Political Legitimacy and Housing: Stakeholding in Singapore

By Chua Beng-Huat | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Nostalgia for the kampung

Here in Singapore, there is to be no respite for the government as its ideological work continues. However, the site has shifted from the materiality of housing to the imaginary of ‘community’. The desire to escape from the squalor of overcongestion and an unhygienic living environment has been realized by universal public housing. But desire realized is also a desire forgotten and replaced by another. This time, ironically, it is a desire to return to the razed but not erased habitat of old, the Village’.

As previous chapters on the resettlement process have identified, the village, known in Singapore by its Malay term, kampung, is no longer part of the Singapore landscape. Yet, within the short space of four weeks from mid-February to mid-March 1993, there were three references to the kampung in the English-medium newspaper, the Straits Times. This is not unusual. Although physically no more, the kampung remains alive within the collective memory of Singaporeans, which is substantiated by the newspaper references. 1

The first reference appeared in a press interview with people in the street concerning ‘stress levels’ in contemporary Singapore. One individual responded: ‘What do you expect when people no longer live in kampungs and are locked up in tiny cages called HDB flats?’ (Straits Times, 15 February 1993).

The second appeared in a feature article on the relocation of Singa-pore’s only mental hospital from where it had stood for sixty-five years to ‘a spanking new condominium-like building’, dubbed by an architect involved in its design as ‘Club Med’, in a public-housing new town. On the eve of its relocation one of the nursing officers, looking at the blocks of public housing visible from the hospital corridor, remarked, ‘Once there were kampungs here and we would take the patients out for a stroll in

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Political Legitimacy and Housing: Stakeholding in Singapore
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Figures x
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Public-Housing Policies Compared 12
  • Chapter 2 - From City to Nation 27
  • Chapter 3 - Resettling a Chinese Village 51
  • Chapter 4 - Modernism and the Vernacular 70
  • Chapter 5 - Adjusting Religious Practices to Different House-Forms 90
  • Chapter 6 - A Practicable Concept of Community in a High-Rise Housing Environment 113
  • Chapter 7 - Public Housing and Political Legitimacy 124
  • Chapter 8 - Nostalgia for the Kampung 152
  • Notes 168
  • References 174
  • Author Index 181
  • Subject Index 184
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