(Re)constructing the Nation? Representations of Public Housing in School Geography Textbooks, pp. 5 of 14

Our analysis of representations of public housing in school geography textbooks in Singapore seeks to understand the ways in which geography education supports the developmental state’s nation building agenda. In this deconstruction, it would also be important to ask what gaps there are in these representations of Singapore’s nationhood, and how these exclusions could potentially weaken Singapore’s future development by ignoring important counter-narratives.

Nation Building through Housing the Nation

According to Blake and Nicol (2004, p. 17) development of housing is largely a product of both history and geography – where a historical perspective brings descriptions and analyses of decisions made by individuals, families and by governments. Geography, on the other hand, focuses on physical landscape features, and the socio-economic conditions of the society that influences landuse patterns. This section will consider role of government in the provision of public housing and the ways (public) housing was planned and developed to create modern Singapore.

While public housing as a concept originated in the developed world, it remained largely a marginalized sector due to the larger role of private developers that argue for stronger market roles in the housing market (see Chua, 1997). In the United States, housing is viewed as a consumer good with the market deciding the rules of the game. In European countries, the state ideologically sought to provide affordable public housing, but financial constraints hindered it from achieving the goals, thus eroding the its role in housing provision. To many in Europe, public housing was a “returnless expenditure” (c.f. Chua, 1997, p. 3, also see Seelenyi, 1983). In the British case, the provision of public housing through subsidized rental facilities was negatively compared with privately developed housing units which were owner occupied. With increasing neoliberal tendencies, the British government under Margaret Thatcher later encouraged families to own their houses rather than rent by paying a discounted price. Positively, more than a million families responded and changed their housing status from tenants to home-owners (see Saunders, 1990). Contrary to this, in Singapore, the government played a very active role in the provision of affordable public housing, influencing the larger market logic right from its inception.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!