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Living on the razor’s edge: The rickshawmen of Singapore between two wars, 1919–1939

Warren, J.ORCID: 0000-0003-0055-6730 (1984) Living on the razor’s edge: The rickshawmen of Singapore between two wars, 1919–1939. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 16 (4). pp. 38-51.


This article' reconstructs the world of the rickshaw pullers of Singapore in the period from 1918 to 1939, examines the nature of their interaction and experience with the city, and the causes and effects of colonial policy and practice on their working and personal lives. There has been increasing recognition of the need to focus research on the urban work place, labor and the everyday problems of the coolie class under colonial rule in Southeast Asia. Such efforts, if they are to be meaningful, must be posed, theoretically and empirically, against a background of real life. This approach raises grave historiographical problems, for historians, I ike anthropologists, have tended "to graze in the fields," focusing their primary attention on rural societies of Southeast Asia. Considerable work has been done on peasant based movements and, opposition to colonial rule, but hardly any historical research has been conducted on the urban laboring class, of which the rickshaw coolies of Singapore formed a part.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
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