Class(ify)ing Christianity in Singapore: Tracing the inter- and intra-spatialities of privilege and position

Authors: Orlando Woods*, Singapore Management University, Lily Kong, Singapore Management University
Topics: Religion, Migration, Urban Geography
Keywords: Christianity, Singapore, identity, class, migrants, space
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 3, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper considers how two facets of identity – religion and class – are performed, negotiated and reproduced within the spaces of the school, home and church in Singapore. As an island city-state with a multi-religious (and multi-ethnic) population that is increasingly subdivided by class, the Singapore case is unique and instructive to debates around urban diversity. These spaces are often mutually reinforcing; they provide spatial linkages that reify the position of Christianity as a religion of the privileged classes. That said, they become problematic when shared with other, less privileged groups, such as Singaporean Christians from lower socio-economic classes, and Christian foreign domestic workers. In such instances, the inter- and intra-spatialities of privilege and position can become a point of juxtaposition, which in turn can lead to the production of more exclusionary forms of cultural citizenship. By “inter-spatial” we refer to the ways in which the relationship between religion and class is negotiated across different spaces; by “intra-spatial” we refer to the ways in which it is negotiated within the same space. To illustrate these ideas, we use qualitative data collected between August 2017 and February 2018 to explore the ways in which different facets of Singaporean and migrant Christian identity can coalesce, diverge or create tension across and within space. The value of this more fluid approach to theorising identity formation in and through space is that it can highlight both the reinforcements and contradictions that are experienced when navigating the pluralistic and everyday spaces of the city.

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