Occupational Hazards

EDITORS’ PREFACE

The professional mission of academics everywhere is to push the boundaries of knowledge (research), disseminate knowledge (teaching, writing), and serve society (service) in all domains, through advocacy, civic participation, and innovation in ideas, policies, and practices. These activities inevitably require interrogating received wisdoms, which may uncover inconvenient truths, question the status quo, and challenge vested interests.

AcademiaSG was founded five years ago with these ideals in mind. We have evolved into a platform for scholars to share discoveries, ideas and opinions, across disciplinary boundaries and with the wider public. 

We are committed to encouraging and showcasing voices and viewpoints that for various reasons are less likely to be carried by mainstream media or academic outlets. We have also tried to challenge the institutional barriers and mental blocks that marginalise ideas that people in authority consider troublesome.

In 2021, we published the first survey of Singapore-based academics reporting on the state of academic freedom as they see it. In the same spirit, we are now publishing a series of personal essays by established scholars recounting the organisational and political constraints they have faced when working on and in Singapore.

They work in different disciplines and spheres of activity. Collectively, their experiences span the 1970s to the present day.

Some cases show how obstacles can be overcome or at least mitigated. Others reveal the personal costs of going against the grain, and losses to society in the form of dogmas unquestioned and scholarly initiatives nipped in the bud.

We are not the only actors who seek the betterment of society through efforts that challenge power, and we are arguably more privileged than many, given the societal value attached to expert qualifications, and the protections afforded by formal employment and facilitative global norms. The status that academics are accorded gives us additional responsibilities to critique the conditions in which we work.

By documenting these lived experiences, we hope to provide greater transparency in the governance of Singapore’s higher education sector and contribute to conditions more amenable to academics’ pursuit of their social mission.

– The Editors, April 2024

The Essays

COMING: TEO YOU YENN, MARK BAILDON AND MORE