Dr Imran researches architectural encounters in Singapore and Southeast Asia across the longue durée, first in their intersections with colonial and nationalist representational tropes in heritage, and second through historiographical questions on Southeast Asia’s Indic and Islamic architecture.
Dr Imran is currently working on a monograph on the formation of Southeast Asia’s Islamic architecture, and another on rooted cosmopolitanism in maritime Southeast Asia’s vernacular urban heritage.
Fifteenth-century Melaka straddles the ‘late classical’ and ‘early modern’ periods of maritime Malay-speaking negeri or port-cities. Regionally it is the site of convergence for the pesisir Javanese and Sumatran Malay trade networks, and traders of the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. The concomitant building and morphological cultures begun in its century-long period under Malay rule may be read against their relationship to pre-Islamic Straits Malay and contemporaneous Javanese traditions, how 15th century Melaka’s cosmopolitanism was enfolded within the local and the regional, and what it bequeathed to subsequent developments under various European colonial regimes into the present day. Such inquiries yield important insights not only into Melaka’s own complex history and its position within overlapping cultural geographic scales, but also for the study of Southeast Asian historical urbanism more generally.
Beyond a critical reading of the sources for this 15th century history of Melaka’s physical form and its continuities and transformations, this paper also positions such histories against contemporary discursive representations that have been produced for heritage projects. Further, to expand the discussion beyond present-day visible urban heritage and bring the historical inquiry to bear upon contemporary politics of identity, I highlight the displaced, the overwritten, and the vanished in the longue durée. Reviewing both the former royal hill and Melaka’s historic urban wards and suburbs, I compare the historical evidence for, and current reconstructions of the form of various sites and buildings against the exigencies of historical memory and heritage reconstruction.