Sand, Silica, Silicon: Singapore's Triple Territories

Verge: Studies in Global Asias 7(1), 2021

This article investigates three types of territory in Singapore through the lens of sand. Territories are constructed through the sand of land reclamation, where shorelines are extended grain by grain. Territories are formed from the silicate of fibre optic cable, running under the ocean to form global communication networks. And territories emerge through the silicon of the processor chip, where subjects are tracked and “Smart Nation” initiatives pursued. Synthesizing historical development, journalistic reporting, and academic literature, this article explores each territorial formation in turn. In these overlapping spaces, longstanding anthropological and environmental violence persists alongside newer computationally-driven inequalities. Considered together, sand, silica, and silicon prompt us to reconsider the concept of territoriality in our contemporary moment.