Common Ground: The Study of Singapore's Ground and the Production of Myths

Goh, Shu Hui Andrea (2022). Common Ground: The Study of Singapore's Ground and the Production of Myths. PhD thesis The Open University.



In Singapore, the land is scarce and a resource to be maximised. The result is the creation of land policies, which include housing policies and burial policies to control and regulate land use. These are inextricably linked and the majority of Singaporeans live and are buried in the same land that is owned and controlled by the state, and burial policies are primarily designed to create space for housing. The question of land appears to be one of judicial administration. It is, however, imbued with histories, symbolism, and power relationships.

The purpose of this thesis is to graft a link between the complex condition of the ground and the ways in which policy, planning, and design, become operative in the construction of national and social myths. As Singapore is made up of different ethnic, religious, and social groups, myths of equality are critical in creating its national identity. And in order to trace the process of creating this cohesive identity, the complexity of the condition of the ground needs to be understood and examined. The first part of the thesis attempts to construct a history of the ground by following a chronological order, from colonial history to the establishment of independence. This demonstrates that, while land policies are necessary for the newly formed government to manage land use, they are more than just pragmatic solutions; they reflect the state’s power and authority over the scarce resource. The thesis is then organised around three broader myths: the myth of socioeconomic equality, the myth of racial harmony, and the myth of progress and family.

Myths, when perpetuated by policies, aim to create forms of life, the norms for how individuals and families should function. Each myth is discussed through different types of evidence and different scales. At each time, the thesis interrogates how policies and the design of environments are complicit in the formation of myths, highlighting inherent contradictions in the myths as well as their implications.

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