Award11 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorJasmine K. Gani (Supervisor) & Gurchathen Singh Sanghera (Supervisor)


  • Singapore
  • Modernity/coloniality
  • Coloniality of knowledge
  • Epistemic justice
  • Border thinking
  • Eurocentrism
  • British colonisation
  • Malaya
  • Decolonisation
  • Jawi

Access Status

  • Full text open

Cite this