Counter-Cartographies: Reading Singapore Otherwise

Dr. Joanne Leow's Book Launch
Thursday, September 26, 2024 | 7:00 PM
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, 149 W. Hastings St., Vancouver

Please join us for the book launch for Counter-Cartographies: Reading Singapore Otherwise (Liverpool University Press, 2024) by Dr. Joanne Leow, who is an associate professor and Canada Research Chair (CRC) in SFU's Department of English.

Counter-Cartographies draws from a body of Anglophone and multilingual cultural texts created in contemporary Singapore and in its diasporic communities. From banned documentaries to award-winning graphic novels, flash fiction collections to conceptual art, there is a vibrant, growing body of transmedial, multi-genre resistance to an overmapped, hyper-planned, and ecologically destructive postcolonial development.

The author proposes methods of cultural analysis and close reading that are “counter-cartographical” – reading in resistance to and yet pressed up against the regulations of a (post)colonial map. To excavate, wayfind, circumvent, and confabulate in these spaces enables us to understand the contours and pressures of authoritarian governance and reveal the insidious aspects of biopolitical power in the (post)colonial city. These spatial and theoretical movements deliberately enmesh the space of everyday life in a complex awareness of time: in historical contexts, in ongoing social relations, in contemporary political realities, and the imagined possibilities of literary spaces.

In a global political context that is increasingly marked by a return to authoritarianism, cultural production from Singapore provides an intense, microcosmic view of the conditions of art-making an overdetermined urban space, under duress and censorship. It further lays bare the ecological and human costs of unbridled postcolonial extraction and development.

Find out more about the book HERE.

Presented by SFU's Department of English with support from the SCA.


Joanne Leow grew up in Singapore and lives on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

She is Associate Professor and Tier 2 Canada Research Chair of Transnational and Decolonial Digital Humanities in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. Her first academic monograph is Counter-Cartographies: Reading Singapore Otherwise (Liverpool University Press, 2024). She is also a poet and writer with a debut collection of poetry, Seas Move Away (Turnstone Press, 2022).

She obtained her BA in Comparative Literature and International Relations from Brown University, her MA in Literary Studies from the National University of Singapore, and her PhD in English Literature with a Certificate in Diasporic and Transnational Studies from the University of Toronto. Her research as been supported by a Vanier SSHRC scholarship, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University, a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, and a SSHRC Insight Grant.

Joanne spent most of her twenties as a broadcast journalist, television news presenter and producer with Channel NewsAsia in Singapore.

Her creative work and research lie at the intersections of the environmental humanities, transnational and diasporic cultural production, global Asia studies, autotheory, and decoloniality.

Her most recent work is in positions: asia critique, Verge: Studies in Global Asias, University of Toronto Quarterly, and Journal of Asian American Studies. Her first book manuscript theorizes the relationship between cultural dissidence and urban planning in Singapore. Her essays, fiction, and poetry have been published in Brick, Catapult, The Goose, Isle, The Kindling, The Town Crier, QLRS, and Ricepaper Magazine.

Her ecocritical SSHRC-funded project Intertidal Polyphonies includes videography, photography, audio field recordings, and interviews with writers and artists from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vancouver. With Dr. Nazry Bahrawi and the late Dr. Y-Dang Troeung, she has edited a special issue of Wasafiri on “Shorelines: Southeast Asia and the Littoral”.

Forthcoming and in-progress work include: the critical anthology Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Singapore (edited with Cheryl Naruse and Faris Joraimi), a creative non-fiction manuscript entitled “Exhumations” (Alchemy, 2026), and a second collection of poetry, tentatively entitled “The Wound Track.”

September 26, 2024