CONSTRUCTING ASIA: Materiality, Capital, and Labour in the Making of an Urbanizing Landscape, 12-13 May 2016, ARI

This workshop is jointly organized by Asia Research Institute’s Asian Migration and Asian Urbanisms Clusters; and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ Cities Cluster at the National University of Singapore.

Across Asian cities, provincial towns, and peri-urban spaces, construction sites have become markers of the region’s rapid transformation. Cranes, concrete, and hard-hatted humans are ubiquitous emblems of this tumultuous moment of building. It is well established that Asia is rapidly urbanizing, yet the physical and material processes through which the region is being built are less well understood. Given the wide scholarly attention to cities and urbanization, it is surprising that urban and peri-urban sites of construction, and the political, financial, and material processes that structure them, remain relatively opaque.


In this two-day workshop we propose to show how intense flows of material, capital, labour, and knowledge associated with the construction of Asian cities offers rich empirical and deep theoretical possibilities for understanding this region in transition. Constructing Asia will explore these possibilities by investigating the places where cities and towns are physically turning themselves inside out in the name of new futures. Such transformations are not simply a matter of the emergence of new buildings, infrastructures, and spaces, but also radical reconfigurations of everyday life. Construction not only transforms the landscape but also composes new networks of people, arrangements of things, configurations of expertise, and especially agglomerations of capital and power. To build the region, real estate developers, migrant laborers, politicians, municipal authorities, building inspectors, architects, engineers, and bankers mobilize money, knowledge, land, and things. By bringing together critical scholars from urban studies, anthropology, architecture, and geography we will interrogate these “building environments” to understand the emergence of the region in imagination and in practice.




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