In this paper, I will explore Peter Boomgaard’s scholarly impact on two of my research projects: 1) an environmental history of human interactions with tigers in Singapore; and 2) an environmental history of Singapore’s coastal spaces. In both instances, Boomgaard’s pioneering scholarship on Southeast Asian environmental history has set the stage for my analysis.
In the case of the first project, my discussion of historical interactions with tigers in Singapore draws on a number of Boomgaard’s insights from his Frontiers of Fear: Tigers and People in the Malay World, 1600-1950 (Yale UP: 2001). These include correlations between deforestation and tiger attacks, the attraction of tigers to ecotones between human and “natural” habitats, and Boomgaard’s careful descriptions of Malay cultural beliefs surrounding tigers. My work builds on Boomgaard’s by exploring the ways that indigence and debt peonage trapped Singapore’s pioneer communities in modes of subsistence that were deadly to tigers and people alike.
In the case of the second project, my examination of Singapore’s coastal spaces engages with the analysis of Southeast Asian fisheries presented by Boomgaard and his colleagues in Muddied Waters: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Management of Forests and Fisheries in Island Southeast Asia (KITLV Press, 2005). This book includes a valuable discussion of the diminishment of Singaporean fisheries that corresponded with port development following World War II. My research builds on this scholarship by considering the ways that land reclamation and the pursuit of greater state control also contributed to a curtailment of fishing in post-independence Singapore.