Dec 10, 2013

Understanding the background of the Singapore's riot in Little India

Using the title of Forbes's report, the riot is "a shock, but not a total surprise." This blog post is not about the incident itself, but see what academic has done to understand the South Asian migrants or migrants issue in Singapore.
Doing some research, researches about South Asian migrants in Singapore is not as many as studies about domestic workers.

Riot in Little India: spark and fuel | Yawning Bread



  • About South Asian / construction migrants workers in Singapore:

Ye, Junjia. "Notes from 'Migrant Encounters': Visualizing Singapore's diversity through South Asian male migrants." Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 34, no. 3 (2013): 407-413.
In this photo essay, I show how visual narratives – specifically, participant-generated photographs together with written texts as captions – can tell compelling, evocative stories of encountering diverse peoples and places.

Ye, Junjia. "Migrant masculinities: Bangladeshi men in Singapore's labour force." Gender, Place & Culture ahead-of-print (2013): 1-17.
Although there is a growing body of scholars who have examined the reproduction and experiences of masculinities, research on the experiences of migrant men remains relatively limited. While I continue to draw upon insights from these scholars of both migration and gender, my data show that there remains considerable potential to contribute to this research field, in particular, analysing the reproduction of masculinity through a class lens. Drawing upon migrants' own narratives and notions of class by Bourdieu, I examine how Bangladeshi men make sense of their labour migration to Singapore, particularly after they fall out of work. Their responses are not only based upon instrumental calculation, but are also powerfully shaped by a complex set of normative gendered formations that can further constrain them.

Kitiarsa, Pattana. "Thai migrants in Singapore: state, intimacy and desire."Gender, Place and Culture 15, no. 6 (2008): 595-610.

In this article, I analyse Thai migration to Singapore, drawing on ethnographic fieldwork (2004-06) to discuss the experiences of male construction workers and female sex workers in negotiating heterosexuality during their temporary residence. I argue that these Thai migrants engage in transient heterosexual encounters as one of many calculated, strategic ways of negotiating their intimate identity and subjectivity in the survival circuits of this global city. Their transient sexual acts are intimate products of negotiated moves, which form a major part of their semi-anonymous, temporary life in a foreign land. The sexual practices of Thai migrant workers in Singapore, I argue, are best understood by taking the following factors into account: the host government's regulation and control of its migrant population; the foreign workers' economic and social situations of mobility as inscribed in their highly dynamic traveling biographies; and their rationalized willingness and desire to embrace transient sexual intimacies as part of their employment and/or struggling lives in the global city's survival circuits.

Thompson, Eric C. "Mobile phones, communities and social networks among foreign workers in Singapore." Global Networks 9, no. 3 (2009): 359-380.
Transnational mobility affects both high-status and low-income workers, disrupting traditional assumptions of the boundedness of communities. There is a need to reconfigure our most basic theoretical and analytical constructs. In this article I engage in this task by illustrating a complex set of distinctions (as well as connections) between 'communities' as ideationally constituted through cultural practices and 'social networks' constituted through interaction and exchange. I have grounded the analysis ethnographically in the experiences of foreign workers in Singapore, focusing on domestic and construction workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh. I examine the cultural, social and communicative role that mobile phones play in the lives of workers who are otherwise constrained in terms of mobility, living patterns and activities. Mobile phones are constituted as symbol status markers in relationship to foreign workers. Local representations construct foreign workers as users and consumers of mobile telephony, reinscribing ideas of transnational identities as well as foreignness within the context of Singapore. Migrant workers demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the various telephony options available, but the desire to use phones to communicate can overwhelm their self-control and lead to very high expenditures. The research highlights the constraints - as well as possibilities - individuals experience as subjects and agents within both social and cultural systems, and the ways in which those constraints and possibilities are mediated by a particular technology - in this case, mobile phones. © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd & Global Networks Partnership.

