chapter  7
Constructing masculinities in transnational space
Singapore men on the ‘regional beat’
ByBrenda Yeoh, Katie Willis
Pages 17

As Smart and Smart (1998: 104) note, transnational flows of investment and people are ‘made possible by and structured through households, family enterprises, “old boy” networks, cultural understandings and miscommunications. Flows across borders include not only capital and labor, but also gifts, contributions to household expenses, obligations, and cultural influence.’ As such, to describe these transnational practices, scholars have moved beyond political economy1 to consider ‘moral economies’ or ‘social economies’ (Smart and Smart 1998: 104). Vertovec’s (1999) review of some of the burgeoning work in this area provides a sense of the main focal points of research on transnationalism. The themes he identified include: the social morphology of transnational communities; the type of transnational imaginary or consciousness; the mode of transnational cultural reproduction (as mediated by global media and communications); the activities of transnational corporations and strategies of accumulation of the transnational capitalist class; transnational political activities and activisms; and the (re)construction of place and the emergence of new ‘translocalities’. In part because transnational communities, at least in terms of sensibilities if not in form, are seen to trace their genealogy to older ‘ethnic diasporas’,2 much of the work has drawn on issues of race, culture and ethnicity, and also ethnonationality, as the basic paradigm informing such analysis, with less attention to other cross-cutting parameters of class and gender. More recent contributions have challenged the essentialism characterizing earlier understandings of (trans)migration (van der Veer 1995; Ong and Nonini 1997). Anthias (1998: 571, 577), for example, suggests that the focus on the link to a ‘homeland’ central to the ‘diaspora problematic’ can ‘reinforce absolutist notions of “origins” and “true belonging”’ and can result in a ‘lack of attention to issues of gender, class and generation and to other intra-group and inter-group divisions’. Similarly, Brah’s (1994) work on ‘racialised gendering’ in the context of transmigrant women emphasizes the way in which

2000; Yeoh et al. 2000), negotiating transnational space and the formation of transnational communities are strongly gendered processes. ‘Gender’ questions feature in at least three ways.