Creolized Utopias: Squatter Colonies and the Post-Colonial City in Malaysia

By Guan, Yeoh Seng | SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Creolized Utopias: Squatter Colonies and the Post-Colonial City in Malaysia


Guan, Yeoh Seng, SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia


"Shanty towns", "spontaneous dwellings", and "squatter colonies" are established topics in the literature on "Third World" cities and urbanization. Until recently, these discussions were customarily framed within two contending theoretical schools. Proponents of the "modernization" thesis view the emergence of "modern" cities as an improvement over "ancient" indigenous cities. Thus, the dramatic demographic growth and urban problems characteristic of many "Third World" cities are evaluated as a kind of "pseudo-urbanization" arising from an imperfect replication of the tertiarization of the industrial "First World". In contrast, adherents of the "dependency" school depict "Third World" urbanization as integrally linked to the transnational expansion and logic of modern capitalism. The ills of urban poverty and the lack of decent, affordable public housing are thus manifestations of the uneven and inequitable distribution of resources and surplus accumulation; a phenomena, moreover, not just confined to the "Third World" but also endemic in the most affluent of "First World" cities (Armstrong and McGee 1985; Gilbert and Gugler 1992).

Amongst others, Henri Lefebvre's complex and monumental work, The Production of Space (1991) is centrally pertinent to the purposes of this paper. In brief, Lefebvre contends that the "city", as both a built environment and lived space, cannot be conceived merely as a neutral and empty container of social, economic, and political activities. Instead, the "city" should be viewed as the domain where episodes of the hegemonic expansion and capitalist drama are being played out (see also Harvey 1989; Jacobs 1996; King 1990). More specifically, he argues that capitalism has survived largely because it is the spatialization of modernity and the strategic planning of everyday life that has allowed its essential relations of production to be reproduced. In the organization of the built environment then, space is commodified. In other words, space becomes a social and political product.(1)

In this paper, I follow in part the trajectory of this thesis in the ethnographic context of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. In juxtaposing current energetic efforts at erasing "squatter colonies" with an equally energetic push to construct a recognizable post-colonial city on the global landscape, I suggest that both occupy historically contingent positions, and that they aptly index the nature of changes that are engendered in the wake of globalized capitalism. To further appreciate the significance of the interplay between local and supralocal cultural processes, I also draw from Ulf Hannerz's formulation of "creolization" which, in essence, theoretically takes a position in between the two contending poles introduced at the beginning of this paper. Whilst contemporary asymmetrical capital and cultural flows between the metropolitan "centre" and the "periphery" index the historical legacy of an extractive colonialism and cultural imperialism, they are also not monolithic nor one-sided. Thus, the contemporary concerns of city management in Kuala Lumpur bear the marks of a hybridized cultural exchange. They depict a variation of what Richard O'Connor has argued elsewhere as the distinguishing trope of indigenous urbanism where emerging nation-states succumb to urban interests by remaining heavily mortgaged to urban forms (O'Connor 1995, p. 39). Or, to put it another way, in the current milieu "squatter colonies" are rendered as "heterotopias of deviation" -- sites where behaviour and meaning are deemed deviant in relation to a mean or norm (Foucault 1986).

Redefining Land and Landscapes

The contemporary dominant notion of land as a commodity that can be owned, transferred, mortgaged, and sold is essentially a colonialist construct. In British Malaya, as elsewhere in other European colonies, the cultural category of property was constituted by a combination of intertwining practices. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Creolized Utopias: Squatter Colonies and the Post-Colonial City in Malaysia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.