Count on queers, Singapore

Obendorf, Simon (2011) Count on queers, Singapore. In: Singapore Seminar 2010/2011, 28 January 2011, Senate House, University of London. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

As anyone who has spent any time in Singapore can attest, there is something queer afoot in the Lion City. Despite a long-standing ban on the formation of gay and lesbian political societies, the censorship of queer visibility in many forms of Singaporean media and the long-running (and recently reaffirmed) criminalisation of male homosexual intercourse, the city has never looked gayer. Rainbow flags adorn shops and businesses, there is a thriving commercial scene targeting affluent gay and lesbian consumers and sex-on-premises venues are scattered across the central city. Even the country’s political patriarch, Lee Kuan Yew, has conceded that greater tolerance of queer lifestyles and removal of the statutes criminalising sodomy now appears inevitable. In this talk, I argue that queer lives and politics are subject to the contradictory pressures that emerge from Singapore’s attempts to position itself as a world-class “creative” city while protecting its status as a sovereign political entity. I explore how notions of creativity and discourses about external threat and contamination continue to limit the possibilities for the emergence of queer politics in Singapore and point to some of the dangers inherent in accepting queer social rights based primarily on economic contribution and cosmopolitan location.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Additional Information:As anyone who has spent any time in Singapore can attest, there is something queer afoot in the Lion City. Despite a long-standing ban on the formation of gay and lesbian political societies, the censorship of queer visibility in many forms of Singaporean media and the long-running (and recently reaffirmed) criminalisation of male homosexual intercourse, the city has never looked gayer. Rainbow flags adorn shops and businesses, there is a thriving commercial scene targeting affluent gay and lesbian consumers and sex-on-premises venues are scattered across the central city. Even the country’s political patriarch, Lee Kuan Yew, has conceded that greater tolerance of queer lifestyles and removal of the statutes criminalising sodomy now appears inevitable. In this talk, I argue that queer lives and politics are subject to the contradictory pressures that emerge from Singapore’s attempts to position itself as a world-class “creative” city while protecting its status as a sovereign political entity. I explore how notions of creativity and discourses about external threat and contamination continue to limit the possibilities for the emergence of queer politics in Singapore and point to some of the dangers inherent in accepting queer social rights based primarily on economic contribution and cosmopolitan location.
Keywords:Singapore, homosexuality
Subjects:L Social studies > L243 Politics of a specific country/region
L Social studies > L242 Commonwealth Politics
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:5971
Deposited By: Simon Obendorf
Deposited On:13 Jul 2012 20:29
Last Modified:28 Aug 2014 11:48

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