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Title: Grounded high-flyers : how academically elite students are en-territorialised in Singapore
Author: Lu, Jiqun
ISNI:       0000 0004 7427 9585
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis presents a response to prominent theorisations of cosmopolitan elite migrants. These individuals are often characterised as engaging in frictionless transnational moves, having weak links to local spaces, and largely motivated by economic logic (Appadurai 1996, Castells 1996, Robbins 1998, Bauman 2000, Cheah 2001). There is also a lack of empirical data when it comes to describing the mobilities and cultural practices of cosmopolitan elites in migration studies (Skey 2013) elite schooling, and language and education. In order to interrogate such theorisations, the thesis undertakes a qualitative study of a group of academically elite students in Singapore who often aspired to and engaged in transnational migration. It seeks to explore the links that localised contexts might have to these individuals’ trajectories and practices (Yeoh and Huang 2011, Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013). Informants all graduated from a particular top-ranked secondary school in Singapore, and include both immigrants and locals born and raised in the country. The study relies primarily on life history interviews and focus group discussions with 30 such individuals. It examines how informants discursively positioned themselves in relation to, and made sense of: (i) aspirations and educational trajectories linked to their secondary school environment; (ii) undergraduate state scholarships targeting citizens; and (iii) the notion of race in their accounts of self-differentiation. Findings in (iii) then lead to the consideration of the role that a localised register, Singlish, might play in disaffiliation and tension amongst academically elite students in Singapore. Through such investigations, it will be argued that notions of frictionless and deterritorialised movement are inadequate to capture the nuanced differences amongst informants. Moreover, the data actually provides empirical evidence of their en-territorialisation in local spaces. That is, their educational aspirations and trajectories, attitudes toward scholarships, accounts of self-differentiation, and valuation of Singlish are embedded in and conditioned by local social, cultural and political spaces. These findings present implications for understandings of cosmopolitan cultural practices, the state’s recruitment of talented immigrants, and narratives regarding elite immigrants circulating amongst the Singaporean public and in other national contexts globally.
Supervisor: Harris, Roxy ; Rampton, Benjamin Michael Helyer Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available