After a few days in Singapore, and a couple of days in Indonesia, tomorrow (God-willing) I begin a three week field experience in Bandung involving an interdisciplinary group of students from the University of Toronto and the Bandung Institute of Technology. The program involves the opportunity to visit a variety of Bandung sites including government offices, local civil society organizations, and social planning institutes, as well as pursue independent research. I’m super excited, but my time in Singapore and these first couple of acclimatization days in Bandung have made me realize that stating intentions might be useful.
A couple of days ago as I wandered around the colonial district of Singapore (so many reflections to share from Singapore, hopefully another time!), and explored the Raffles hotel and some of the other major landmarks from Singapore’s past, I was struck by the architectural beauty of the buildings, but also the colonial history in Singapore. The Raffles hotel was built in the 1800s and was restored a few years back with an 160 million dollar renovation to restore it to former beauty. What is open to the public is various courtyards and passageways, three different levels of shops featuring high-end brand names (Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, British India etc) and a museum on the third floor that shows artifacts from the hotel’s history, its connection to other historical hotels (in Rangoon for ex), and famous guests who have stayed there, including Rudyard Kipling. In novels that talk about the beauty of Southeast Asia, the Raffles is often referenced. You can still have a famous Singapore ‘sling’ in one of the hotel courtyards, and as you walk through, you can almost see men and women from Britain sipping drinks in white linen shirts, enjoying the Orient.
And since I am here myself as a visitor, I want to make sure that my own travel experiences are different. I don’t want this to be a trip where I go and gawk at the locals, I want to learn collaboratively with the students we’ll be working at ITB and become a better planner through that cross cultural exchange. And so to help with that process, I thought it would be useful to state some of my intentions for the trip.
- To learn more about urban development in an international context. Though an excellent program, one of the gaps of our program is its lack of international content (most of our city discussions are based on North America) and so I want to help fill in that gap by understanding how urban and social development occurs in Bandung. I took a course last semester on Global Urbanism where we deconstructed the notion of developing cities being large, chaotic places, and examined what they contribute to urban theory as a whole and so I want to think about that idea further during my trip.
- How does Islam shape community development/urban development in Indonesia? My research work for my masters was about how conflicts around the development of mosques are a metaphor for how religion is negotiated in cities, but was primarily focused on North America. I want to understand how religion is expressed in an entirely different context when the country has a Muslim majority.
- To think through my positionally as a Muslim female planner. How does that change in an predominately Muslim context? In my interviews during my research project, my positionality as a woman who wears a headscarf deeply impacted the type of research encounters I had during my graduate research project, and in Indonesia where the hijab is commonplace, I’m interested in how being situated differently shapes the type of knowledge one is able to develop.
So far Bandung is beautiful, a bit overwhelming (there are no sidewalks!) and is definitely a place of learning. After Bandung I’ll be in Singapore and perhaps Malaysia for a little under a week, and my hope is to blog my way through the experience. Speak to you soon.