The mergers and separations that shaped the decolonizing third world also made media history. Singapore’s separation from Malaysia on August 9, 1965, after two tumultuous years of union was no exception. Radio and television, which broadcasted the seminal moments, embodied the mergers and separations of media forms—this is a fact overlooked in both national histories and regional media scholarship. Reconfigured with the complex, shifting intersections of radio and television, the otherwise familiar account of merger and separation in the “Singapore Story” emerges anew with static noises, pauses, iterations, and interruptions. The technical effects of cuts and jumps in early radio and television editing undergird and thereby challenge the politics of representation in studies of decolonization. At the same time, technological transfer and adaptation in the former British colonies open the provincial confines of media theory to a more global, materialist trajectory. This article connects the televised broadcast of Singapore’s independence in 1965 to early enthusiasm for radio’s disembodied voice during the colonial, interwar period. The discussion then examines how Amir Muhammad’s 2007 independent documentary Village People Radio Show (Apa khabar orang kampung) recovers radio’s forgotten role in the Second Malayan Emergency, also known as the Communist Insurgency War (1967–89).
Pauses, Cuts, and Static Interference: Media Forms of Merger and Separation in Malaysia and Singapore
Shaoling Ma is an assistant professor of humanities (literature) at Yale-NUS College, where she teaches and writes on media and media theory, Marxism, and global Chinese culture and politics. She has published in academic journals such as Science Fiction Studies, Configurations, and Mediations. Her first book, The Stone and the Wireless: Mediating China, 1861–1906 is forthcoming from Duke University Press (spring 2021). She is currently pursuing a second project on the recursions of digitality in contemporary media studies and global China.
Shaoling Ma; Pauses, Cuts, and Static Interference: Media Forms of Merger and Separation in Malaysia and Singapore. positions 1 November 2020; 28 (4): 841–868. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8606574
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