Spatial Politics and Transient Migrant Workers in Global-City Singapore

Hosted by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre

Online public event


Professor Brenda Yeoh

Professor Brenda Yeoh

Raffles Professor of Social Sciences, National University of Singapore


Professor Hyun Bang Shin

Professor Hyun Bang Shin

Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Director of Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, LSE

LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre hosted a public lecture, chaired by SEAC Director Prof. Hyun Bang Shin on 9th March 2021. Prof. Brenda S.A. Yeoh (Raffles Professor of Social Sciences, National University of Singapore) spoke on 'Spatial Politics and Transient Migrant Workers in Global-City Singapore'.

Lecture abstract

Traditional research on migration has often privileged more permanent forms of migration and related issues of settlement, adaptation and assimilation in western cities. Shifting attention to the cities of Asia, however, migrant spatial concentrations operate differently under prevailing temporary migration regimes. The presence of transient migrants on time-structured work contracts has paradoxically become a permanent feature of globalizing cities in Asia, and a compelling force in driving urban diversity, as well as the fear of diversity. By focusing on the context of Singapore as a globalising city-state where over a million low-waged transient migrant workers  live and work, I examine two sets of conjoined processes underpinning the spatial politics of non-integration in Singapore: (a) enclavisation, or the formation of ‘weekend enclaves’, ‘migrant hotspots’ or gathering grounds as co-national social spaces of support and comfort zones of co-ethnic belonging; and (b) enclosure as a set of containment measures to restrict migrant workers’ mobility in public spaces. I close with a discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these processes of enclavisation and enclosure.

Speaker & Chair biographies

  • Prof. Brenda S.A. Yeoh is Raffles Professor of Social Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Research Leader, Asian Migration Cluster, at NUS’ Asia Research Institute. Her research interests in Asian migrations span themes including gender, social reproduction and care migration; skilled migration and cosmopolitanism; higher education and international student mobilities; and marriage migrants and cultural politics. She has published widely in geography and migration studies journals and her recent books include Handbook of Asian Migrations (Routledge, 2018 with G. Liu-Farrer) and Student Mobilities and International Education in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, with R. Sidhu and K.C. Ho).
  • Prof. Hyun Bang Shin is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and directs the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economy of speculative urbanisation, gentrification and displacement, urban spectacles, and urbanism with particular attention to Asian cities. His books include Planetary Gentrification (Polity, 2016), Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Exporting Urban Korea? Reconsidering the Korean Urban Development Experience (Routledge, 2021), and The Political Economy of Mega Projects in Asia: Globalization and Urban Transformation (Routledge, forthcoming). He is Editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and is also a trustee of the Urban Studies Foundation.



A video of this seminar is available to watch at Facebook.

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Banner image is from UN Women/Staton Winter.


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