Tag Archives: Singapore

Written On The Body: Women, Migration and Borders

By Morag Rose, University of Sheffield

Morag Rose Geog Directions.jpg

Singapore Airport. Image credit: Flikr user Zsoolt CC-BY-NC 2.0

 

 

Much current popular discourse on immigration is often dominated by tabloid hysteria and dangerous political games. Concern about this has been voiced by many, including my former Sunday Times colleague, Liz Gerard, “The press and immigration: reporting the news or fanning the flames of hatred?” This polemic tends to dehumanise individuals and ignore the complex economic, political, social and emotional drivers behind the movement of people.  In her recent article in Area, Lucy Jackson seeks to explore the emotional impact of immigration and how it shapes real lives.

Jackson takes the body as the territory she explores, following the work of Longhurst (1994) who describes the body as the “geography closest in”. Jackson works with two different sets of women in Singapore; western expatriates and foreign domestic workers (even these commonly used words are loaded with assumptions). The two different groups of women have contrasting experiences of stigma and exclusion within Singapore and effectively live “separate but parallel lives”. However, despite their differences, the women share many commonalities and can all be described as economic migrants.

Singapore has actively encouraged temporary migrants but the participants were often discriminated against as outsiders. Their autonomy is limited by a range of social forces which range from comments in the street to being unable to open their own bank account or feeling restricted to certain areas. They create their own distinct personal territories which are both geographical and emotional. Food and clothing become very important as markers of identity, memory and community.  Both groups suffer ill-effects as a result of stigma and stereotyping, although their experiences are very different.  Borders operate and impact at many different scales and Jackson concludes “the border of the body is porous and migrant women actively practice and perform aspects of ‘border maintenance’ as a reaction to being excluded emotionally and physically from the social and cultural territory of the host society” (Jackson, 2016 p297).

Jackson’s work is attentive to individual, embodied experience and humanises the impact of social policies based on exclusion and othering. I fear this is a task that becomes ever more necessary for academics, activists and anyone concerned with civil liberties and freedom of movement.

References

60-world2 Gerard, L“The press and immigration: reporting the news or fanning the flames of hatred?” Subscribe Online

books_icon Jackson, L 2016  Experiencing Exclusion and Reacting to Stereotypes? Navigating Borders of the Migrant Body Area 2016 48.3 pp292-299 doi:10.1111/area.12146

books_icon Longhurst R 1994 The geography closest in – the body … the politics of pregnability Australian Geographical Studies 32214–223

Arsonists, Booing, and Blaming the Weather: Diversity and Revealing Everyday Behaviour

By Julian Shaw, King’s College London

A sign for Gek Poh Ville in Yunnan, Jurong West, Singapore

A sign for Gek Poh Ville in Yunnan, Jurong West, Singapore: Photo Credit: Allkayloh.

The Independent recently published a story about a Christmas Eve arson attack on a hotel for asylum seekers in the German town of Schwäbisch Gmünd. The author implies that this attack highlights how the positive attitude of the German government to the ‘refugee crisis’, does not necessarily reflect the everyday reality of intolerance in many German suburbs. This violent legacy adds fuel to the continuing academic engagement with diverse communities and everyday multiculturalism.

Ye (2015) expands on such a discussion in her recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Turning her attention to the Jurong West neighbourhood of Singapore Ye explores “how everyday encounters in public reproduce spatialised principles of coexisting with diversity.” (Ye, 2015: 94). Ye focusses her engagement to the notion of ‘gui ju’, a kind of social code familiar to established citizens of Singapore. This code, Ye explains, is a behavioural and attitudinal norm promoted in part by state infrastructure and reinforced through everyday action (and inaction) in public spaces.

By turning to everyday interactions between people appropriating public spaces in Jurong West, Ye has created a narrative of the ‘gui ju’ social code in action. She uses extracts from interviews and her own observations to understand different behaviours of individuals familiar with the code – such as people’s silence when they are on public transport or their decorum when playing cards in the street. Uncovering such unwritten norms she is able to add clarity to the “messiness inherent in shared spaces” (ibid.: 91).

Furthermore, Ye elaborates how it is through adherence to ‘gui ju’ that locals in Jurong West can identify insiders and outsiders to the community. She explains that in Singapore, where a legacy of diverse ethnic communities are the norm, tropes like ethnicity or nationality cannot be used to define belonging. As such behaviours and attitudes in everyday interactions can be used instead to identify belonging.

