Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Managing Urban Diversity through Differential Inclusion in Singapore

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Managing Urban Diversity through Differential Inclusion in Singapore

Article excerpt

This paper examines diversity in Singapore to articulate a distinctive politics of living with diversification that is shaped through fragmentary processes of inclusion and incorporation, rather than through more conventional discussions of exclusion. I use the concept of "differential inclusion" rather than exclusion to make visible the deliberate management of urban diversification through the categorisation of race, citizenship and incorporation of foreign labour. I disrupt the binary of exclusion/inclusion in the context of migrant-led diversification to demonstrate the politics of difference-making. It is my aim to draw attention to the processes of differentiation by challenging dominant narratives of "diversity" and "integration". The paper demonstrates that inclusion within particular configurations of diversity is a filtered process to the extent that people are variously, subjectively included. I not only show that integration is dependent upon people--in this case, new migrants--being subjected to certain policies and norms of civility, but I also argue that fleeting interactions generate and reinforce the rules that constitute differential inclusion within a diversifying context. In this paper, civility lies at the core of the politics of diversity as a banal mode of surveillance through its everyday enactment.

More specifically, I refer to the normative codes of conduct to explain how the incorporation of diverse others is regulated in differentiated ways through state-led measures and principles of everyday coexistence. I argue that an empirical analysis of micro-encounters in Singapore necessarily contributes to the spatial conceptualisation of urban coexistence under conditions of migrant-led diversification. This paper also contributes to the growing field of urban encounters by demonstrating that fleeting modes of everyday "rubbing along" in public spaces must be contextualised within broader structural regulations shaped by state institutions and actors. Indeed, government policy measures, campaigns and discourses of diversity do not lie separate from everyday modes of governance and organisation of difference. But rather, they selectively link and organise places and people through the everyday re-enactment of narratives of diversity that do not simply form the backdrop, but indeed produce the very contours of how diversity ought to be. It is these dynamics of management that also shape processes of differential inclusion through everyday encounters. This speaks to the articulations of the formal and the informal, but also to the spatialisation and socialisation of governance. I show that the geography of coexistence is constituted through socio-spatial processes where the politics of living with diversity are mediated through, although not limited to fleeting encounters. Norms of civility clarify the messiness inherent in public spaces, to filter, curtail and simplify diversity. Rather than as a narrowly focused set of rules, these norms are perhaps more effectively grasped when conceived in terms of broad, overarching principles that guide everyday encounters in public through practices of inclusion and exclusion. The rituals of everyday contact with diverse others--so fundamental to the collaborative act of sharing space--can also become a ritualised form of selective incorporation where acceptance is dependent upon people subscribing to established norms and values. Consequently, everyday spaces become the arena where the gradual construction of a social and civil order takes place. In demonstrating how norms and civility act as tools of integration through co-optation, this paper goes beyond clarifying how diversity is managed and negotiated in the everyday vis-a-vis uneven interconnections amongst people of different backgrounds. Instead, I argue that it is not only exclusion but inclusion that is also highly politicised as difference-making. The aggregate processes alluded to above render people subject to particular state-led imaginaries of diversity. …

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