International Development Planning Review

Urban informality and everyday (night)life: a field study in Singapore

International Development Planning Review (2012), 34, (4), 369–390.

Abstract

In recent years, cities at the cusps of postmodernism and cosmopolitanism have begun to recognise the social and economic gains generated by urban nightlife in terms of employment, tourism and civic boosterism. One would therefore expect to see from the 'contemporisation', commodification and control of urban nightlife a gradual demise of urban informality on the city streets at night. Taking the global city of Singapore as a departure point for our investigation, we argue that spatial and temporal urban modes of informal practices are not only alive and well but also co-exist alongside the formal night-time economy. Adopting a three-fold ethnographic approach that combines the research methods of flânerie, photography and narration, this field study uncovers everyday (night)life as it unfolds in the Bangladeshi ethnic quarter of Singapore's Little India. In so doing, this paper contributes to wider understandings of urban informality by revealing the significance of informal urban nightscapes on the everyday lives of urban dwellers and discussing their implications for a global city like Singapore.

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