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Congratulations to Assistant Professor Lin Weiqiang, Department of Geography and Associate Professor Irene Ng, Department of Social Work on being awarded the inaugural Social Science and Humanities Research (SSHR) Fellowship and Social Science Research Thematic Grant (SSRTG) respectively.


Awardee of the Social Science and Humanities Research (SSHR) Fellowship: Dr Lin Weiqiang


The SSHR fellowship was launched in August 2018 as the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)’s first talent development scheme. It seeks to nurture local talent and strengthen the social science and humanities research ecosystem in Singapore, whilst bolstering the careers of promising academics whose research programmes are grounded in issues of strategic and policy relevance to Singapore. With this fellowship, Dr Lin will receive research funds of up to $1 million over five years.

 

BIOGRAPHY

Assistant Prof Lin Weiqiang is a leading mobilities geographer who specialises in the areas of air transport, logistics, and the production of infrastructure. Dr Lin began this theorizing work in 2013, when he co-convened a conference on Theorising Mobilities in/of Asia, in collaboration with the Asia Research Institute, NUS. His work has been well-received internationally, and influenced a wide range of scholarship through critical reflections on air transport, including mobility studies, political geography, science and technology studies, urban studies, and social theory. He currently sits on the editorial board of Mobilities, a leading journal of mobility studies, and is a section editor of Transfers.

Dr Lin obtained his PhD in Geography from the University of London in 2014 and was appointed Assistant Professor at NUS Department of Geography in 2016.

 


DETAILS OF PROJECT: PEOPLING INFRASTRUCTURE: AEROMOBILITIES, AUTOMATION AND LABOUR MOBILISATIONS IN ASIA

With this research, Dr Lin aims to understand the inner-workings of the aviation industry and offer unique research insights on sustainable, responsible, and humane maintenance of airport infrastructures. It will pay particular attention to four airport functions, namely (a) passenger formalities (check-in); (b) airside services (gate and connections); (c) baggage handling; and (d) apron logistics (tarmac operations). Specifically, the project will uncover the daily routines of workers in the aviation industry, how workers are incorporated into the aviation ecosystem, and how they interact with aviation technology.

Dr Lin will study operations and infrastructures of airports in four cities–Beijing, Dubai, Jakarta, and Singapore. The study employs a number of methods: interviews with airport workers and managerial-level staff to understand their personal experience; site visits to learn about the work environment; as well as textual analysis of new articles and reports to understand the transitions to automotive technologies and practices in labour management.

This project will advance global theoretical knowledge on airport infrastructures, labour and technology, and inform policies to minimise the risk of attrition, non-cooperation, and disruption that could arise from the poor management of labour. The project will also contribute to a new awareness of mobility justice by focusing on workers who tend to work long hours, are poorly paid, and are often segregated based on race and gender, migrant workers and/or aged workers who are employed on a ‘use-and-discard’ basis.

In light of Singapore’s pursuit of a larger role for aviation, this project offers unique and significant research insights on the sustainable, responsible, and humane maintenance of airport infrastructures.


Awardee of the Social Science Research Thematic Grant: A/P Irene Ng


Launched in 2016, the SSRTG represents one of the SSRC’s key initiatives to support “high-quality and impactful” interdisciplinary research pertaining to Singapore and Asia. Winning projects are selected based on intellectual merit and their potential impact on and contribution to society and the economy.

Associate Professor Irene Ng is the only awardee receiving Type B funding. Type B projects will receive funding of between $1 million to $10million over 3 to 5 years to support larger-scale research, and encourage collaboration between research institutes to pursue more ambitious, interdisciplinary research on issues of cross-cutting interest.

 

BIOGRAPHY

Irene Y.H. Ng is an Associate Professor of Social Work and Director of the Social Service Research Centre in the National University of Singapore. She holds a joint Ph.D. in Social Work and Economics from the University of Michigan. Her research areas include poverty and inequality, intergenerational mobility, youth crime, and social welfare policy. Her research projects include an evaluation of a national Work Support program; National Youth Surveys 2010, 2013 and 2017; a study of low-income households with debt; and an evaluation of Social Service Offices. She is active in the community, serving or having served in committees in the Ministry of Social and Family Development, National Council of Social Service, Ministry of Manpower, and various voluntary welfare organizations. Her teaching areas include poverty, policy, welfare economics, youth work, and program planning.

 

 

DETAILS OF PROJECT: IN-WORK POVERTY AND THE CHALLENGES OF GETTING BY AMONG THE YOUNG

New vulnerabilities are being created by the new disrupted economy. This project seeks to gain new insights on the kinds of “in-work” poverty (i.e. experiencing poverty while being employed) that the working class are experiencing. It will focus on the challenges faced by less educated young workers (aged between 21 and 40) and their efforts at advancement, an area that has received less attention.

Using traditional and technology-based mixed methods, the project will gain deep and wide understanding of the lived realities of younger low-waged workers through surveys, interviews, ethnographic studies, and data inputs using a mobile application.

Through these, we hope to understand the interactions of work and earnings with young workers’ mental health and cognitive ability, and how they use their social networks to navigate jobs, family and advancement. The insights gained from this project seeks to inform Singapore on improving the reach of formal programmes to younger low-wage workers, the design of programmes to better meet their needs, and the optimisation of their social networks as a resource to help themselves.

According to the Singapore Mental Health Study 2016, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the top three mental disorders in Singapore. With one in 28 people suffering from OCD in their lifetime (up from 1 in 33 in 2010), average treatment delays of 11 years (up from 9 years in 2010), and the majority of sufferers not receiving appropriate help, more awareness of the disorder is needed to better support and facilitate recovery for these individuals in our community.

