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Spatial Politics and Transient Migrant Workers in Global-City in Singapore

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SEAC Lecture: Spatial Politics and Transient Migrant Workers in Global-City Singapore by Prof. Brenda S.A. Yeoh

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SEAC is hosting a lecture, chaired by SEAC Director Prof. Hyun Bang Shin on 9th March 2021. Prof. Brenda S.A. Yeoh (Raffles Professor of Social Sciences, National University of Singapore) will be speaking on 'Spatial Politics and Transient Migrant Workers in Global-City Singapore'.

Lecture abstract

Traditional research on migration has often privileged more permanent forms of migration and related issues of settlement, adaptation and assimilation in western cities. Shifting attention to the cities of Asia, however, migrant spatial concentrations operate differently under prevailing temporary migration regimes. The presence of transient migrants on time-structured work contracts has paradoxically become a permanent feature of globalizing cities in Asia, and a compelling force in driving urban diversity, as well as the fear of diversity. By focusing on the context of Singapore as a globalising city-state where over a million low-waged transient migrant workers live and work, I examine two sets of conjoined processes underpinning the spatial politics of non-integration in Singapore: enclavisation, or the formation of ‘weekend enclaves’, ‘migrant hotspots’ or gathering grounds as co-national social spaces of support and comfort zones of co-ethnic belonging; and (b) enclosure as a set of containment measures to restrict migrant workers’ mobility in public spaces. I close with a discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these processes of enclavisation and enclosure.

Speaker & Chair biography

  • Prof. Brenda S.A. Yeoh is Raffles Professor of Social Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Research Leader, Asian Migration Cluster, at NUS’ Asia Research Institute. Her research interests in Asian migrations span themes including gender, social reproduction and care migration; skilled migration and cosmopolitanism; higher education and international student mobilities; and marriage migrants and cultural politics. She has published widely in geography and migration studies journals and her recent books include Handbook of Asian Migrations (Routledge, 2018 with G. Liu-Farrer) and Student Mobilities and International Education in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, with R. Sidhu and K.C. Ho).
  • Prof. Hyun Bang Shin is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies in the Department of Geography and Environment and Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economic dynamics of speculative urbanisation, the politics of redevelopment and displacement, gentrification, housing, the right to the city, and mega-events as urban spectacles, with particular attention to cities in Asian countries such as South Korea, China, Vietnam and Singapore. His recent projects on ‘circulating urbanism and (Asian) capital’ have also brought him to work on Quito, Manila, Iskandar Malaysia, Kuwait City and London. Prof Shin has published widely in major international journals and contributed to numerous books on the above themes. He has coauthored Planetary Gentrification (Polity, 2016), edited Anti-Gentrification: What Is to Be Done (Dongnyok, 2017), and co-edited Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement (Bristol University Press, 2015) and Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). He is a board member (trustee) of the Urban Studies Foundation, and sits on the international advisory board of the journal Antipode as well as on the editorial board of the journals International Journal of Urban and Regional Research; Urban Geography; CITY; City, Culture and Society; Space and Environment [in Korea]; China City Planning Review [in China].

* Banner image is from UN Women/Staton Winter.

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