I work on human geographies of urban and regional change. That includes examination of the transformation of urban regions (cities and wider urban territories), the lives of people in those territories, and constitutive connections between them. Empirically, I have focused on Southeast Asia (mostly working on cities in Malaysia and Indonesia) and on interurban connections between that region and elsewhere.
Beginning with doctoral research carried out in the 1990s, my work on the discursive and material making of megaprojects and high-tech urban space in and around Kuala Lumpur culminated in the publication of Malaysia, Modernity and the Multimedia Super Corridor (Routledge) in 2004.
The main focus of my research subsequently shifted to examination of historical linkages between Southeast Asia and the port city of Liverpool through the lives of Malay men who arrived there as sailors in the middle decades of the twentieth century. The book which emerged from that research, From World City to the World in One City: Liverpool through Malay Lives (Wiley) was published in 2016. I am developing further material from my research on Malay sailors in Liverpool and other Atlantic port cities, particularly Cardiff where Malays were caught up in racial riots in 1919.
I also have a longstanding interest in relations between innovation, broadly conceived, and urban and regional studies – ranging from economic geographies of firm location and networks, to policy and governance ‘good practice’ and to ground-level incremental change associated with individual and community aspirations.
After almost two decades of teaching at NUS, I have taught a wide range of geography modules, from introductory human geography classes to undergraduate cultural geography, economic geography and methods modules to graduate urban geography seminars. I am currently involved in teaching the following undergraduate modules: Cultural Landscapes (GE3224) and Urban Space: Critical Perspectives (GE4204). I also teach a graduate module on Cities and Global Connections (GE5212).
I am heavily involved in graduate studies in the Department of Geography at NUS, both as chair of the Graduate Studies Committee, and as an advisor to Masters and PhD students. I am currently advising four Masters students (Hui Ying Ng, Andy Tan, John Goh and Ivin Yeo) and (co)supervising six doctoral students (Ding Yan, Samantha Lim, Karel Caals, Prerona Das, Jess Clendenning and Miya Irawati). I welcome expressions of interest from other would-be graduate students who wish to conduct urban studies research, particularly in Malaysia or Indonesia.
I am currently working through material from a comparative research project on urban aspirations that was funded by the Singapore Ministry of Education's Academic Research Fund (AcRF Tier 2). The wider project (entitled "Aspirations, Urban Governance and the Remaking of Asian Cities") explored practices of future-making in and across a range of cities in Asia. My own empirical contributions have centred largely in the Indonesian city of Solo (aka Surakarta) in Central Java. I am examining: (1) ways in which ostensibly people-centred city policy had enabled socio-economically marginal residents to prospect urban futures in new ways; and (2) the politics associated with Solo's emergence as a "model" for aspects of urban development, particularly concerning challenges of the "informal city". In each case, insights from Solo have been placed in comparative relation to other cities examined by collaborators from the Asia Research Institute (ARI) and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
A volume from the urban aspirations project, entitled Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present, was published recently by Jovis. Editorial work on that volume (together with Daniel P.S. Goh) has spurred my interest in conducting further research of my own on urban geographies of "the future".
I am also still developing material from my research on Malay sailors in Liverpool and other Atlantic port cities, particularly Cardiff where Malays were caught up in racial riots in 1919. My book on Malay Liverpool provided some of the historical background for the movie Pulang (Primeworks Studios, directed by Kabir Bhatia).
EDITORIAL WORK ON BOOKS AND JOURNALS
ARTICLES IN JOURNAL
SHORTER ARTICLES/COMMENTS IN JOURNAL
Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography
Editorial board member, 2000-present
Book review editor, 2009-2010
Associate editor, 2010-2011
Editorial board member, 2007-2014
Editorial board member, 2007-present
ARI-Springer Book Series
Cities Section editor, 2008-present
Social and Cultural Geography
Editorial board member, 2010-2015
Dialogues in Human Geography
Editorial board member, 2011-
Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde
Advisory Board Member, 2012-
Environment and Planning A
Editorial Board Member, 2013-
Regional Studies, Regional Science
International Editorial Advisory Board Member, 2014-16
Journal of Regional and City Planning
Editorial Board Member, 2016-
Editorial Board Member, 2018-