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The Emotional Geopolitics of Subterranean Urban Planning in Singapore

Authors: Chih Yuan Woon*, National University Of Singapore
Topics: Political Geography, Urban Geography, Asia
Keywords: The Subterranean; Emotional Geopolitics; Fear; Hope; Urban Planning; Singapore
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


On 27 March 2019, the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced a draft Master Plan that emphasizes the city-state’s desire to explore and tap into the subterranean realm. More specifically, there is the claim that Singapore has already begun studying the potentialities of freeing up surface land for people-centric uses through relocating utilities, transport, storage and industrial facilities to the underground. In light of such developments, this paper critically examines the Singaporean state discourses that are advanced to justify the country’s need to engage in a systematic approach to subterranean urban planning. It argues that there is a long history of Singapore’s forays into the subterranean, whereby existential threats are constantly being mobilized by Singaporean elites to underscore the importance of relying on underground spaces to ensure the country’s survival. Indeed, early efforts in ‘going underground’ emerged out of a geopolitical security imperative to defend Singapore against ‘foreign threats’ in the postcolonial era. However, contemporary evocations play up on the economic vulnerability of Singapore as a result of the city-state’s limited territorial land area in order to imbue the subterranean realm with hopeful possibilities in expanding Singapore’s developmental futures and trajectories. As such, it will be argued that the extant literatures on emotional geopolitics will be useful in casting attention on and insights to the geopolitical (and geoeconomic) hopes and fears that are closely intertwined with subterranean urban planning in Singapore.


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