Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mark: A Biography (Part One)

Since we have just written Singapore: A Biography, Yu-Mei says we should give ourselves the same treatment. (I blame her for all that follows….)

So far, my professional career has been divided between stints in academia and time away from the Ivory Tower earning a living as a freelance writer, exhibition designer, screenwriter and occasional (short) documentary filmmaker – and I think that each experience, in its own way, has had a valuable influence on the others.

After receiving a B.A. in Modern History with First Class Honours from Oxford University, I dropped out for a while and moved to London. Here, I tried writing some (generally failed) plays and screenplays, while hanging around the fringe scene and earning my crust teaching at a remedial school for children with special needs. [Don’t ask how I got that job, being totally unqualified in special needs education - this is a story in itself].

However, being unable to afford to travel the wider world, which remains one of my great passions, eventually got to me, so I returned to academia in 1997. Five long years later, I completed a PhD in Imperial and Asian history at the University of Cambridge on a subject that had ensured maximum air-miles: a study of the interlinked histories of Indian Ocean port-cities. Most importantly, it was during my research trip for this PhD that in Singapore I met my future wife. In 2002, we both moved back to her home town, where I took a job as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute (ARI), National University of Singapore. Currently, I live and work in Hong Kong, having been appointed Research Assistant Professor in History at the University of Hong Kong in early 2009.

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