My research interests fall generally in these fields: the practical implications of inclusion and how inclusion as an idea is created, circulated, and consumed; the intersection of technology and disability in the smart city; and disability culture and the arts. Broadly, my research is situated in the fields of disability studies; communications, media, and cultural studies; science and technology studies; and policy studies. I am interested in how inclusion happens in Singapore and Southeast Asia, and the effects on the disabled body when inclusion is led by a bureaucratic state concerned and governed by rationality, efficiency and productivity. I am also interested in examining how ideas such as the social model are localised and/or contested in this current climate of inclusion and how technology and notions of the smart imagines and interacts with disability.
The workings of inclusion
I completed my PhD with the Department of Disability & Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago and the Department of Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Language, and Literature at Macquarie University, under a Cotutelle arrangement, advised by Lennard J. Davis, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Science, and I am in the midst of turning my dissertation into a book manuscript. The book manuscript is tentatively titled The Biopolitics of Inclusion, Disability and Capacity in the Singapore Nation. I take inclusion as the object of study, and situate Singapore's experience with global developments in embracing disabled people as part and parcel of human life and diversity. I examine how inclusion as an ideology is created, circulated, communicated, and consumed in Singapore, and undertake an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding the logics of inclusion and the lived realities of disabled people in Singapore as well as the demands it places on the body politic.
Specifically, my PhD research examines how the ideology of inclusion functions in contemporary Singapore and the effect it has on disability through an examination of various state-led manifestations of inclusion in the cultural sphere, such as See the True Me, a public education campaign circulated through digital formats on social media sites; the Purple Parade, an annual inclusive carnival celebrating disability inclusion; accessible infrastructure, design, and inclusive community spaces and their implications on disabled peoples’ mobilities; and disabled people’s life writings. It looks to theorise new ways of understanding inclusion and evaluates how the experience of Singapore can serve as a frame for different ways of thinking about disability globally. Importantly, in pivoting to disability as a cutting-edge analytic and source of knowledge and not simply the object of charity, I hope to add to existing debates and scholarship around inclusion, not only of disabled people, but also of other marginalized populations in Singapore and Southeast Asian nation-states.
Disability and the Smart
I am privileged and excited to have the opportunity to collaborate and work with Gerard Goggin, Professor of Media and Communications, University of Sydney on emerging technologies and disability, and honoured that we are co-writing a book out of this research.
Building on this focus and my earlier work on inclusion, my current research examines the intersections of technology and disability, in particular, as it manifests in the smart city. As both a conceptual frame of reference and a vision that is being realized, the smart city is increasingly embraced, with many iterations emerging across Asian nation-states such as Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, and Bangkok among others; seen as the means towards mobilizing technology to create more liveable futures. And while smart cities are an area of emerging critical scholarship, little has been done to understand how disability in all senses of the term – as a population group, state of being, identity, and importantly, a generative form of knowledge – function within such conceptualizations of the smart. This research aims to provide an illuminating lens to understand and explain the intersecting effects of technology on citizen-bodies, in particular by tracing the technologies involved in the production of the “smart” and its emphasis in improving the health of the nation, manifested in disabled, diseased, and ageing bodies.