Xinyu Guan

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Cornell U.

Grant number

Gr. 10000

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Guan, Xinyu (Cornell U.) " Singapore’s State-Constructed Housing Estates: The Material Lives of State Power, Citizenship and Subjectivity"

Eighty percent of Singapore’s population lives in state-constructed apartment units in modernist high-rise housing estates. Widely cited as an exemplar of social engineering, the housing estates feature a proportionate mix of ethnic groups of the postcolonial nation-state; the fact that citizens purchase the apartments with an advance from their retirement funds gives them a stake in protecting property values. Nonetheless, little daily acts of subversion are common: people urinate in elevators and arrogate public walkways as private gardens, opening contesting the state’s disciplinary practices. My research asks how the housing estates, as a form of political materiality and infrastructure, 1) enable the reproduction and contestation of political power, 2) mediate understandings of citizenship along racial, class and gender lines, and 3) shape different forms of political and economic subjectivity. From July 2020 through June 2021, I will conduct ethnographic research in two housing estates in Singapore, participating in the everyday activities of residents, volunteering at community centers, and conducting interviews with homebuyers. By examining the political materialities and social lives of state-constructed housing, my research will contribute to anthropological theories of citizenship and state power in postcolonial contexts, and to discussions of authoritarian neoliberalism and subjectivity in Asia and beyond.