Reading Groups

Reading groups bring together students, faculty members, practitioners, and researchers from multi-disciplinary backgrounds to think together about topics specific to each reading group’s theme. They aim to help students deepen their knowledge through in-class discussion, talks by invited speakers, and projects/interventions, guided by relevant readings from literature.

Reading groups are not credit-bearing. Participation in a Reading Group will take approximately two to three hours per week during Semester.

CAPTains who are unable to take a college module to fulfil residency requirements can contact the Director of Studies to seek approval to participate in a Reading Group instead, on a case-by-case basis. This will usually involve writing an additional paper.

There are seven Reading Groups offered this semester (AY2017/2018 Semester 1). You can sign up for Reading Groups here.

Minorities & Languages
This reading group will explore the policies, challenges and research related to minorities and languages, with a special focus on Singapore and the region.

Why is Mandarin an official language in Singapore and Hokkien only a “dialect”?  What is the difference between a “dialect‟ and a “language‟? How and why has the number of Indian languages available as Mother Tongue in schools expanded since independence? Why have other Southeast Asian countries chosen some languages over others for official status? The group will discuss these questions and consider how language and education policies relate to concepts of identity, ethnicity and nation building.

Schedule (AY2017/2018 Sem 1): 

This group will meet on Tuesdays, from 6-8pm in SR6. The first session will be held in Week 3 (students who signed up will be informed via email). The dates for the rest of the sessions will be announced at our first session.


Ms Wong Soon Fen (

Assoc Prof Bruce Lockhart (

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Regions – Formation or Failure?
This reading group will explore the historical emergence and construction of different regions, such as Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle East and Latin America. It investigates the factors that form a region, be it language, culture, economics, politics, geographic, or a combination. Among the broader issues that we will discuss:

    1. What is the concept of “regionalism” and what is a region?
    2. Examine the politics, economics and history of regionalism (challenges to integration, and success and/or failure of regional cooperation and integration);
    3. Investigate external and internal factors that shape regional cooperation or regional disintegration;
    4. Assess regional organisations such as ASEAN, EU, Arab League, NATO, etc.
    5. Discuss current affairs (such as Brexit, sanctions on Qatar, “Arab Spring”, the rise of IS, and right-wing populism).

However, for this semester, we will specifically revisit the pivotal events of 2016 and 2017. In June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU, a complicated divorce that will take years to negotiate. Donald Trump, an anti-establishment candidate, was elected president of the US. These events, among others, signify the emergence of political “populism” and resurgence of economic nationalism in the West. To explain Brexit and the rise of the Trump phenomena, social scientists have rushed to reassess globalisation and integration, examining their impact on domestic politics and affairs. The main query that is being investigated is whether the benefits of globalisation have been equitably shared among all sections in society over the past two decades.

In June 2017, some Middle Eastern states cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of “terrorism”. This RG will address the rise of political tension in the GCC region and the high possibility of GCC disintegration in case Qatar is pushed out of the cooperation council.

Other topical themes that we hope to cover concern the rise China as an assertive economic and political power in the South China Sea and other areas beyond its geographic proximity, against the background of Trump’s ascendency to power and his anti-globalisation and isolationist policies.

Schedule (AY2017/2018 Sem 1)

This group will meet on Wednesdays, from 4-6pm in SR2.


Assoc Prof Reuben Wong (

Dr Linda Matar (

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Healthy Communities - Global Health in Action
Healthy Communities (HCRG) is an interdisciplinary Reading Group for people who are interested in bridging the gap between evidence and practice, and in examining the real-world issues that individuals, communities and health systems face in trying to improve the health of populations.

This semester, the HCRG will focus on understanding priorities for meeting health needs in different countries, and how these needs are being addressed through global health programmes that function in many different ways – from rolling out new technologies and medicines…to improving access to health services…to changing behaviour, population-wide.

Millions Saved’ (published in 2016, and written by Amanda Glassman, Miriam Temin) is our focus for this semester. This is a highly readable collection of case studies that illustrates best practices and important challenges in global health. Each week, the group will read, question and debate issues related to a programme that was able to make an impact in reducing disease, death or disability; and examine the factors that made it work.

We are privileged to have Dr Liow Chee Hsiang from Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health as a co-convener for the reading group this semester. Dr Liow worked as a public health physician in China for 14 years, during which he directed operations for an international NGO, and was involved ‘on the ground’ in developing and evaluating programmes related to HIV and other diseases.

If you are (a) interested in finding out more about global health and what factors contribute to the success, or otherwise, of health programmes in diverse populations, and (b) committed to the reading and preparation for each session, you are welcome to join the group. You can also attend the first session before you decide. Please sign up here to indicate interest.

Schedule (AY2017/2018 Sem 1)

This group will meet on Wednesdays from 5-6:30pm in SR4.

Note: The first session on 30 August 2017 will be held from 4:30-6pm as the date coincides with the College Welcome Dinner.


Assoc Prof Adeline Seow (

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Green Stories
Singapore’s green spaces are stories in the process of being told, with its own cast of characters, conflict, and unexpected plot twists. This interdisciplinary reading group explores both the biophysical and social changes that created Singapore’s parks and gardens. We also investigate how these green spaces impact social life, shaping how Singaporeans interact with each other and how the city maintains itself.

