Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Law, National University of Singapore

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Jurisprudence & Social Policy, University of California / Berkeley
How Does Law Matter in Gay Activism? A Case Study of Singapore

“Under what conditions do social movements choose strategies and tactics that use the language of law and rights? Under what conditions does such use of the language of law and rights de-radicalize (or radicalize) the social movement?” My dissertation will address these two questions by drawing upon original empirical data on gay activist social movement organizations in the city-state of Singapore, and engaging the interdisciplinary scholarship of Law & Society and the sociological study of social movements. Gay activism in Singapore is an important case study situated at two major crossroads: (i) Where the domestic and the international meet – My research is an opportunity to investigate empirically how activist organizations in a society that inherited Western laws, developed them locally, and nurtured its own legal culture, and, one that is also exposed by globalization to external legal norms, such as “human rights”, “gay rights”, “sexual rights,” use the law in their strategies and tactics, interact with these external legal norms, and translate or modify them for local advocacy. (ii) Where communitarian values, and individual rights, identity and self-expression collide, and fight over the power to (re)shape culture. Through examining how law-related strategies and tactics of these activists play out in a society that has less entrenched individual rights than Western democracies, and the outcomes they produce, my research helps us to understand what democracy means to a society in transition, and its aptitude for democracy. At a more general level, my dissertation contributes to our understanding of power how legal power operates in a non-Western democratic society in the context of collective resistance, an arena in which power relations are being contested and renegotiated. The empirical research will be interpretive and qualitative, relying on in-depth interviews, field observations and analysis of primary documents.