The Challenges of Mapping Singapore’s Permanent Territorial Transformations by Prof Rodolphe De Koninck
Date : 29 May 2017
Time : 16:00 - 18:30
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8 Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC


Prof Jonathan Rigg, Asia Research Institute, and Department of Geography, National University of Singapore


Over a period of nearly 25 years, Singapore’s territorial transformations have been the object of three atlases. The first appeared in 1992, the second in 2008, with the latest one just off the press in late May 2017! The talk will be devoted to the presentation of how this book, entitled Singapore’s Permanent Territorial Revolution. Fifty Years in Fifty Maps, was produced and, more importantly, to a summary and explanation of its contents and conclusions.

Ever since Singapore became an independent nation in 1965, its government has been intent on transforming the island’s environment. This has led to a nearly constant overhaul of the landscape, whether still natural or already manmade. Not only are the shape and dimensions of the main island and its subsidiary ones constantly modified so are their relief and hydrology. No stone is left unturned, literally, and, one could add, nor is a single cultural feature, be it a house, a factory, a road or a cemetery. Given one of Singapore’s unique feature, namely that the state is the sole landlord, all types of property in all parts of the island, rural as well as urban, were and remain subject to expropriation, fortunately always with due compensation. The atlas illustrates, through diachronic mapping of the changing distribution of all forms of land use, the universality of what has become a tool of social management. By constantly “replanning” the rules of access to space, the Singaporean State is thus redefining territoriality, even in its minute details. This is one reason it has been able to consolidate its control over civil society, peacefully and to an extent rarely known in history.


Rodolphe De Koninck completed his PhD in 1970 at the then University of Singapore. He taught at Laval University, in Quebec City, from 1970 to 2002. That year, he joined the University of Montreal, as Professor of Geography and Canada Chair of Asian Research. He has also been Visiting Professor in several universities, among which the University of Geneva, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the International University in Shanghai and NUS. He is a member of the Royal Society of Canada. His research and publications centre on Southeast Asian geography and particularly agrarian and environmental issues. His books include Malay Peasants Coping with the World (Singapore, ISEAS, 1992), Deforestation in Viet Nam (Ottawa, IDRC, 1999), L'Asie du Sud-Est (Paris, Armand Colin, 3rd ed., 2012) and Gambling with the Land. The Contemporary Evolution of Southeast Asian Agriculture (with J.F. Rousseau, NUS Press, 2012). He has also published extensively on Singapore, including Singapour, la cité-État ambitieuse (Paris, Belin, 2006), Singapore, an Atlas of Perpetual Territorial Transformation (NUS Press, 2008, with J. Drolet and M. Girard) and Singapore’s Permanent Territorial Revolution. Fifty Years in Fifty Maps (NUS Press, 2017, with Pham Thanh Hai and M. Girard). He retired in July 2016, after 46 years of active duty.


Admission is free, and light refreshments will be provided after the seminar. We would greatly appreciate if you click on the "Register" button above to RSVP.

Contact Person(s)
Minghua TAY