Haque Khondker, Habibul. "Bengali‐Speaking Families in Singapore: Home, Nation and the World." International Migration 46, no. 4 (2008): 177-198.
This paper examines the notions of “home,”“nation” and “the world” among the Bengali-speaking families in Singapore. The forces of globalization have played a significant role in making the Bengali-speaking families transnational, first by uprooting them from Bengal, a territory now shared between Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, and then re-linking them to a complex web of relationships redefining the contours of community. The Bengali-speaking families in Singapore belong to two distinct “communities”: Bengalis from West Bengal, India who are predominantly Hindus, and Bengalis from Bangladesh who are predominantly Muslims. They formed two different “communities” not simply on the basis of differences in religion but also in terms of social networks and ties. Common language, similar food habits and love for certain cultural practices like cricket and adda, are not enough to bring them into the fold of a common Bengali community. The division in the Bengali-speaking community is influenced not so much by religion but nationalism. Nationalism, however imagined, continues to play a powerful role in the globalized world, especially among transnational communities. Yet, the two “communities,” one from Bangladesh and the other from West Bengal, are not antagonistic to one another by any means; their relationship is an ambivalent one based on a tacit principle of “civil inattention.” The situation changed in the 1990s when Bengali was introduced as a second language in Singapore, and a Bengali language school was set up thereafter. The two communities were drawn into a common physical space and a new set of social ties and networks began to emerge, opening and redrawing the boundaries of community. The paper demonstrates how nations separate a people who share a common notion of home, as well as how cosmopolitan world-views redraw the contours of community.

  • Some research about Little India, the place itself:

Chang, T. C. "Singapore's Little India: A tourist attraction as a contested landscape." Urban Studies 37, no. 2 (2000): 343-366.
This paper explores Singapore's Little India historic district as an example of a contested urban landscape. Specifically, it argues that Little India is a site of struggle between 'insider' and 'outsider' groups. Using primarily Relph's notion of 'insideness' and 'outsideness', and other concepts dealing with spatial resistance and domination, different groups of people with differing degrees of attachment to Little India are identified. The insider-outsider cleavage is interrogated from three perspectives: the relationship between tourists and locals; ethnic tensions between Indian and Chinese communities; and, interaction between planners and users of the urban landscape. In exploring the myriad insider-outsider dynamics, it is contended that who represents an 'insider' and who is considered an 'outsider' is open to negotiation. This is because different people possess differing conceptions of 'insideness', in turn giving rise to varying senses of attachment and belonging to place. This paper critiques existing tourism writings which focus predominantly on the relationship between tourists and locals, and it argues that in any tourist destination the tourist-local conflict is only one aspect of a much larger struggle over place. For this reason, urban tourism studies must focus on the wider arena in which the tourist-local interaction is set. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

Henderson, Joan C. "Managing urban ethnic heritage: Little India in Singapore."International Journal of Heritage Studies 14, no. 4 (2008): 332-346.
Historic urban ethnic enclaves are complex entities that serve multiple purposes and are used in various ways by different groups. This paper deals with the case of Little India in Singapore and examines the relationships, processes and underlying dynamics that are at work and their consequences for the management of the heritage site. The enclave is shown to be a historic, commercial, leisure and residential space in which citizens, migrant workers, tourists, government agencies and private business all have a stake. Existing and planned developments, however, generate conflicts and expose fundamental tensions between pressures for change and for preservation and continuity. Particular attention is devoted to the role of tourism, which is seen to act as an instrument of both development and conservation. Conclusions have a wider applicability beyond Singapore, but the distinctive qualities of the city-state are also highlighted.

  • Researches on domestic workers in Singapore:

