The Air-conditioned Nation under Global Warming – An Exploratory Study of the Speech and Assembly Freedom and Politics of Space in Singapore

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Author: Hei Ting Wong, National University of Singapore
Email: [email protected]
Published: January 22, 2021
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.6.SI.02

Citation: Wong, H. T. (2021). The Air-conditioned Nation under Global Warming – An Exploratory Study of the Speech and Assembly Freedom and Politics of Space in Singapore. IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies, 6(SI). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.6.SI.02


Abstract

Singapore is known to have a citizenry loyal to its one-party dominated government. Cherian George refers Singapore as the “Air-conditioned Nation,” wherein free speech is sacrificed for economic stability in this metaphorical or virtual greenhouse and fostered a controlled and docile politic. Dissent from members of registered opposition parties or ordinary citizens, however, has been voiced during “illegal gatherings” in public places. Many of these attempts, both purposeful and accidental, challenge rules designed to limit the citizenry’s ability to voice publicly. In this paper, I examine these civil disobedient acts under the framework of construction and politics of socially- and mentally-constructed space in connection to the laws of Singapore. Utilizing the ideas of space as defined by Henri Lefebvre and Michel Foucault, I analyze three separate accounts of assembly and/or procession. I identify the relevant laws of Singapore and examine how these laws are interpreted and applied by law enforcement, revealing a tension between space and the body politic. Politics of space is a concept usually connected to social class; yet, class consciousness is what the Singaporean government strives to eliminate through the control of ideology and by limiting the freedom of speech in public spaces. My contribution examines the relationship between space and politics, reflecting the conflicts between the government, which has the power over the use of places and citizens who would like to express ideas differently from governmental-led ideologies physically and publicly in these places, and the opposition’s actions in this virtually-caged public space named Singapore.

Keywords

political assembly, public assembly, politics of space, public space, Singapore speech freedom