chapter  3
15 Pages

Colonial urban order, cultural politics, and the naming of streets in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Singapore

ByBrenda Yeoh

This chapter focuses on the inner workings of colonial power at its heights in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Drawing on colonial Singapore as a case study, the chapter turns attention back to the colonial regime where the 'power of the namer over the thing named' was magnified by colonial policies of dispossession and control operating under conditions characterized by highly asymmetrical power relations. In Singapore, whilst colonialism established a network of official place and street names reflecting the mental images of the dominant culture, names given by non-European immigrant cultures continued to persist beneath the surface. As a process, the naming of places in Singapore was not the simple prerogative of the municipal authorities but was contingent on social dynamics, albeit under conditions of highly uneven power relations between colonizers and the colonized.