Invitation – Lecture by Prof. Junjia Ye, April 9, 2018 | 2–4PM
The growing “diversity-turn” in the social scientific study of migrant-led urban change is an exciting opportunity for geographers. While much has been said about encounters with difference and diversity in public spaces, there has been a silence on the very nature of incorporation within these spatial negotiations and transformations. While Stuart Hall is right in pointing out how the “capacity to live with difference” is one of the key questions of the 21st Century (1993: 361), many Asian urban contexts demonstrate that co-existing and managing difference have always been a fundamental dimension of historical reality. Urban diversification in this part of the world is led largely by carefully calibrated labour migration. Drawing upon ethnographic data collected through mixed methodology in Singapore, this paper both reflects and questions existing literature on urban diversity and coexistence. I examine the spatial and political implications of migrant incorporation by identifying two key strands of geographical imaginations in these two growing fields. The paper, thus, has two objectives. First, to retain critical analytical purchase on what living with difference in shared spaces specifically through “incorporation” means at both the governmental and everyday levels. Measures of inclusion can carry out the political work of management that can structure what form belonging takes and, consequently, stratify who belongs and who does not. Rather than being intriniscally open or opposed to exclusion, the aggregate processes of “incorporation” alluded to above render people subject to particular imaginaries of diversity. The second objective of this paper is to outline the agenda for future research. There needs to be the prompt address of the impact of structural differentiation on the spatial practices of migrants in diversifying contexts and the nature of diversifying spaces themselves. What, indeed, is the migrant sense of place?
Dr Junjia Ye is an Assistant Professor in Human Geography at Nanyang Technological University who completed her PhD in Geography at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests lie at the intersections of cultural diversity, critical cosmopolitanism, class, gender studies and the political-economic development of urban Southeast Asia. Alongside extensive ethnographic research methods, she also uses techniques of film and photography to create visual narratives through her work. The fundamental question that underlies her research is what accounts for how social and economic differences are constituted through people’s mobilities to, through and from diversifying cities? Her recent work has been published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Annals of the American Association of Geographers and Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. Her first monograph entitled Class inequality in the global city: migrants, workers and cosmopolitanism in Singapore (2016, Palgrave Macmillan) won Labour History’s annual book prize.
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