The Golden Mile Complex
The Idea of Little Thailand in Singapore
The Golden Mile Complex is one of Singapore’s first shopping malls, built as part of the postcolonial government’s plan to expand and redevelop the urban center. Barely a decade into its existence, Thai eateries, shops, and remittance centers sprang up at the complex, which became known as ‘Little Thailand’ among Singaporeans. For some Singaporeans, Little Thailand suggests the ‘exotic’ or ‘mysterious’; for others, it is simply dirty, danger- ous, and disorderly – a likely result of unflattering descriptions in official statements, press reports, and opinion pieces. This article proposes to examine Little Thailand as an idea and social construction. It explores how Singaporeans have seen Little Thailand and how they have distinguished themselves from the Oriental ‘other’ through their own cognitive, racial categories. Little Thailand expresses the experiences and values of Singaporeans more than it expresses those of Thais. By treating Little Thailand as an idea and a social construction rather than as a physical location (i.e., the Golden Mile Complex), the article uncovers a broader relationship between place, racial discourse, and public perceptions in postcolonial Singapore.
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