Building the urban commons in Singapore: the cemetery, red-light district and public housing estates as sites of contestation
ABSTRACT This paper investigates the state of informal social activism initiated by Singaporean youth via the creation of ground-up initiatives. Having witnessed state-civil society relations, where calibrated liberalisation, co-option and coercive measures are used as strategies of state control, these informal collectives seek new modalities and methodologies in their efforts to build the urban commons. By following three of such collectives, this paper seeks to explore the overlapping cultural and social realms they operate in, as well as the new modalities and methodologies they bring, such as participatory art and design. They negotiate constraints from both the state and market through (1) strategic positioning of legal statuses and (2) the formation of a network society, building social capital and a new vocabulary for future efforts in self-organisation.
KEYWORDS: Informal social activism; informal collectives; ground-up initiatives; urban commons
Danielle Hong is a consumer insights researcher with a design strategy firm. She is trained in Sociology and received her M.A. in Law, Development and Globalisation from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 2014. She was previously a research associate with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and the Institute of Policy Studies respectively, where she worked on local social and cultural issues such as labour migration, integration and multiculturalism. She is interested in cultural activism and new forms of social collectives in relation to civil society.