This semester, we focus specifically on the sudden emergence of urban gardeners in Singapore. Who are the new “HDB farmers” of the modern city? How do ideas about food, space, and sustainability influence this movement? Join us in investigating how Singapore’s edible garden spaces were actually established and the compromises made in order to sustain them.

This reading group is conducted in collaboration with the project, Emerging Cultures of Urban Farming in Singapore, led by Asst. Prof. Marvin Montefrio, Division of Social Science, Yale NUS.

Schedule (AY2017/2018 Sem 1)

This group will meet on Wednesdays, 2-4pm at SR6.


Dr Toh Tai Chong (

Dr Yasmin Ortiga (

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In the Footprints of Dinosaurs
This is a special Reading Group on palaeontology and prehistoric life led by Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich.

Here are some of the suggested topics to cover during the Reading Group sessions:

  1. Why are we fascinated with Dinosaurs? Palaeontology in pop culture
  2. Life in the Precambrian
  3. Dinosaur diversity
  4. Fossilisation and processes
  5. An afternoon at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
  6. Dinosaur ecology (what do we know and not know)
  7. Earth’s geologic history and paleogeography
  8. Dinosaur origins, extinctions, present day dinosaurs (Evolution)
  9. Frontiers in dinosaur research

Professor Pat Vickers-Rich is Emerita Professor of Palaeobiology and Professor of Palaeontology (Personal Chair) at the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University with more than 50 years’ experience in the field of palaeontology.

She has been awarded numerous distinctions and grants throughout her illustrious career, and is widely recognised for her ground-breaking research in vertebrate palaeontology and palaeobiology. She is the founding director of Monash Science Centre and appears regularly in popular media, having written more than 16 popular books, 16 exhibition catalogues, and being consultant and researcher/organiser for various documentaries and international travelling exhibitions. She was awarded the Order of Australia in 2016 in recognition of her outstanding achievement and service in the field.

Schedule (AY2017/2018 Sem 1)

This group will meet on:

Mondays (11 Sep, 18 Sep, 2 Oct) from 2-4pm in SR5; and

Wednesdays (13 Sep, 20 Sep, 4 Oct) from 3-5pm in SR4;

There will also be a field trip to St John’s Island on 16 Sep, Saturday.


Dr Joelle Lai (

Dr Toh Tai Chong (

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A Different Way of Looking: An Artist’s Perspective
There are lots of ways to look at art, but have you ever wondered how artworks look from an artist’s perspective?

In this group students will have the opportunity to directly engage with art and gain an intimate insight by exploring what artists have written about artworks. As well as looking at other academic texts to give a more comprehensive context to art, Chris will require students to consider their relationship with artworks, deepening their understanding and looking beyond the gaze of historians and critics.

The reading group includes a walking tour to explore public sculptures in the heart of Singapore with Chris Gilmour, and students will then have the chance to apply their experience to produce proposals for a public artwork of their own, addressing the practical, cultural, social and conceptual questions this raises.

Students can further understand and appreciate the artist’s approach to making and materials in both practical and theoretical terms, considering how material processes have influenced the way art works have been conceived and made through history. Together we will analyse the relationship artworks have with place and context, considering how an artwork modifies spaces, interacts with its context, dialogues with society and represents the people or organisations that sponsor it.

The aim of the group is to recognise how we see, what we see, and the criteria we use to do so. The experience of looking, and looking with the intention of seeing, is integral to our journey together.

Schedule (AY2017/2018 Sem 1)

  1. Thursday, Aug 17, 6:30-8pm, SR4
  2. Monday, Aug 21, Master’s Tea, 6:30-8pm
  3. Thursday Aug 24, 6:30-8pm, SR4
  4. Saturday, Aug 26, Walking Tour, 9am-12:30pm
  5. Monday, Aug 28, 6:30-8pm, SR4
  6. *Note: Students must also do a one-on-one session with Chris Gilmour in the Garage by Aug 30
  7. Monday, Sep 4, 6:30-8pm, SR4
  8. Monday, Sep 11, 6:30-8pm, SR4


Assoc Prof Greg Petersen (

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Logic & Reasoning
This is a special Reading Group on logic and reasoning led by Professor Rod Downey.

Logic is the study of principles of correct reasoning. This Reading Group will look at what constitutes a correct argument. We will begin with simple propositional logic, and a glimpse into early Greek reasonings. We will also look at common fallacies, and how we can construct our own arguments using diagrams.

To understand modern society, a knowledge of everyday reasoning with statistics and probabilities is very relevant.  How should we understand the statistics quoted in the news media? What is the difference between a ‘frequentist’ and a ‘Bayesian’ approach to probabilities?

For the first session, please come prepared to support or refute this claim: ‘Standards are Falling’. You may choose to interpret the statement (e.g. standards of what? how do we know they are falling?) in any way you wish. Expect an interesting discussion!

Schedule (AY2017/2018 Sem 1)

This group will meet on:

Tuesdays (22 Aug, 5 Sep); and Thursdays (17 Aug, 24 Aug, 31 Aug, 7 Sep, 14 Sep) from 4:30-6pm in the Reading Room.


Dr Daniel Jew (

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