Teo, Youyenn, and Nicola Piper. "Foreigners in our homes: Linking migration and family policies in Singapore." Population, Space and Place 15, no. 2 (2009): 147-159.
In Singapore, despite high levels of state intervention in managing the influx of foreign labour, work conditions of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) are largely left to the discretion of individual employers. We argue that to better understand the government's reticence, as well as certain reluctance on the part of employers for reform on this particular issue, we need to go beyond the analysis of migration policies. Policies towards FDWs must be situated in the context of other social policies targeted at the citizens of Singapore. We show that the reform of migrant workers' working and living conditions and the limits to the reform depend on what these reforms mean in the context of the state's approach to welfare, and particularly its idealised vision of ‘the Singapore family’ within this framework. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Huang, Shirlena, Brenda SA Yeoh, and Mika Toyota. "Caring for the elderly: the embodied labour of migrant care workers in Singapore." Global Networks 12, no. 2 (2012): 195-215.
Research on transnational care work has tended to focus on the migration of women for either domestic work or nursing, and the two bodies of work have remained largely separate. In developed countries such as Singapore, however, the high level of female labour force participation alongside a rapidly ageing population has led to the deployment of both groups of migrant care workers to alleviate the impending eldercare crisis. Migrant domestic workers are employed to look after the elderly in private domiciles while foreign healthcare workers provide eldercare in institutions such as nursing homes. Recognizing that the transnational labour migrations of women as domestic and healthcare workers are integrally linked in the care chain, we attempt to bring the two together in this article. We first examine how state policy differentially regulates the entry of these two groups to work in two very different spaces: the domestic space of the home, and the institutional space of nursing homes. Drawing on interviews with employers, we go on to argue that while the institutional mechanisms differ for the groups of care workers employed in these two spaces, Singapore's solution to its eldercare predicament is predicated on 'othering' the care worker's body along discourses of gender, nationality and notions of elderly care work as dirty, demanding and demeaning. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd & Global Networks Partnership.

Yeoh, Brenda SA, and Shirlena Huang. "Transnational Domestic Workers and the Negotiation of Mobility and Work Practices in Singapore’s Home‐Spaces."Mobilities 5, no. 2 (2010): 219-236.

With global economic restructuring, one of the most striking migration flows within Asia has been that of women migrating to work as paid domestic workers in the region’s higher growth economies. Drawing on in‐depth interviews, we focus on the negotiation of mobility and work practices between employers in Singapore and their ‘foreign maids’ within home‐space. We investigate the way employers define domestic work practices through ‘ground rules’ which fix and confine the body to specific time‐spaces and postures, rendering the migrant domestic worker a non‐mobile subject. We also explore the strategies of the domestic worker in circumventing rules in a bid to regain mobility. Using ‘homespace’ as the site of analysis, the paper illustrates the everyday production of (im)mobilities in a city‐state where ‘migration’ and ‘migrants’ occupy a paradoxical place in its bid for global‐city status.

Human Rights Watch (HRW)2005 Maid to Order – Ending Abuses Against Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore

  • Research on Migrants and Singapore’s society

Eng Chuan, Koh. "Labour Force Growth in Singapore: Prospect and Challenges." Asian Population Studies 3, no. 3 (2007): 207-20.
Singapore's labour force participation rates are at high levels. Age-specific rates, especially of men, have approached those of developed countries. The current very low total fertility rate of 1.25 would have major implications for Singapore's labour supply and economy in a closed population. Multi-pronged approaches such as measures to increase fertility, increase labour force participation, and to augment the local workforce with migrants are discussed. In the context of Singapore's physical land constraint, continued growth in the labour force in the long term would be challenging. Future gross domestic product growth is likely to be more sustainable via labour productivity growth. Identifying new niche areas of growth and having a nimble and quality workforce would become more important than labour force growth.

Hui, Weng-Tat, and Aamir Rafique Hashmi. "Foreign labor and economic growth policy options for Singapore." The Singapore Economic Review 52, no. 01 (2007): 53-72.

Prior to the Asian economic crisis in 1997, Singapore's official projected medium-term GDP growth target was set at 7% per annum. Since then, the targeted growth rate has been reduced to 5%. This paper examines the implications of the 5% growth target on the labor requirements of the Singapore economy. It is shown that the projected resident labor force will not be able to keep pace with the increased labor demand and the share of foreigners in the labor force will increase significantly even under the most favorable scenario. Some implications of the increased dependence on foreign labor in Singapore are discussed. With permanent immigration fixed at the current level, various policy options and their effects on the demand for foreign labor are considered. These include improving labor productivity, raising the total fertility rate, increasing labor force participation of older workers and lowering the targeted rate of economic growth.

Rahman, Md Mizanur, and Tong Chee Kiong. "Integration policy in Singapore: a transnational inclusion approach." Asian Ethnicity 14, no. 1 (2013): 80-98.

