Being and Becoming: Of Femininities in the Malay World Through 50 Images (Seminars)

A series of four seminars was presented by researchers behind Being and Becoming: Of Femininities in the Malay World Through 50 Images.

The online exhibition Being and Becoming: Of Femininities in the Malay World Through 50 Images runs from 12 May – 31 August 2022. The exhibition is part of a larger research project, entitled ‘Being and Becoming Female in the Malay World: Interrogating and Curating the Photo-Archives of Early Singapore’, funded by the National Heritage Board’s Heritage Research Grant (HRG) scheme.

As part of the project, a series of four seminars was presented by Lead Researcher, Associate Professor Dr Maznah Mohamad, and her co-researchers, Dr Suriani Suratman, Dr Imran Tajudeen (all from the Malay Studies Department, NUS) and Associate Professor Dr Bahar Gürsel, from the Department of History of Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey.

Seminars 1 & 2 were held on 12 May 2022  and Seminars 3 & 4 were held on 26 May 2022, all via zoom webinar. Below are edited recordings of the seminars.

Seminar 1: Constructing Femininities and Race: Body-shopping and Postcard Capitalism by Associate Professor Dr Maznah Mohamad

Seminar 2: Pursuing the Woman in the White Dress: Photography and (Im)posed Female Images in the Malay World by Dr Bahar Gürsel 

Moderator: Dr Simon Soon


Maznah Mohamad is Associate Professor and currently Head of the Department of Malay Studies. Aside from this current research on Visual Representation of Malay World Femininities, her other areas of research are Gender and Sexuality, Malay Manuscripts as Medium and Method, Bureaucratic Islam, and Women’s Political Leadership. She has published “Sex Manuals in Malay Manuscripts as Another Transcript of Gender Relations” in the journal Religions (2021) and The Divine Bureaucracy and Disenchantment of Social Life in 2020 (Palgrave-Macmillan).

Bahar Gürsel: Associate Professor at the Department of History of Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey where she currently teaches US cultural history, Cold War history, modern British history and Italian Unification. She is the author of a number of articles and book chapters on US and Italian History, and late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century representations of the East in the West. She has also participated in the curatorial teams of national and international projects and exhibitions which concentrate on photography archives and related primary sources. Bahar Gürsel was also an Isaac Manasseh Meyer Visiting Fellow at the Department of Malay Studies of NUS from 14 February to 1 March 2022.

Simon Soon is a senior lecturer in art history with the Visual Studies Program, Faculty of Creative Arts, University Malaya. His research interest spans the 19th- and 20th-century, including the multicultural histories of photographic studios in Singapore and Malaysia. Besides teaching, he occasionally creates artworks, and curates exhibitions. He is a team member of Malaysia Design Archive. In his spare time, he creates GIS maps, photographs roadside shrines, and visits tiny temples.

Seminar 3: Seeing Beyond Empire: Heteroglossic Readings of Settings, Subjects, and Counter-othering in Colonial-era Photography by Dr Imran Tajudeen

Seminar 4: Assembling an Imagined Everyday Life: Women’s Work and Place by Dr Suriani Suratman

Moderator: Nurul Huda Rashid


Imran bin Tajudeen is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Malay Studies and the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore, where he teaches topics on identity and representation through the arts, urban history, and built cultural heritage in maritime Southeast Asia. His doctoral dissertation on this topic (NUS, 2009) won the ICAS Book Prize in 2011. He was named Most Promising New Civil Society Advocate in 2015 for his active work on urban heritage awareness. He is co-editor of Southeast Asia’s Modern Architecture (2018), and was postdoctoral fellow at MIT’s Aga Khan Program (2009–10) and the IIAS in Leiden (2010–11), and was also Mutawa Visiting Fellow at OCIS (Oxford, 2019-2020; Trinity 2022). He has published on historiographical challenges in art and architectural history arising from the colonial encounter and received epistemologies.

Suriani Suratman, a social anthropologist, is Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head at the Department of Malay Studies, and Convenor of the Minor in Gender Studies at the National University of Singapore. Her teaching covers areas on Malay culture and society, lived experiences of families and households and art making in the Malay and Indonesian archipelago. Her research focuses on Malay ethnic identities and the (re)production of portrayals of Malays, gender relations and inequalities in Malay families and households as well as politics of remembering. She recently published an article in Religions (2021), an online journal, studying Muslim marriage preparation handbooks in Singapore.

Nurul Huda Rashid (she/her) is a researcher-writer currently pursuing her PhD in Cultural Studies. Her research focuses on images and narratives, visual and sentient bodies, feminisms, and the intersections between them. These have been articulated through projects such as Women in War (2016-ongoing), unknown woman/wanita kami (2021), and Hijab/Her (2012-2014).



Being and Becoming: Of Femininities in the Malay World Through 50 Images is a public online exhibition featuring archival images sourced from around the world. The exhibition ends on 31 August 2022.

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