However, to add complexity to her narrative Ye also states that “There are constant tensions, struggles and disquiet over how things ought to be in [public] spaces.” (ibid.: 96). In other words, the unwritten code of conduct applying to everyday life are not fixed, but are contingent and malleable: belonging requires active living in these spaces.

This compelling notion of a “social organising principle that prescribes proper codes of conduct” in public spaces (ibid.: 92), could also be applied to the UK. A quick glance at the national media following the start of the New Year can provide us with some examples. The Guardian has an article about the cultural valence of ‘booing’ in the UK during live performances of art and sport. Similarly The Telegraph discusses difficulties for British people returning to work after the winter break, including the author stating that she will “do what we Brits always do in times of low-level despond: blame the weather”. Additionally both The Guardian and The Independent imply a range of acceptable responses to the ‘artistic’ New Years Eve photograph of drunken and disorderly behaviour in Manchester. These examples highlight a complex and contradictory ‘gui ju’ of British everyday attitudes and behaviour; to boo or not, to condone or to condemn drunken disorder, and when in doubt: refer to the weather.

However, I feel it is necessary to exercise caution with Ye’s thoughts on social codes of conduct. While there may be some dominant codes and norms, such as ‘gui ju’, this does not negate the existence of multiple behavioural codes that remain hidden to each and every one of us. These can include behavioural and attitudinal codes associated with class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and all other tropes of identity. Maybe to help find these hidden codes we should adopt the approach of Mr Arnold, an inhabitant of the town of Schwäbisch Gmünd: we should invite outsiders into our private lives – the “Gmünder Weg” (The Independent). This could enable both insider and outsider to learn their different social codes, and mould them into new shared codes.

References

Ye, J., (2015) Spatialising the politics of coexistence: gui ju (规 矩) in Singapore, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 41: 91–103 doi: 10.1111/tran.12107

The Independent (2016) “Refugees in Germany: Arsonists destroy refugee hotel in ‘model’ migrant town Schwabisch Gmund” Online Article (Accessed on 4th January 2016)

The Independent (2016) “The story behind the Manchester New Year’s Eve photograph likened to a Renaissance painting” Online Article (Accessed on 4th January 2016)

The Guardian (2016) “I used to think booing was healthy. Now it’s out of control” Online Article (Accessed on 4th January 2016)

The Telegraph (2016) “The January blues are bad enough without giving up booze too” Online Article (Accessed on 4th January 2016)

The Guardian (2016) “’Like a beautiful painting’: image of New Year’s mayhem in Manchester goes viral” Online Article (Accessed on 4th January 2016)

Content Alert: New Articles (10th February 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

External examiners and the continuing inflation of UK undergraduate geography degree results
John E Thornes
Article first published online: 7 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01077.x

Special Section: Emerging Subjects, Registers and Spatialities of Migration Methodologies in Asia

Telling family stories: collaborative storytelling, taking precedence and giving precedence in family group interviews with Americans in Singapore
Sarah Starkweather
Article first published online: 7 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01072.x

Original Articles

Neoliberalism, policy localisation and idealised subjects: a case study on educational restructuring in England
Sarah L Holloway and Helena Pimlott-Wilson
Article first published online: 3 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00498.x

Area Content Alert: Volume 44, Issue 1 (March 2012)

The latest issue of Area is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break to view the full table of contents.

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Content Alert: New Articles (18th November 2011)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Review Forum

Engaging global political ecologies

Response from the books’ editors
Richard Peet, Paul Robbins and Michael Watts
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01041.x

The political ecology of water scarcity and molecular biopolitics
Jairus Rossi
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01040.x

Going global in Global political ecology
Patrick Bigger
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01039.x

Capital’s margins and the political ecology of security
Jon Otto
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01038.x

Food, health and the body: the political ecology of sustainability
Michele Flippo Bolduc
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01037.x

Global natures: from utter failures to the possible
Brian Grabbatin and Patrick Bigger
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01036.x

Original Articles

Integrating knowledge and actions in disaster risk reduction: the contribution of participatory mapping
Jake Rom D Cadag and JC Gaillard
Article first published online: 15 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01065.x

Transnational masculinities in situ: Singaporean husbands and their international marriage experiences
Yi’En Cheng
Article first published online: 11 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01045.x

Review Essay

Geographical societies, academics and publics: reading Civic Discipline. Geography in America, 1860–1890
Ron Johnston
Article first published online: 16 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00452.x

Boundary Crossings

Security of geography/geography of security
Chris Philo
Article first published online: 15 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00488.x