A number of models of integration have been developed to highlight the experiences of immigration and integration in the Western world. However, the existing models do not adequately capture the complexities of contemporary international immigration and integration, especially the integration process in the light of migrant transnationalism in Asia. This study examines the models of integration through a case study of Singapore. This paper introduces a new concept ‘transnational inclusion’ to conceptualize Singapore's initiative to embrace its transnational global Singaporeans as well as its transnational immigrants, estimated to make up one-fourth of the total population. The paper shows that a transnational inclusion model of integration can provide better insights into the dynamics of transnationalism and integration in today's complex migration scenario. We point to Singapore's integration approach that regards integrating migrants into the different spheres of the society as a process rather than an end.

Piper, Nicola. "Migrant worker activism in Singapore and Malaysia: Freedom of association and the role of the state." Asian and Pacific migration journal 15, no. 3 (2006): 359.

The political space given to non-governmental organizations to respond to the economic and legal problems experienced by migrant workers is heavily restricted in Malaysia and Singapore. The relative political weakness of their respective civil societies has been the focus of some research, albeit to a lesser extent with specific reference to their labor sectors, raising questions on what this implies for migrant labor activism.By exploring the differences and similarities across the various organizations involved in migrant worker issues in-country as well as across countries, this paper investigates the role of state authoritarianism in shaping the landscape of migrant labor activism in Malaysia and Singapore. It assesses the pressure non-union civil society organizations can bring to bear on both the state–sponsored and traditional labor movement organizations which have been co-opted by the state to a greater or lesser extent in both Malaysia and Singapore. It is argued that it is in fact migrant labor and the growing political activism, especially transnational activism, which contributes or may contribute to the reinvigoration of labor activism in general by highlighting the many-folded problems of foreign workers.

Hui, Weng Tat. "Economic growth and inequality in Singapore: The case for a minimum wage." International Labour Review 152, no. 1 (2013): 107-123.
In the context of Singapore's ageing population, the employment of large numbers of low-skilled foreign workers is proving to be a major challenge to inclusive growth because of the stagnation of low-wage workers' incomes. In order to address this problem, the author makes the case for introducing a minimum wage to complement existing in-work benefit schemes. After addressing the commonly voiced objections to a minimum wage system, he suggests ways in which a minimum wage could be implemented in Singapore. New measures to enhance the social safety net and foster more sustainable economic growth are also proposed. © The author 2013 Journal compilation © International Labour Organization 2013.

Lyons, Lenore. "Transcending the border: Transnational imperatives in Singapore's migrant worker rights movement." Critical Asian Studies 41, no. 1 (2009): 89-112.
In the last five years, interest among civil society actors in the issues migrant domestic workers face in Singapore has exploded. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), informal networks, and faith-based groups have all formed to address the needs and interests of these workers. Most of these organizations are welfare-oriented, providing support services, training programs, and social networking opportunities. Some engage in advocacy and research activities. This latter group has lobbied successfully for important changes in how female migrant workers are recruited into and deployed within the domestic labor market. To date, their activities have been focused at the local level through their engagements with the Singaporean government, employment agencies, and employers. This orientation, however, has recently begun to change as they seek to develop transnational networks and support regional and international campaigns. This article examines the reasons behind this interest in cross-border organizing through detailed case studies of two advocacy-oriented NGOs, Transient Workers Count Too and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics. The article explains that although a "transnational imperative" has begun to shape the activities of these two NGOs, they have different motivations for engaging beyond the border. By revealing a diversity of forms and meanings associated with the processes of "scaling up," this article contributes to the broader scholarly understanding of the complex nature of transnational organizing and challenges earlier studies that assert that transnational activism is a necessary and natural outcome of migrant worker organizing.

Lyons, Lenore, and Yeong Chong Yee. "Migrant Rights in Singapore: Political Claims and Strategies in Human Rights Struggles in Singapore." Critical Asian Studies 41, no. 4 (2009): 575-604.