With this objective in mind, the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and NUS Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), jointly organized the “Public Forum on OCD” on 23 February 2019 at Town Plaza’s Utown Auditorium 1. More than 650 participants, including members from the public, mental health professionals, and NUS students and staff attended the event. The panel of speakers consisted of Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists with extensive expertise in treating OCD, as well as people with lived experience of OCD and caregivers.

Dr Oliver Sündermann giving a presentation on OCD and its prevalence in Singapore


The forum commenced with an introductory presentation by Dr Oliver Sündermann, Clinical Psychologist and Manager of the Clinical and Health Psychology Centre (CHPC), NUS Department of Psychology. His talk demystified OCD and addressed common misconceptions of the disorder; e.g. the term ‘OCD’ should not be used casually to refer to being neat and tidy. He also highlighted the worrying trend in Singapore of treatment delay, with individuals often battling OCD on their own in silence for many years before they seek professional treatment. Following the introduction, the Consultant Psychiatrists and Clinical Psychologists from IMH shared their expertise on the pharmacological and psychological treatment of OCD in young people and adults. The services and support networks available for clients and caregivers in Singapore were also being covered.

The second half of the forum was lined up with personal sharings by caregivers of individuals with OCD as well as patients-in-recovery. Their sharings encompassed themes of hope, resilience and perseverance for recovery in spite of their struggles with OCD. Also featured prominently in these personal narratives were the important roles of family and professional support. Families are often the ones who detect initial warning signs and refer individuals for professional help. Hence, they play a crucial role in the individuals’ recovery process by supporting them in treatment and providing emotional support. Professionals such as psychiatrists and clinical psychologists help to ensure that individuals receive the best care tailored to their needs and condition severity. One of the patient-in-recovery speakers shared about how her supportive therapeutic relationship with her psychologist greatly facilitated her recovery.

Panel Discussion with Representatives from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH)


The forum concluded with a panel discussion, where the speakers addressed questions posed by the audience. Some of these questions included concerns about the harmful side effects of medication, how seeking treatment may adversely impact one’s future prospects as well as the role of religion in the treatment of OCD. The speakers generously shared their views and knowledge and unanimously sent an important message to all, that is “Never lose hope. Recovery (from OCD) is definitely possible”.

The Public Forum on OCD was jointly organized by IMH and NUS. We are grateful for generous funding from the NUS Department of Psychology, and for support from Clarity Singapore.

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The Clinical and Health Psychology Centre (CHPC) is affiliated with the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and located on the NUS Kent Ridge campus. The CHPC is the training clinic for the NUS Master of Clinical Psychology programme, and is staffed by postgraduate clinical psychology interns who are under the supervision of doctoral-level clinical psychologists. The CHPC provides an array of specialised psychology services to the public, including specialized assessment and treatment for OCD as well as related disorders such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder. For an overview of CHPC see: https://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/psy/chpc.html

Congratulations to Professor Chua Beng Huat, Department of Sociology on earning a spot on the Foreign Affairs Magazine’s The Best of Books 2018! In his book titled “Liberalism Disavowed: Communitarianism and State Capitalism in Singapore”, Prof Chua examines the rejection of Western-style liberalism in Singapore, and the People’s Action Party (PAP) forging of an independent, non-Western communitarian ideology.

Prof Chua focuses on three areas in his tracing of the evolution of Singapore’s communitarian ideology: public housing, multiracialism, and state capitalism, each of which poses different challenges to liberal approaches. Consequently, the PAP looks instead to the governing principle of social democracy, which emphasises society over the individual, pervasiveness of the state, and social redistributive policies.

“What we have in Singapore at the beginning of the 21st century is a PAP-dominant, single-party government which ideologically espouses communitarianism, politically continues to maintain the formal features of an electoral democracy, and continues to pursue economic growth, full employment, and the improvement of material life for Singaporeans – efficiently and without corruption” – Professor Chua Beng Huat


The book also examines the PAP’s challenges from an educated populace that demands greater voice, which has led to the liberalisation of the cultural sphere, greater responsiveness and shifts in political rhetoric – but “all without disrupting the continuing hegemony of the PAP in government,” argues Professor Chua.

"Contrary to the conventional wisdom, he argues that neither repression nor a cultural preference for authoritarianism explains the regime’s success; rather, the state’s successful policies—rooted in social democratic ideology and meritocratic leadership—and the island nation’s strategic vulnerability explain why the population has accepted an elitist, repressive system for over 50 years and why it will probably continue to do so." writes Foreign Affairs reviewer Andrew J. Nathan.

Congratulations on your remarkable achievement, Prof Chua!

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Chua Beng Huat is Provost Chair Professor in the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. His book, “Liberalism Disavowed: Communitarianism and State Capitalism in Singapore” (2017), A Choice Recommended Title and a Foreign Affairs “Book of the Year” 2018, is available online and at all major bookstores.

As part of its ScholarBank@NUS initiative, NUS Libraries has recently made publicly available 10 theses written by local famous personalities while they were students at NUS. Included among these 10 personalities, who are also FASS alumni, are Emeritus Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong, singer-actress Ms Joanna Dong and accomplished writer Dr Catherine Lim.

What is perhaps most surprising in this anthology of theses is that Ms Dong’s sociological research proved to be quite perceptive in identifying the paradoxical intimate-yet-anonymous nature of online communication (back then still referred to as computer-mediated communication). This is especially so as social media was nowhere as popular as it is today. Recalling the motivation behind her research, Ms Dong said:

When I chose my thesis topic, I had done so with some childish glee at the prospect of doing some serious writing about a social experience considered back then by most to be “fluff”. Now that social media has become the primary obsession of the modern person, I feel strangely vindicated, as if I had somehow foresaw its rise to significance.

Curious to find out what research interests the other nine famous FASS alumni had during their university days? Click here to find out!

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