Singapore Junior Scholar Seminar: 26 May 2022

The Secret Lives of Urban Kampong Chiefs: Deciphering Grassroots Leaders in Singapore

George Wong, Adjunct Faculty, Singapore Management University

Thursday, 26 May 2022, 10-11am Singapore time (GMT +8), via Zoom

Who are grassroots leaders and how do they figure into Singapore’s local politics today? Drawing on an ethnographic study of six neighbourhoods in Singapore, this seminar presents grassroots leaders as urban regime actors mediating state-society and political experiences through community volunteerism at the neighbourhood level. Using the themes of neighbourhood micro-governance and parapolitics, this study explores how grassroots leaders reproduce quotidian yet signature encounters of Singapore’s politics through “grassroots work”. In doing so, it considers the contemporary position of grassroots leaders as figures of regime change and durability by situating them within Singapore’s urban regime politics.

George Wong examines urban political experiences and political regimes within Asian urbanisms. He obtained his PhD in Sociology from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU), and is currently an adjunct faculty at the Singapore Management University (SMU), and NTU. Beyond academia, he is a community organiser and town councillor.


Benjamin L. Read is professor of Politics and department chair at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research has focused on local politics in China and Taiwan, and he also writes about issues and techniques in field research. He is author of Roots of the State: Neighborhood Organization and Social Networks in Beijing and Taipei (Stanford, 2012) and co-editor of The Cambridge Elements series on Politics and Society in East Asia. More.


The Singapore Studies Junior Scholar Seminars are organised by AcademiaSG, an international and independent collective of Singaporean scholars, as part of our mission to promote research on Singapore. If you are a PhD student or post-doctoral scholar with research to share, read our Call for Proposals. We also welcome essays and commentaries for our Academic Views section. Write to our editors through our contact form to pitch an idea.