Technocracy and Soldier Centrism: A History of Heat Stress Management in the Singapore Military

Activity: Talk/lecture/symposium/speechEvent organized by non-HKBU units


The history of heat strain management in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has been largely written from medical perspectives which typically describe the efficacy of the SAF’s medical interventions and its concomitant heat injury incidence patterns. We seek to move beyond these medical narratives and re-situate the SAF’s history of heat strain management within the national context. We will examine the state’s efforts to shape public discourses about the successes of its management. Two discourses can be discerned. The first, which emerged during the late 1980s, was the use of a technocratic approach to showcase the military’s capability in addressing its high incidence of heat injuries. This was demonstrated through the introduction of SAF-wide training measures, and the construction of local scientific research expertise, which led to a sharp reduction in heat injury incidences from the 1980s to 2010s. Through this, the SAF argued that its heat strain mitigation measures were comparable to the world’s best militaries. Secondly, the state shaped a soldier-centric discourse in the late 2000s on the back of an increasing emphasis on safety and the
transformation of the SAF into a highly-educated and technologically-sophisticated force. This meant a shift towards concern about the welfare of every soldier, particularly through the state’s drive to eradicate all training-related deaths. Accordingly, new measures were implemented in hope to eradicate any death due to heat strain. In all, the soldiercentric discourse has been increasingly utilised to persuade the public that the risks of heat can be comprehensively mitigated.
Period22 Apr 2021
Event title Heat in Urban Asia: Past, Present, and Future
Event typeWorkshop