Teaching Place, “Placing” the Learner: Understanding the Geographies of Place, pp. 5 of 8

The “Clarke Quay group” focused on spaces produced for and by Japanese expatriates in Clarke Quay. They noted the visible presence of specialty stores, supermarkets, and a clinic that offer goods and services that recreate “home away from home.” They also underlined how the place is produced for a specific type of resident – “expats who are able to afford the high [property value market]… and are able to afford eating out at restaurants as there are no food centres nearby,” according to the group.

The “Lucky Plaza group” conducted quick interviews with patrons and shopkeepers, in addition to taking photos and participant observation (notably, they ate at Jollibee, a franchise of a Philippine-based fast food). In their poster, they focused on the material and discursive contestations of place, not only between the locals and migrants but also between different groups of Filipinos in Singapore. For instance, they observed that “the usage of Tagalog over English in [the] majority of the shops and services within Lucky Plaza … exclu[des] non-Tagalog speak[ers].”

Being in-place helped students understand the contexts that shape the production of these translocal places. This is important because as Ho and Seow (2013:41) argue, “[trans]local culture and social institutions impact people’s perceptions of places” (emphasis added). Hence, the students had the opportunity to confirm or confront information regarding common stereotypes attached to people and places. For example, in Lucky Plaza, students found that although the majority of stores cater to the Filipino market, the place in fact “shows inclusivity [for] different social groups.” Moreover, both groups have identified these translocal places as spaces where a sense of community is negotiated. This punctures the idea that these places are just containers of capitalistic ventures and activities. Moreover, migrants carve out such places in order to “reach out” to other places where their emotions and cultural capital (e.g. educational background) may have more currency.

The reflections of students regarding these translocal places in Singapore do not fit neatly in widely-held conceptualizations of place. As reflected in their posters, the resulting ideas about place – both the production and identity of places – revealed the students’ biases, their own contestations of what is and what is imagined, and their agency in the production of places. These reflexivities are products of challenging learners to: first, investigate ordinary landscapes that are often held as given; and second, interrogate the materialization of power relations over (translocal) spaces. In the process, students are sensitized to quotidian issues that confront them daily. Migration-related issues in Singapore, as in other places, are divisive and strenuous. It is hoped that being “placed” has helped students realize the value of conceiving place, in this case both the translocal and worldly, as fluid and progressive. And that these places, however contested they may be, can also be characterized by inclusivity and, in the words of the Lucky Plaza group, “benevolen[t]” coexistence.

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!