A Yale-NUS College programme that was meant to introduce students to various modes of dissent and organising resistance here has been cancelled.
The course, due to start in two weeks (from September 29 to October 5), would have been led by Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at in collaboration with programme manager Tan Yock Theng of the university.
Mr Alfian, resident playwright at local theatre company Wild Rice, is a poet, playwright and short story writer known for his work, which has delved into topics of race, sexuality and politics.
The itinerary included plans for a screening of Singaporean independent film-maker Jason Soo’s 1987: Untracing The Conspiracy, a film which focuses on detainees arrested under the Internal Security Act in 1987, a workshop on designing protest signs and a panel discussion with freelance journalist Kirsten Han, veteran journalist P.N. Balji and historian Thum Ping Tjin. Later plans also included showing a documentary on Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, a Straits Times article reported.
On Sunday afternoon, Alfian Sa’at took to social media to clarify the intended purpose of the course.
He wrote, “The programme ‘Dissent and Resistance’ is not designed to train students ‘to stage protests in public’. Any comparisons with what is happening in Hong Kong right now is off the mark.
2) It is however designed to guide students to think about dissent in Singapore. What is a dissident? Why does the media persist in labelling certain individuals or groups as ‘troublemakers’? Who are they making trouble for?
3) One of the best ways to get these insights is to meet some so-called dissidents face to face. To give the students unfiltered access. So that they can ask questions. Why is your art or cause so important to you? What do you consider acceptable risks? What are the creative tactics you have used to express dissent WITHIN the bounds of the law?”
Sa’at also shared the proposed programme, along with a replacement programme to prove his point.
His suggested replacement programme, more satirical than anything, included changes such as,
“Dissent and Resistance
Change to: Consent and Compliance”,
“Friday 27 September
10 am – 11. 30 pm: Visit to Speaker’s Corner
(Mapping out topography of control and surveillance)
Change to: Visit to ISD Heritage Centre (Students reminded not to mention 1987 to the guide. Awkward!)”, and
“2 pm – 5 pm: Sign-Making Workshop
Change to: Line-Writing Workshop
(Write “I will not…” 10000 times. This exercise will teach the students how to conduct self-criticism. And improve their penmanship.)”.
Some points of clarification.1) The programme ‘Dissent and Resistance’ is not designed to train students ‘to stage…