Granular Geographies of Endless Growth: Singapore and the Spatial-Cognitive Fix
Royal Holloway, University of London
Year of enrolment: 2017
Supervisor: Professor Phil Crang
Singapore has been continuously expanding geographically for five decades through land reclamation, with 25% of its current land-mass consisting of reclaimed land. Initially used for social housing and infrastructure, more recently reclaimed land has been devoted to Marina Bay Sands (Singapore’s first integrated resort and casino complex) and the Gardens by the Bay (a newly created 100 ha urban park), becoming critical in the construction of Singapore’s national identity as a Global City. To resource this land making, Singapore has been purchasing sand extracted from other Southeast Asian countries through an informal network of subcontractors. This has produced tensions with its neighbours, as Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia have illegalised different categories of sand export to Singapore. However, the sand still flows, legally or illegally.This doctorate will critically interrogate how this twinned mode of resource extraction and geographic expansion forms an infrastructure of Singaporean national identity and nationbuilding. The research will follow and connect the networks of sand extraction and land reclamation, examining sand as a material that makes the political, economic and spatial dynamics of the region legible. Its approach is based in a reconfiguration of geographic and literary theory. Building on Cultural Geography’s existing development of creative methods for understanding place and space, the project will adapt geographic practices of writing landscape to the fragmented and dispersed sites of sand extraction and reclamation. Practically, I will interview those involved in this network, from subcontractors to land reclamation engineers, from fishermen to planners, and reconfigure their experiences and landscapes by re-writing the material as fictional case studies. This critical creative-writing practice is designed to interrogate the rationale of Singapore’s spatial transformation, and to re-connect the geographies of extraction and reclamation that underpin it.