S(t)imulating Singapore: Representing the City (-State) in Travel Writing and Urban Planning

Irvin Lim Fang Jau

To the Memory of my Grandfather, Lim Wah Heng, 1910-1991


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3



Cities are fictographic environments. They are ambient identities that, in terms of variety from one city to the next, have identifiable 'looks' that their citizens wear as cosmetic identification. Allegiance to city comes before country. One's city is a familial membership.
Christopher Dewney, 1991: 4


Singapore's rapid urban development over the last three decades of nation-building has left an indelible mark on the physical landscape as well as the psychological mindscape of its visitors and inhabitants. How these changes have been viewed and represented in contemporary travel writing and urban planning discourses will be explored in this thesis. The emphasis will be on a critical re-examination of the partiality and problematics of spatial representations, with an attempt to situate the ideological assumptions of the travel writers and the political motivations of the Singapore government's urban policies and plans. It is at the disjuncture between the two disparate discourses that Singapore can be better understood; both as a city and a state.


I would like to thank, in particular, Dr Ien Ang and Dr Jon Stratton for a stimulating semester of tutelary deliberations and theoretical clarifications from which my thesis drew its afflatus and sustained its teleology. My thanks must also go to Rachel Fensham and Dr Alan Mansfield for their guidance and valuable comments on my initial work, Prof. David Birch for his confidence and encouragement, and to the staff at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies for lending their kind support and granting me access to research materials at the ISEAS library. I would also like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to the Republic of Singapore Navy for granting me study leave, to the Murdoch University Academic Council for the award of The 1994 University Medal for the Arts, and to Prof. Jim Warren and the S. T. Leong Memorial Scholarship committee for the award that helped me alleviate some of the onerous financial commitments of an overseas education. More than they will ever know, kudos must go to all my lecturers and tutors at the School of Humanities, who I have had the great fortune of working with, for their exemplary dedication and intellectual acuity. And as cold prose can but best simulate, the warm support of my siblings, family members and many wonderful friends - Selvaraj Velayutham, Vijayandran Devadas, Chan Keen Len, the Electric Dreamers of VJC85A16, Lim Ee Guan, Stephanie Ho and Aaron Koh (to name but a few) - both near and afar, will not soon be forgotten. For being my sunny weather eye throughout the seemingly endless drafts and doldrums, Tay Cheng Cheng will no doubt forecast constantly in my affections. Above all, I remain especially indebted to my parents for their many sacrifices yet untold of which I am forever to owe.

Copyright licence/restriction. Permission to copy all or parts of this dissertation for study and research purposes is hereby granted.

I declare that this dissertation is my own account of my research and contains as its main content work which has not previously been submitted for a degree at any tertiary educational institution.

Irvin Lim Fang Jau
5 June 1995

New: 9 August, 1997 | Now: 27 April, 2015