Replying to an article by Lenore Lyons in Critical Asian Studies (March 2009), the author of this essay argues that the tendency to treat a critique of rights as a rejection of rights betrays a modernist hesitation that refuses to treat rights and the subject imbued by them as ontologically unstable. Unproblematically, liberal prescriptions of rights and a “strong” civil society assume the presence of sovereign individuals with inherent rights that can be guarded by a politically independent civil society. The case study of Singapore, however, reveals the substantive “emptiness” of rights that is both susceptible to colonization by the state's instrumental interests and amenable to the humane interventions of civil society groups campaigning for the protection of foreign workers. By framing and reframing the rights of female migrant workers as complementary to the economic interests of the host society, the author illustrates how an awareness of the contingent nature of rights by Transient Workers Count Too and the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics allows them to perform their humanitarian work within an illiberal political terrain. By reconciling the seemingly universalistic nature of inherent rights with its situational usefulness for political practice, the strategic maneuvers both groups made also contribute to a greater self-reflexivity about the unproblematic deployment of rights-based instruments in the political projects of our time. The author also argues that in failing to address the formulation of rights as ontologically unstable, Lyons's misplaced criticisms reflect a broader discomfort about the unsettling nature of postmodern critique that disrupts liberalism's moral foundations.

Ho, Yi-Jian, and Adam D. Tyson. 2011. Malaysian migration to singapore: Pathways, mechanisms and status. Malaysian Journal of Economic Studies 48, (2) (12): 131-145
The Malaysian brain drain and migration trends have become highly salient problems and the focus of numerous academic research projects and government policy studies. Building on the comparative approach to migration developed by Schiller and Caglar (2009), this paper argues that Malaysian migration discourse tends to focus on the highly skilled while overshadowing other forms of Malaysian migration. For instance, migrants are not simply Chinese-Malaysian, but rather there are multiple intersectionalities of migrants according toethnicity, gender, age and class that must be considered. This paper also suggests thatmigration is insufficiently explained by conventional push and pull factors, which apply differently to different individuals and must incorporate mechanisms of migration. Finally, this paper attempts to demonstrate the increasing complexity of migration and the brain drain by contrasting the case of ASEAN scholars in Singapore with Malaysian low-skilled labour in Singapore.

Koh, Aaron. "Global flows of foreign talent: identity anxieties in Singapore's ethnoscape." SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia (2003): 230-256.
This paper draws on Appadurai's (1996) concept of ethnoscapes — the global flow of people or what has become increasingly popularized as ihe global Mow of talent, Singapore has initiated a foreign talent policy to compete for a global pool of talent to make up for its shortfall of indigenous work-fotoe. The rationale (or recruiting foreign Talent is informed by a nationalist competitive ideology to sustain Singapore in the new knowledge-based economy. This paper examines the competing and dissenting discourses surrounding the foreign talent policy, It argues that the mobility of migratory flow has Transformative and disruptive effects at the level ot cuUure and the ideniity landscape of Singapore, where its discursive cultural boundaries are drawn according to a nationalist framework. Drawing on theories and concepls of "diaspora"- "hybridity", and "third space", these are the political and cultural issues that this paper attempts to tease out.

Selvaraj Velayutham. “Everyday Racism in Singapore.” Proceedings of the Everyday Multiculturalism Conference of the CRSI - 28-29 Sept. 2006
In this paper, I outline some of the common forms of racism that Singaporean Indians experience in their daily lives. Though other racial minority groups such as the Malays and Eurasians also experience racism within the Chinese dominated Singaporean society, I am limiting my focus to the Indians as my research is based on this community. It should be pointed out that the experience of racism among the Malays has been well documented (see Tremewan 1996 & Rahim 1998). Moreover, because the Malays are often singled out as a “socially and economically underachieving” community in Singapore which in turn has generated critical response and resentment from countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, racism towards the Malays is also well publicised. However, racism towards the Indians has received little public attention. Even though Indians face racial discrimination in their everyday lives, their high socio-economic standing relative to their population size puts them as a prosperous and successful community in Singapore. As a result, racism has been become a non-issue for the India community and effectively ruling out the possibility of articulating experiences of racism discrimination in any official capacity.


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