Joanne Leow

Canada Research Chair; Associate Professor


  • BA (Honours, Magna cum Laude), Brown
  • MA, National University of Singapore
  • PhD, University of Toronto


My research centres around three questions:

What forms of literary, filmic, and artistic contestations take place in spaces and ecologies that have been thoroughly imbricated in the racialized postcolonial politics of capitalism and development?

What functions do literature, film, and art serve for individuals and communities in these transnational spaces that other disciplines, other modes of thinking and understanding cannot?

How can digital forms and archives explore and expand our ability to consider these questions in ways that are community-engaged and accessible?

In order to think through these questions, I have examined literary and cultural texts from my birth country, Singapore, and from the larger Southeast Asian region. I have also done work in the contexts of diasporic and transnational North America. My research interests lie at the intersections of spatial theory, decolonial theory, postcolonial studies, transnational and diasporic texts, and the environmental humanities. My creative practice includes poetry, creative non-fiction, videography, and sonic collages from field recordings. My work is deeply invested in developing digital tools and artistic works that bridge the gaps between scholarly concerns and community engagement.

My first book manuscript, "Counter-Cartographies," twines spatial theory, authoritarian urban development and planning, and contemporary Singaporean texts. My first poetry book “Seas Move Away” (Turnstone Press, 2022) further marries my critical interests with creative writing.

I am also the principal researcher of a SSHRC-funded study of the artistic, filmic, and literary depictions of coastlines in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Vancouver. This second project, “Intertidal Polyphonies," records and theorizes the sonic materialities, poetics, and politics of reclaimed land in all three sites. At, you will find the beginnings of this digital archive that consolidates this collaborative research. It features field recordings from these coastlines, interviews with artists and writers, literary readings, short films, and annotated bibliographies that have been collated with an algorithm that is linked to the tide tables in the three cities.

I am working on two more projects: the first is “Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Singapore” --- a collaborative, community-engaged book and digital resource; and the second will be a student and community-centric project which explores diasporic Asian foodways and storytelling in collaboration with SFU’s Global Asia Program.


Book chapters

2023, forthcoming. “Confabulation as Decolonial Pedagogy: Singaporean Literature, SG50 and SG200.” Decolonizing the English Literary Curriculum Eds. Ato Quayson and Ankhi Mukherjee, Cambridge University Press.
2023, forthcoming. “Reading and listening intently to David Chariandy’s Brother on the prairie campus” Call and Response-Ability: Black Canadian Works of Art and the Politics of Relation. Eds. Karina Vernon and Winfried Simerling, McGill-Queen’s UP.

2021 “Theatre doesn’t change anything”: “Merdeka/ 獨立 /சுதந்திரம்” and the Performance of the Singapore Bicentennial. Raffles Renounced: Towards a Merdeka History. Eds. Lysa Hong, Sai Siew Min, Alfian Sa’at, and Faris Joraimi. Singapore: Ethos Books.

2019 "Transpacific Spaces and Asian Canadian Literature." In J. Lee (general editor), F. Cheung, J. Ho, A. Mannur, and C. Schlund-Vials (Eds.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Asian American and Pacific Islander Literature and Culture. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

2021 with Juria Toramae, ila, and Robert Zhao Renhui, "Field Notes, Fluidities, and Fictional Archives: Transmedial Photography and Singapore’s Altered Coastlines." Trans Asia Photography Review. Ed. Thy Phu.

2021 “Reading the Nonhuman.” in “small, deferred: On Souvankham Thammavongsa’s Writing” Ed. Vinh Nguyen. Canadian Literature 241: 128-130.   

2020 ""this land was the sea": The Intimacies and Ruins of Transnational Sand in Singapore." Verge: Studies in Global Asias, 6.2 Infrastructure

2020 "Reading New Asian Tropicalities in Contemporary Singapore." positions: asia critique 28.4

2020 "Lost Islands, Future Islands: Reading Wayde Compton’s The Outer Harbour Relationally." University of Toronto Quarterly. 89.1 Special Issue: "Literary Solidarities / Critical Accountability."

2020 "Circumventing the Archive: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye and To Singapore, with Love." Verge: Studies in Global Asias, 6.1 Displaced Subjects

2018 "Lost Islands and Saltwater Cities." “The Minor Transpacific: A Roundtable.” BC Studies no. 198, Summer.

2017 "Renovating Vancouver: Transnational Constructions and Mortgages in Sachiko Murakami’s Rebuild." Journal of Asian American Studies 20.2: 139-160. Print

2015 “‘A delicate pellet of dust’: Dissident Flash Fictions from Contemporary Singapore.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing. 51.6: 723–736. Print.

2012 “Beyond the Multiculture: Transnational Toronto in Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For.” Studies in Canadian Literature 37.2 (2012): 192-212. Print.

2012 “Mis-mappings and Mis-duplications: Interdiscursivity and the Poetry of Wayde Compton.” Canadian Literature 214 (2012): 47-66. Print.

2011 “‘Between home and home’: Crossings and Coastlines in the Poetry of Boey Kim Cheng.” Southeast Asian Review of English 50 (2010/2011): Print.

2010 “The Future of Nostalgia: Reclaiming Memory in Tan Pin Pin’s Invisible City and Alfian Sa’at’s A History of Amnesia”. Journal of Commonwealth Literature 45.1 (2010): 115-130. Print.

Selected non-refereed publications

2018  "Gestures of Resistance: An Interview with Tan Pin Pin." Senses of Cinema.

2016 “An Interview with Denise Chong and Madeleine Thien” The Puritan, Spring Supplement
Creative Writing

2022 Seas Move Away. Turnstone Press.

2021 "My Elusive Petrofictions." Brick, a Literary Journal. Issue 107.

2021 "Eden." Isle: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment.

2020 "This is Singapore": Watching Westworld in the Diaspora. Evergreen Review.

2019 "A Small Space." Brick, a Literary Journal. Issue 104


Future courses may be subject to change.