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CANCELLED - Tamils and State Urban Policies in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, by Delon Madavan

Monday, April 13, 2020 at 12:15pm

Uris Hall, G08
Central Campus


Post-colonial states realized their desire to promote Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to the status of international metropolises at the expense of slums, which were demolished. In the context of multi-ethnic countries, this urban politic is not without consequences for minorities. In this presentation, we will see the consequences of these two states’ urban policies on Tamils’ spatial presence and how they are received by the members of the Tamil community. The visibility of the urban Tamil working class and practices tends be hidden or disappears entirely. The Tamil inhabitants of these informal settlements see this as the state’s refusal to recognize their right to the city and its desire to remove their urban footprint from the capital. Conversely, the process of gentrification in Kuala Lumpur and the patrimonialisation of an Indian quarter conducted by the Singaporean state increase the visibility of more affluent Tamil social classes. It is their practices, concept of Tamil culture and their version of Hinduism that are highlighted. Tamil middle and upper classes see eradication of slums as an opportunity to improve the image of the whole community. However, the arrival in Singapore of new waves of low-skilled laborers from the Indian sub-continent since the 1990s upsets the government policy to promote Little India as the showcase of Indo-Singaporean culture. This new Tamil group, invisible the rest of the week, shows its presence to the island on Sunday nights.

Delon Madavan completed his PhD in Geography at Paris-Sorbonne University, France in 2013. He has taught for five years at the Department of Geography at Sorbonne University and also gave lectures at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO) in Paris. He is a Researcher Fellow at the Centre of Studies and Researches on India, South Asia and its Diaspora (University of Québec à Montréal, Canada) and Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre of Studies and Researches on India and South Asia (CNRS-EHESS, France). In Spring 2020, he is the Tamil Studies Visiting Scholar at the South Asian Program. As part of his research, he examines the articulation between migration, identity and space to analyse the forms of integration of the Tamil populations in several cities throughout the world (Jaffna, Colombo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Montréal). His thesis focuses on the socio-spatial integration of the Tamil minority in Colombo, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. He studied this minority’s integration through an analysis of their citizenship, their citadinité and transnationality. Madavan is the author and co-author of several articles and books on Tamils in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and France.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program, Migrations, Southeast Asia Program, City and Regional Planning






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Gloria Lemus-Chavez

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Delon Madavan

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