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Much attention has been devoted, by scholars and others, to the dramatic growth of Singapore in the latter part of the nineteenth century, as a great commercial entrepôt, as a flourishing city of tens of thousands of Chinese migrants, and as the maritime focus of two economic empires, the British and the Dutch. The direction and the intensity of this interest are, of course, understandable, but it has done much to obscure the role of Singapore as a focus also for the cultural and economic energies of the Malaysian world which existed alongside but in many ways separate from the world created by the West. While the comparison cannot be pressed too far, Singapore in the nineteenth century may be likened to Malacca in the fifteenth, in its role as metropolis for an area that embraced the whole Malay Peninsula and Archipelago, from Kedah and Acheh to the Celebes. Island trade in Malaysian or Arab hands, Indonesian migration to the Peninsula, the pilgrimage to Mecca and its subsidiary activities in the fields of Islamic teaching and publication, brought together in Singapore a great variety of Malaysian and Muslim peoples from differing social and economic background but sharing a lingua franca and important elements of a common culture, and often freed from the more hampering restraints of traditional social systems. Urban life has in all places and times been an important breeding ground for new ideas and new ways, and to this general pattern Singapore at the close of the nineteenth century conforms.
This article deals with the problems of North Korean defectors currently living in South Korea. In the past, most such defectors came from privileged groups in the North Korean population, and their adjustment to the new environment did not pose a significant problem. However, from the mid-1990s, defectors began to come from the far less privileged groups. They experience serious problems related to jobs, education, crime, and social adjustment. Recent years have seen a dramatic but not always openly stated change in the official South Korean attitude toward defectors: from a policy explicitly aimed at encouraging defection, Seoul has moved to the policy of quietly discouraging it. There are fears that encouraging defection will undermine the policy of peaceful engagement with the North. There is also the perception that refugees are outsiders, not quite adjustable to the conditions of South Korean society and thus a social and budgetary burden.
An the spring of 1984, officials of Taishan County, Guangdong, erected a statue in the central square of the county seat to commemorate the man whose life represented the highest attainment of ambition, idealism, and patriotism in recent local history. The man so honored was neither a conquering general nor a communist zealot. Taishan's chosen hero was a master of commerce and industry, who overcame the early disadvantages of birth to an impoverished family to become a wealthy and successful businessman, a powerful labor contractor, a railroad engineer, and the owner of a thriving import-export business based in the American city of Seattle. Chen Yixi (1844–1928) was not distinguished by financial success alone, for many other Taishanese men went to America, where, by dint of hard work, determination, and luck, they also became wealthy men.
We are currently witnessing two trends in Southeast Asia: first, an increase in what is often referred to as “civil society” activity including action by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and second, an increase in various forms of migration, one of the key human rights concerns of the post-World War II era. This article reviews the convergence of these two trends by examining activism on behalf of migrant workers in the largest receiving state of migrants in Asia, Malaysia. With approximately 700,000 documented and over one million undocumented migrant workers, Malaysia has one of the highest percentages of foreign workers in the world (Migrant News [MN], November 1999). Like many other countries with labor shortages, Malaysia needs these workers, but does not want them. Both of these facts are clearly reflected in government policies. There are frequent attempts to get rid of migrant workers, either in response to public concern or because of economic downturn, but with almost every halt to migration there is a corresponding exception allowing workers to stay or continue coming. Throughout this process there is little if any attention paid to the rights of migrant workers by the Malaysian government, or often the migrant's home government. Since this increased migration is occurring at a time of a general increase in activism in Malaysia and regionally, it is reasonable to ask what of this civil society energy is being addressed to the increasingly important issue of migrant rights.
Few events have been more important to the history of modern South Asia than the partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947. The coming of partition has cast a powerful shadow on historical reconstructions of the decades before 1947, while the ramifications of partition have continued to leave their mark on subcontinental politics fifty years after the event.
Yet, neither scholars of British India nor scholars of Indian nationalism have been able to find a compelling place for partition within their larger historical narratives (Pandey 1994, 204–5). For many British empire historians, partition has been treated as an illustration of the failure of the “modernizing” impact of colonial rule, an unpleasant blip on the transition from the colonial to the postcolonial worlds. For many nationalist Indian historians, it resulted from the distorting impact of colonialism itself on the transition to nationalism and modernity, “the unfortunate outcome of sectarian and separatist politics,” and “a tragic accompaniment to the exhilaration and promise of a freedom fought for with courage and valour” (Menon and Bhasin 1998, 3).