Finally I have reached my destination and I am fully connected so that I can now go back to my blog after nearly two months of neglect. I am in Singapore, at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. My new office has a window which faces the Botanic Gardens, since Bukit Timah campus is actually within the garden itself. I have a nice view of nature and modernity from my 9th floor window. The UK and Europe are distant. Yet in this increasingly globalized world nothing is really as distant as it used to be.
Here my research will focus on Malay Singaporean Muslim youth culture, religion and generational gap. I am officially in fieldwork, this time distant from Her Majesty’s Prisons. Yet in a funny coincidence, the HDB (public housing) flat in which I am staying (as all the other HDB flats in Singapore) has bars at the door and windows like a prison. I wonder why, since in my case I am at the fifteenth floor of ‘Ghim Moh Green’, my HDB, and to burgle at such heights may be a bit complicated.
I would have never found my new place if it were not for the great help of my new Malay friends, who more or less have adopted me, or at least fed me as never before. Indeed when I reached Singapore, it was just few days before Eid. I had the occasion, thanks to the fantastic hospitality of this community, to say ‘Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri’ (the Malay equivalent of Eid Mubarak’) many times in different homes as well as to taste unknown, but all tasty, food. It is also time for me to seriously learn Malay.
However, even from this tropical paradise of nature and technology, of never changing weather, and ever changing landscapes of buildings and streets, I still follow what is happening in the ‘Old Continent’.
In these first few weeks that I have left Europe, we have witnessed small but significant changes, which in my opinion open a quite dark future for the continent. While in Austria the two far right wing parties have won elections, in Italy increasingly violent racism has followed a xenophobic political and social campaign unseen since the 1930s, with continuous attacks on immigrants, the last one happening just today.
Europe is shifting, mainly unnoticed, towards a ‘recently seen past’. The economic crisis, indeed, resembles the 1930s one, and the racism and recession appear to have some strange correlations.