Protecting Community Heritage through Civic Engagement in Singapore

Ho C. F. Selina

Lingnan University, Hong Kong, China

Within a traditionally subdued civil society, more citizens have stepped forward to address the impact of long-term urban renewal on Singapore’s heritage and social cohesion. This paper examines how volunteer groups engage in creative citizenship through walking tour organisers, My Community and Geylang Adventures, that are based in characteristically different districts of Queenstown and Geylang respectively.

Queenstown is Singapore’s first satellite town with full amenities for heartland dwellers, while Geylang is notoriously associated with its red-light district and blue-collar migrant worker community. My Community and Geylang Adventures offer complementary accounts of how residents and participants are activated in creative place-making practices to advocate community heritage and local-migrant integration. Drawing from participant observations and interviews with the organizers and guides, the paper discusses their motivations, achievements and challenges within limited political openings to understand their impact on evolving state-society relations in two main aspects. Firstly, the walking tours are examined as sources of knowledge production and civic engagement which in turn enrich nation-building despite their critique of the state’s unilateralism. Secondly, establishing themselves as visible stakeholders through the astute use of various media and physical spaces, they become the intermediary for bottom-up participation in urban development and social policies.


Ho C. F. Selina is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. She completed her Ph.D. at the Asia Institute of the University of Melbourne. She is the author of Museum Processes in China, published by Amsterdam University Press.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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