Squatters into Citizens

The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore

Loh Kah Seng

300 pp., illus.,
For sale in Europe only




Paperback - 2013, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 122 2 , £18.99


  • Explores the transformation of Singapore’s urban landscape. 
  • Draws on oral history, official records and media reports. 
  • Explores the nature of memory.

The crowded, bustling, ‘squatter’ kampongs so familiar across Southeast Asia have long since disappeared from Singapore, leaving no visible trace of their historical influence on the social life in the city-state. Fifty years have passed since the great fire at Bukit Ho Swee destroyed the kampong, left 16,000 people homeless, gave rise to a national emergency and led to the first big public housing project, a seminal event in the making of modern Singapore.

In a narrative that is both vivid and subtle, Squatters into Citizens lets former residents and fire victims tell their stories, allowing readers a glimpse of what lies beneath the hard surfaces of modern Singapore.

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