Remembering the Samsui Women

9780774825757: Hardback
Release Date: 8th April 2014

9780774825764: Paperback
Release Date: 15th January 2015

9780774825771: PDF
Release Date: 8th April 2014

6 b&w photos, 1 map

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 268

Series Contemporary Chinese Studies

UBC Press

Remembering the Samsui Women

Migration and Social Memory in Singapore and China

A study of the Samsui women who migrated from China to Singapore, where they have been commemorated as nation-builders.
Hardback / £64.00
Paperback / £21.99
PDF / £27.00

Remembering the Samsui Women tells the story of women from the Samsui area of Guangdong, China, who migrated to Singapore during a period of economic and natural calamity, leaving their families behind. In their new country, many found work in the construction industry, while others worked in households or factories where they were called hong tou jin, translated literally as “red-head-scarf,” after the headgear that protected them from the sun. Contributing to current debates in the fields of social memory and migration studies, this is the first book to examine how the Samsui women remember their own migratory experiences and how they, in turn, are remembered as pioneering figures in both Singapore and China.


1 Chinese Migration and Entangled Histories

2 Politics of Memory Making

3 Local and Transnational Entanglements

4 From China to Singapore

5 Beyond Working Lives

6 Samsui Women, Ma Cheh, and Other Foreign Workers

Conclusion: Social Constructions of the Past

Glossary; Notes; References; Index

Kelvin E.Y. Low is an assistant professor of sociology at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of Scents and Scent-sibilities: Smell and Everyday Life Experiences (2009) and co-editor of Everyday Life in Asia: Social Perspectives on the Senses (2010).

Kelvin Low’s investigation into remembering Samsui women uncovers the ways in which memory plays a pivotal role in the nation-building project of any country (re)born. His comparative analysis of memory creation tells us much about the ways in which Singapore and China remember their pasts, in terms of what they choose to include and how they choose to do this.

Catherine Gomes, author of Multiculturalism through the Lens: A Beginner’s Guide to Ethnic and Migrant Anxieties in Singapore

Remembering the Samsui Women forensically displays just how memory works on many different levels and contexts, highlighting the intersections of different memory projects. It uses interesting original oral history material alongside the analysis of art, literature, and film, and is underpinned by a strong historiographical grasp. Low’s book will be particularly useful for those with interests in gendered migration histories and in state attitudes to “remembering” minorities.

Katherine Burrell, co-editor of Socialist and Post-Socialist Mobilities

This book is laudable research on how issues and discourses have been revolving around Samsui women … [it] is empirically rich and theoretically intriguing. It is worth recommending to those who are interested in gendered migration and social memory in national history.

Yow Cheun Hoe, Nanyang Technological University
Southeast Asian Studies

This book is a fascinating study of the Samsui women who migrated in the early twentieth century from Sanshui in China to what is today Singapore to work, among other occupations, as unskilled laborers in the construction industry … the wealth of materials consulted – from textbooks to films to oral histories – is impressive, making the book a salient resource for those interested in both Asian migrations and the politics of social memory-making.

Hamzah Muzaini, National University of Singapore
International Migration Review