Join Us for Urban Asia: Futures Past, Present and Yet to Come Workshop

Please download the Urban Futures Asia Programme

Urban Asia: Futures Past, Present and Yet to Come

co-organized by the Urban Aspirations Research Group and the FASS Cities Cluster.


22 – 23 February 2016

AS7 06-42, Research Division Seminar Room

Shaw Foundation Building

NUS Kent Ridge Campus


Open to NUS faculty members and graduate students.

RSVP to by 15 Feb 2016.

For more on the website and the Urban Aspirations Project, visit


About the Workshop


What urban futures does Asia conjure? What role do forms of the future play in urban lives and material transformation in Asia today?

Until the middle of the twentieth century, dominant imaginings of many parts of Asia were not urban at all. And to the extent that specifically urban futures were imagined for Asia, prior to the past couple of decades these were often fashioned in the image of various (capitalist and communist) elsewheres. Today, in contrast, urban futurity is commonly located within Asia – demographically (having become the ‘centre of gravity’ of the world’s urban population), economically (as presenting miraculous growth and emerging opportunity), as a leading edge of innovations in urban governance (subaltern as well as ‘formal’), and in the realm of urban theorization (as a region from where responses have been made to the call for ‘new geographies of theory’). Even Ed Soja who famously cast greater Los Angeles as the most ‘advanced’ form of late twentieth century urbanism — which could supposedly be seen in earlier stages in every other metropolitan region in the world — later decentred urban theory to cities in Asia: ‘We can learn as much if not more from understanding what is happening in Mumbai, Delhi, Singapore, and Shanghai than we can from Los Angeles, New York, London, and Paris’ (cited in Harris, 2012: 6). Similar spatio-temporal remapping is evident in popular cultural depictions of urban futures. Much of the backdrop to an LA of the ‘slight’ future in Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her, for example, was filmed in Shanghai.

This workshop brings together a diverse range of scholars examining the urban and Asia’s futures – past, present and yet to come. Extending from and funded by the ongoing Singapore MOE-funded research project ‘Aspirations, Urban Governance and the Remaking of Asian Cities’, our interests span: historical forms of Asian futurity and associated legacies; contemporary (re)imaginings of Asian urban futures; and the active, constitutive role of various forms of the future in and beyond urban Asia.