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The queer time of creative urbanism: family, futurity, and global city Singapore


  • Natalie Oswin


Singapore's rise as a 'global city' has attracted much scholarly attention, especially as its government has recently turned to 'creative city' strategies. In line with critiques made of other global and creative cities around the world, important critiques have been leveled that the city-state’s developmental efforts are bureaucratic, hierarchical, narrowly economistic, and, most importantly, socially polarizing. This paper demonstrates that Singapore’s global/creative city project is also heteronormative and, further, that this heteronormative logic is tied in fundamental ways to broad forms of social polarization. The drive to attract 'foreign talent' to the city-state as a key prong in attaining future economic growth has resulted in significant changes in sexual citizenship over the last decade. Efforts to shake off an authoritarian image and foster a creative economy have led to the liberalization of the government's approach to public expressions of homosexuality. Yet discriminatory legislation and policy that excludes gays and lesbians from full citizenship has been maintained. Further, Singapore maintains a bifurcated migration regime that invites 'foreign talent' and their families to become part of the national family through naturalization, while 'foreign workers' have no route to future citizenship and are prohibited from bringing dependents with them, as well as from marrying and/or having children locally. Through a coercive politics of constrained im/mobility, this alien surplus labour force is set on an alternative developmental path that precludes intimacy, love, and familial connection. Building on recent work on the notion of 'queer time', this paper calls attention to the ways in which the city-state's developmental aims are underpinned by an exclusionary notion of reproductive futurity, and argues that a queer theoretical approach adds much to critical efforts to undermine the Singapore government's illiberal politics of pragmatism. Keywords: Singapore, global city, heteronormativity, futurity, sexual citizenship, migrant workers

Suggested Citation

  • Natalie Oswin, 2012. "The queer time of creative urbanism: family, futurity, and global city Singapore," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 44(7), pages 1624-1640, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:44:y:2012:i:7:p:1624-1640

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