Singapore Junior Scholar Seminar: 22 July 2022

Contesting Chineseness: new Chinese migrants and the ‘lower classes’ in Singapore

Sylvia Ang, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University

Friday, 22 July 2022, 2pm Singapore time (GMT +8), via Zoom

This talk explores mainland Chinese migrants’ claims to belonging and citizenship, and the host society’s denial of such claims. Contrary to claims from mainland Chinese professional migrants that they are like Singaporeans, Singaporean-Chinese segregate between a “middle-class” us and a “working-class” them. This talk analyses how Singaporean-Chinese imagine the Chinese, especially female migrants, as marked by bad dressing, poor hygiene and sexual immorality. For Singaporean-Chinese, these markers position Chinese migrants as of the lower classes. This talk concludes with a critical consideration of how migrants’ middle-class background or the possession of formal citizenship may not indicate a right to belong.

Sylvia Ang is Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University. Her research with migrants in and from Asia is interested in the production and experiences of difference and inequalities, with a focus on ethnic relations, class, gender, postcolonialism and decolonisation.

Sylvia’s seminar is organised in collaboration with the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University.


Kung Chien Wen is assistant professor in the department of History at the National University of Singapore. His research straddles the fields of Sinophone history, Chinese migration and diaspora, the Cold War and decolonisation in Southeast Asia, and modern China in the world. His first book, Diasporic Cold Warriors (Columbia University Press, 2022), explains how the Chinese in the Philippines became Southeast Asia’s most ardent overseas Chinese supporters of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) from the 1950s to 1970s. More.


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