Airspace Stories: (Re)assembling Singapore's Skies

Weiqiang Lin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Recent years have seen a blossoming interest in airspace as a unit of analysis in the social sciences. In particular, scholars of the ‘new’ mobilities paradigm have re-visited the subject as not simply a neutral realm that conducts air traffic, but a place replete with experiences, practices, and meanings. However, while appreciating the former’s attention to the inner workings of airspace, this thesis argues that current research has not fully attended to the multiplicitous ways in which airspaces are apprehended and made in different contexts. Instead, there exists a tendency to approach it as a monodimensional entity—as one specific constellation of operational norms to abide by, inhabit and fly through, drawn on Anglo-American experiences. Consequently, airspace has somewhat had its horizons limited, as scholars take interest in only certain themes and concerns about how the modern world supposedly takes to the sky.
To diversify this optic, this thesis turns to assemblage theory for some inspiration. It enrols the viewpoints of a ‘non-Western’ city-state, Singapore, to demonstrate a more relational way by which this transit space can be understood. Using a methodological mélange of interviews with aviation officers, official reports, historical archives and participant observations at political and commercial events, this study traces three formulations of airspace by the city-state—converging vectors, contiguous volumes and provinces to safeguard—and interrogates how each of these is assembled through a series of emotional labours, socio-technical circulations and geopolitical constructions.
Recognising that these constituents furthermore continue to be intertwined with systems and frameworks devised by pioneering aviation powers before, a multi-centred and composite view of airspace(s) is thus propounded. This dissertation advocates a need to be sensitive to how the ‘rest’ of the world makes (air)space for themselves, especially amid a global aviation landscape that is fundamentally uneven and political.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Adey, Peter, Supervisor
  • Cresswell, Timothy, Supervisor
  • Pinkerton, Alasdair, Advisor
Award date1 Dec 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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