Introducing Dr Junjia Ye, SEAC Visiting Fellow and Assistant Professor in Human Geography at Nanyang Technological University.
1.What will you be working on during your time as SEAC Visiting Fellow?
I will be working on an ongoing project on surveillance and borderings that are in process in migrant enclaves. More specifically, this work situates surveillance not only through technology but also through everyday human encounters that reproduce borders in migrant enclaves. This project analyses qualitative data I collected in Paya Lebar new town, that is towards the east of Singapore and especially popular with Indonesian migrant domestic workers. Some of my initial findings have been that state surveillance is not experienced negatively or as oppressive for many of these migrant users of Paya Lebar. Rather, being gazed upon legitimizes their claims to space and subjectivities as well-behaving migrants. Often, the enforcement and reminders of rules and regulations are enforced by migrants themselves as a form of care work towards other migrants. Surveillance is hence pastoralized and borderings of who counts as a good migrant are reproduced through interactions with various stateholders of the space.
2.What led you to your field of study/what inspired your interest in these topics?
I have been working on labour migration and urban diversification in Singapore for a number of years. I noticed that migrant enclaves, aside from being important social and economic spaces for new arrivals in the city, are also some of the most intensely monitored and regulated spaces by state agencies. There was also a striking conversation I had with a migrant respondent who said, “Singapore police very good. They take care of us here. And I don’t do anything wrong”. This sentiment made me think more about the sort of migrant subjectivity that is produced in place and through surveillance.
3. How do you like to relax and unwind?
During this time when plans to see friends and family quickly change with pandemic regulations, I find joy and stability in interactions with the non-human. I read fiction whenever I can – just finished “Once There Were Wolves” by Charlotte McConaghy. I say I look after my houseplants but in truth, I think they look after me as well. Being around them, moving them around different spots in the flat makes me happy.