- Port cities and globalisation   click here to open paper content50 kb
by    Giok Ling, OOI | ooi_giok_ling@ips.org.sg   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
This paper considers the impact of globalisation and its discourse on port cities. In particularly it focuses on the development of Singapore in Southeast Asia. The argument set out in the paper focuses on the planned development of the port city in response to global business needs and the contestation from discordant voices as well as the often neglected agenda of the need for local identity.
Submission of Abstract for Parallel Session 1 – Places of Globalisation

The Port City, Globalisation and Identity
Dr Giok-Ling Ooi
Senior Research Fellow
Institute of Policy Studies


With globalisation, cities, according to some views, can be considered to have become the social form of adjustment between the market and the state. Such views argue that globalisation of the economy has implied new ways in which public policy deals with `territory’. Indeed, the literature has argued that economic globalisation has effectively de-territorialised and extended the reach of global business, thereby generating tensions between the political and economic logic of development particularly in the recipient cities and local places. The relationship between locality and capital engendered within entrepreneurial urban governance and the common development directions undertaken by cities threatens the subjugation of local concerns and local identity.

For major port cities that continue to thrive around the world like Singapore, economic globalisation and its positioning at the cross-roads of trade have been the very raison d’ etre for their existence. Understandably, much of the focus in the planned development of the port city would be on the needs related to the drive to attract foreign direct investment and international business. This has implied not only the strong intervention of the state in development planning and implementation but also the involvement of the state in entrepreneurial strategies as well. Cites are being `sold’ as the places to do business.

Port cities that are globalising in this way pose major issues related to social cohesion and hence, a strong identity. Historically these port cities are repositories and transhipment centres of not only international goods but also recipients of international travellers, wayfarers and the international migrants. Much rather like the global cities discussed by Sassen , the population in port cities are highly diversified. The citizenry of a port city is culturally and ethnically diverse. There has been a continual tension between the global forces that have tended to polarise society and the effort of the state to build a social coherence crucial to place identities and in the case of city-states like Singapore, for nation-building.

This paper discusses the role of planned development in the growth of a port city. In many such cities that are at the centre of master development plans, institutional changes involving local agencies are taking place to pursue development priorities that are being imposed from the macro-political level and this has rendered such cities as being increasingly vulnerable to the discourse of globalisation which positions the local as being at the mercy of external, uncontrolled and mythologised global forces. Yet such representation of the impact of globalisation is being contested at the local level. Such contestation is clearly evident in such port cities of Singapore as it responds to global needs and contends with local discordant voices.


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globalising port cities
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