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The modern model family at home in Singapore: a queer geography

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The two meanings of ‘domestic’, as both residential dwelling and national territory, collide unusually forcefully in Singapore since its Housing Development Board (HDB) provides most housing in this city-state. While many scholars have interrogated the boundaries between homely/unhomely and foreign/domestic in Singapore by examining gender, ethnic/racial and class politics of HDB, in this paper I argue for the analytical usefulness of considering Singapore housing and citizenship as heteronormative; and, more broadly, for the value of a queer theoretical approach in advancing critical geographies of home. Combining archival research with contemporary observation, I examine discourses of respectable domesticity and proper family across Singapore’s colonial and postcolonial periods in order to understand not just the exclusion of gays and lesbians, but also the ‘queering’ of a range of figures such as the single mother, the migrant worker, the unfilial child, and many others. Since the production of this range of non-heteronormative others is produced by a much more complex set of cultural logics than a focus on the deployment of a sexual binary can capture, the queer theoretical approach I argue for understands heteronormativity not as a universal policing of a heterosexual–homosexual binary, but as the geographically and historically specific coincidence of race, class, gender, nationality and sexual norms.

Keywords: Singapore heteronormativity; family; home; housing; postcoloniality; queer geography

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2010


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