The Stories Behind the Histories We Tell

#SingaporePlatformForEastWestDialogue

How sensitive are we to the contexts in which we use ideas and words?

Recently began attending a series of discussions organised by Para Limes on “East-West” issues. This one (held on 14 June 2017) was with Vernie Oliveiro, Senior Assistant Director (Policy Strategy) with the Strategy Management Unit of the Ministry of National Development, who’s trained in history and has a strong interest in the Singaporean identity.

Continue reading “The Stories Behind the Histories We Tell”

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Multi-lingualism & Social Identities

#SingaporePlatformForEastWestDialogue

“What role can Singapore play in enriching the dialogue between East and West?” – Dr. Helena Gao

Recently began attending a series of discussions organised by Para Limes on “East-West” issues, the first of which was chaired by Dr. Helena Gao, linguistics researcher and director of NTU’s Bilingual Development Lab, and held on 11 May 2017.

Continue reading “Multi-lingualism & Social Identities”

Indices and Rankings in Urban Development

Weekly reflections as I study urban policy in Asia

Based on the reading(s):

International Making Cities Livable LLC, n.d. The Value of Rankings and the Meaning of Livability. [Online]
Available at: http://www.livablecities.org/blog/value-rankings-and-meaning-livability

Harvey, D., 2008. The right to the city. The City Reader, 6, pp.23-40.


Thus far, we’ve been exposed to concepts of poverty, oppression, capabilities, community participation, eco-urbanism, conviviality, systemic precarity, and we’ve also discussed the idea and life of the city. In this week’s readings on the different types of cities – be they realised or idealised – I’m particularly interested in the criteria we set for ourselves when evaluating and envisioning cities. Continue reading “Indices and Rankings in Urban Development”

Systemic Precarity for Labourers of the Future

Weekly reflections as I study urban policy in Asia

Based on the reading(s):

Kong, L., 2011. From precarious labor to precarious economy? Planning for precarity in Singapore’s creative economy. City, culture and society, 2(2), pp.55-64.


Systemic precarity, as a concept, appeared odd at first. When thinking of systems, I would have thought that they are usually stable, due to a mixture of predefined parameters and degrees of inertia, much like orbital shells with lower energy levels. There might be shocks, but those are likely perceived as anomalous rather than systemic. Continue reading “Systemic Precarity for Labourers of the Future”

Conviviality – the Zeal of Autonomous Intercourse

Weekly reflections as I study urban policy in Asia

Based on the reading(s):

Peattie, Lisa (1998), “Convivial Cities,” in Mike Douglass and John Friedmann, eds. (1998), Cities for Citizens: Planning and the Rise of Civil Society in a Global Age (London: John Wiley), 247- 253.


Reading my reflections from a fortnight ago, I could still feel the zeal in me at the prospect of co-designing my urban environment with the public housing planners of HDB.

“While I do not doubt that HDB planners would have done their homework, I wonder too if there’s value in greater consultation or, if there’s already consultation being done, greater publicity for these consultation exercises, such that the future residents might see themselves less as consumers, more as co-designers and owners of these urban environments. I know I would love to be part of the process.”

And, I only made the link after I finished Peattie’s piece, that the zeal I feel can be largely attributed to the prospect of “autonomous and creative intercourse” among potential dwellers of this urban housing estate, and with the planners and expert authorities. Indeed, there’s something uniquely pleasurable about chipping in and, as a collective of individuals, finding ways to “make and remake [our] world”. I’m thankful, thus, for the term “conviviality”. For one, it helps encapsulate a phenomenon in one word. What’s more, due to its uncommon usage, I imagine that I’ll be asked to explain what it means when I introduce this term.

In preparation for that time, and also for my seminar and term papers this semester, let me try to pry a little deeper. Continue reading “Conviviality – the Zeal of Autonomous Intercourse”

“Eco-cities” – Buzzwords and Their Dangers

Weekly reflections as I study urban policy in Asia

Based on the reading(s):

Caprotti, F. (2014). Eco‐urbanism and the Eco‐city, or, Denying the Right to the City?. Antipode, 46(5), 1285-1303.


This week’s readings could not have come at a better time. Just last week, Singapore’s Housing & Development Board (HDB) unveiled its masterplan for a new HDB town – Tengah.

It’s not difficult to spot the buzzwords: smart, sustainable, eco-friendly, and “a whole lot more liveable”. Continue reading ““Eco-cities” – Buzzwords and Their Dangers”

Community Participation in Surabaya, Indonesia

Weekly reflections as I study urban policy in Asia

Based on the reading(s):

Dhakal, S. (2002). Comprehensive Kampung Improvement Program in Surabaya as a model of community participation. Urban Environmental Management Project.


I gathered some insights from this case study on the Comprehensive Kampung Improvement Programme (C-KIP) in Surabaya.

Humility; Community Participation > Community Representation

I thought it rather humble of city governments to implement KIP and C-KIP. For them to recognise that urban planners might not be the best innovators, decision-makers or implementers and to strive for community participation (CP), over and above community representation (CR), is commendable.

Continue reading “Community Participation in Surabaya, Indonesia”

What behavior (human activity) would you try and alter to reduce energy usage and why?

My post in an online discussion forum for my Energy Policy and Politics class

What behavior (human activity) would you try and alter to reduce energy usage and why? How would you attempt to alter such behaviour?

When considering this question, I consciously avoided searching for figures on energy consumption / wastage. Instead, I tried recalling my “energy consumption journey map” from the moment I slept last night till now.

Continue reading “What behavior (human activity) would you try and alter to reduce energy usage and why?”

On the Capabilities approach, Acquirement problem, and Oppression

Weekly reflections as I study urban policy in Asia

Based on the reading(s):

Nussbaum, M. (2003). Capabilities as fundamental entitlements: Sen and social justice. Feminist economics, 9(2-3), 33-59.

Young, I. M. (1990). Five faces of oppression. Justice and the politics of difference (pp. 39–65).

Sen, A., Eicher, C. K., & Staatz, J. M. (1998). Food, economics, and entitlements. International agricultural development., (Ed. 3), 240-256.


While setting and pursuing development goals, how do we care for the marginalised?

This was a long but fascinating read. My apologies, this entry might be slightly disorienting, as I try to make sense of Nussbaum’s observations and propositions, while tying in ideas from Sen’s and Young’s works.

Continue reading “On the Capabilities approach, Acquirement problem, and Oppression”

What do you think the top energy issue is and why?

My post in an online discussion forum for my Energy Policy and Politics class:

Hi all, here to share my most recent thoughts on energy issues. I think there are many substantive issues which can be ranked as “top”. Recently, though, I’ve been preoccupied with questions of a more procedural nature – How are energy policies made, how might a society’s stance on energy be changed over time?

In this regard, the top energy issue for me has got to do with information and how it’s processed and communicated. It appears to me that we lack information where we need it most, and we lack the ability to turn pieces of knowledge into relatable, believable narratives for both decision-makers and the general public. We need local, legitimised knowledge and we need to humanise the discussion of such knowledge.

Continue reading “What do you think the top energy issue is and why?”