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:

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”

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”

A Rights-Centric Approach to the SDGs

Based on the reading:

Langford, M. (2010). A poverty of rights: six ways to fix the MDGs. IDS bulletin, 41(1), 83-91.

In this paper, Langford described the inadequacy of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and suggested ways in which a refocus on, and a normative framework based on, human rights could, in his words, “fix the MDGs.” Before I reflect on the substance of his writing, I wish to express how heartened I am that Langford, and presumably others like him, have chosen to work with the enterprise of the MDGs instead of abandoning it all together.

While the MDGs might appear too distant from the marginalised peoples around the world or too abstract and general for local policymakers and civil society organisations, I think there is merit in sustaining the discourse on “development goals” –

What is the nature of development we desire? How do we envision our individual societies 15 years from now? What might be the small steps in between?

Continue reading “A Rights-Centric Approach to the SDGs”

Mega-Urban Regions (MURs) in Asia

Based on the reading:

Jones and M. Douglass, eds., (2008) The Rise of Mega-Urban Regions in Pacific Asia – Urban Dynamics in a Global Era (Singapore: Singapore University Press).

I appreciate the author’s approach of a “local-global” framework, when analysing the Mega-Urban Regions (MURs) in Pacific Asia. In particular, I quite like the layered analysis involving (1) the image of the conventional Western megapolis which served as comparison, (2) the historical contexts of the different MURs, and (3) how the MURs have each been linked to the global economy in different ways at different times.

Among the demographic and transition-linked factors of the morphology of MUR expansion in Pacific Asia, I am most intrigued by the interactions between the socio-political “local” and the economic “global”.

Continue reading “Mega-Urban Regions (MURs) in Asia”