Accepted paper:

Worldmaking in an ethnic corner: designing a distinctively Malay space


Ivan Kwek (National University of Singapore)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the politics and poetics of designing a public space with a 'distinctive cultural identity'. This space is to be a civic centre that 'reflects' the Malay community in Singapore, to be used for Malay arts, heritage, performances, businesses and events.

Paper long abstract:

To design and develop a civic centre that is ethnically-themed is an understandably challenging task. What are the elements that will mark the space as ethnic? How does one negotiate the variety of claims and competing priorities? What about the politics of cultural authenticity and questions of sustainability? How are particular arts and art forms imagined as embodying the ethnic identity in question? Against a backdrop of these issues, this paper explores the politics and poetics of designing a space with a 'distinctive cultural identity'; in this case, one that 'reflects' the Malay community in Singapore. This civic centre is tentatively construed as a space for Malay arts, heritage, and performances, as well as for Malay businesses and events. Read against ostensibly similar spaces marked for other ethnic identities, namely, the Chinese and Indians, the civic centre may be understood as articulating a particular vision of a multi-ethnic society, both as political aspiration and a national brand.

panel P41
Ethnic by design: creative agency, aesthetics, and community in the global marketplace