Research Projects



This project marries the history of medicine started in previous research on the medical department during the Japanese occupation of Malaya and continues strands started in the project regarding Orang Asli and the construction of race in Malaya. In the 1950s, studies on Orang Asli that went beyond outward physical measurements started by taking blood in order to study Orang Asli using blood-group anthropology. As Malaysia became more technologically and medically advanced, studies on the human genome in general became more prominent, leading to participation in the Human Genome Project and papers in internationally-acclaimed journals on genetics. This research seeks to understand the growth of genomic research in Malaysia in light of the earlier thinking about race.

This project was awarded the 2020-2021 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship (FWiS). For more information, see: FWIS website

See TedXAUCollege Talk entitled "Race and Genetics: What can history tell us?" on 5 June 2021, Felix Meritis, Amsterdam (at 1 hour and 31 minutes into live stream). 

In conjunction with this project, three working group sessions were organized where invited respondents and the project lead delved into 3 areas relating to race and genomics:

Working Group #1: Histories of race in current states and societies, March 3, 2021, 11:00 – 12:30
Dr Timo Bolt, Erasmus Medical Center
Dr Ralf Fultselaar, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Dr Fenneke Sijsling, Leiden University

Working Group #2: Race, Genetics and Biomedical research within legal and ethical frameworks, April 1, Thursday, 14:30-16:00
Dr Sonja van Wichelen, University of Sydney
Dr Marc de Leeuw, University of New South Wales
Mr Boy Vijlbrief, Erasmus Medical Center

Working Group #3: Race, Genetics and Biomedical research within legal and ethical frameworks, May 6, 2021, 12:00 – 13:30

Attendees: Dr Jantina de Vries, University of Cape Town

Dr Manoj Vimal, Nanyang Technological University, SG

Dr Terry Vrijenhoek, Utrecht Medical Centre

Working group session held with the assistance of Moonya Amro, EUR.


A recent exhibition of medical manuscripts at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) entitled "Al-Tibb: Healing Traditions in Islamic Medical Manuscripts" successfully raised awareness of traditional healing among Malays featuring the museum’s collection of Malay medical and divination manuscripts. Malay medicine and traditional healing are known to be a form of sacred knowledge and art that is usually passed down from one generation to another or to a trusted apprentice. The start of concerted British efforts to understand the medical history and circumstances of the Malay peninsula in order to better extract resources saw efforts to collect local knowledge,

prompting colonial administrators such as Richard Winstedt, John Gimlette and W. W. Skeat to record their experiences and perceptions of Malay medical practices inscribed in written manuals known as Kitab Tibb Melayu (Malay Book of Medicine) and Kitab Faal or Kitab Ramalan (Books on Divination). Contrary to seeing Malay medical practices solely as part of traditional medicine, this research situates Malay medical manuscripts or Kitab Tibb at the intersection of Malay, Islamic and colonial medicine.

Collaborator: Siti Marina Maidin


This project investigates the history of Japanese medical migrants to British Malaya and their roles during the occupation within a larger history of medicine and imperialism. This ground-breaking research bridges the linguistic divide separating Japanese and non-Japanese research into the World War II in Southeast Asia by utilizing Japanese, English and Malay sources to research the role of medicine in the Japanese occupation of Malaya.

Project funded by the Sumitomo Japan-Related Research Grant, awarded to Sandra Khor Manickam and Naoko Iioka for Financial Year April 2017 - January 2019. Title of project: "Ando Kozo and the Medical Department of the Japanese Military Administration of Malaya (1941-1945)"

Partner researchers: Josko Kozic, MA


The Japanese occupation was a watershed period in the history of Southeast Asia in general and Malaysia in particular. Until now, primary research into the occupation in Malaya has been separated by language. Japanese publications are rarely consulted by English-language researchers due to the lack of knowledge of their existence or adequate translations. This barrier has hampered the historical search into the occupation period, especially Japanese understandings of Malay people and their relationship to the “Asia for Asians” philosophy and the concerns of people in Malaya during the occupation as reported by occupation forces and administration. This project will identify key primary sources in Japanese located in Japan and Taiwan to be translated into English regarding the history, anthropology and education of Malay peoples during the occupation. This newly translated and infrequently accessed material will be analysed in light of previous scholarship on the Occupation to gain a deeper understanding of Japan’s mindset regarding Malaya and local experiences during that time.

Partner researchers: Naoko Iioka (PhD History, National University of Singapore, Freelance translator and Independent Researcher). Initial translations by Damian David Jungmann, Frankfurt.

Publication and database:

Translation of Japanese entries Bibliography on the Japanese Occupation Period of Malaya (1941-1945). Tôkyô: Ryûkei shosha, 2007. マラヤ日本占領期文献目録(1941-1945)龍渓書舎 2007). Compilers: Akashi Yoji, Hara Fujio and Masutani Satoshi, the Forum for Research Materials on the Japanese Occupation of Malaya and Singapore. As the original bibliography lists English, Malay, and Chinese language publications as well, it is recommended to refer to the original bibliography book, which was published by Ryukei Shosha.

The translated entries of the bibliography may be consulted at the NTU HSS library intranet here. The Preface and Notes to the Translation may be accessed here.


Users who wish to consult the online resource at Nanyang Technological University should write in beforehand to request for a visitor pass (valid for 7 days) to access the excel file on-site at designated workstations in the Lee Wee Nam Library.