Dr Khairudin Aljunied

Associate Professor of Intellectual and Social History of the Malay World

Political Memoirs As Contrapuntal Narratives: Said Zahari’s Dark Clouds at Dawn

Said Zahari was a journalist and leftist political activist who was detained without trial for seventeen years in Singapore during the premiership of Lee Kuan Yew.

This essay examines his memoir, Dark Clouds at Dawn, and argues Said Zahari’s principled political position was informed by his religious beliefs and his status as a Malay man of letters. His memoirs challenge dominant national narratives portraying Malay identity during the 1950s and 1960s as ethnically insular or chauvinistic, as Said Zahari always held a cosmopolitan and coalitional outlook. His memoirs remind us that ethnic and racial identities, both historically and in the present, cannot be essentialized and require analysis in relation to social and political struggles.