By Karlene Ooto-Stubbs, Volunteer Research Assistant
The overlap and interlay between neoliberal economic policies and urban space spell unique and complex outcomes for those who are marginalized in any society. Women, people of color and queers interact with the urban form in ways unseen by dominant culture, and the needs of these people differ from the majority of the rhetoric around urban space. My research takes a post-modern and queer theory lens to the built environment, connecting these theories to the physical world around us. I believe it’s important to include alternate ways of thinking when attempting to create cities which are smarter and more inclusive for all, while keeping in-check the economic and political boundaries which contribute to the built environment and the social interactions which take place within them.
Abstract: Singapore’s unique identity provides many opportunities of analyzing urban space from a non-normative perspective. As the city incorporates larger amounts neoliberal policies in hopes of increasing its position on the global stage (and as a global city), significant changes in the state’s approach to homosexuality have been made. Efforts to become a creative city run in opposition to homophobic government legislation, but recently the government’s approach to the regulation of sexual minorities has changed. During a 2007 reform of Singapore’s Penal Code, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong rejected calls by gay and lesbian activists for the removal of a colonial-era statute that prohibits `gross indecency’ between two men (Oswin 2010, 128), but has stated that an active approach in enforcing this law will not take place. In terms of urban geography, areas which are known to have been home to queer communities are undergoing transformation as well. This paper examines the history of queer space in Singapore and how neoliberalism has influenced queer neighborhoods. Using Aihwa Ong’s analysis of neoliberal exceptionalism, I analyze how spaces for queer people in Singapore’s Chinatown exist as a zone of exception, in contradiction to the Penal Code.
Key terms: neoliberalism, queer space, zone of exception, urban development, creative class, global city