The linguistic landscape of a Singaporean hawker centre
A famous element in Singapore’s food culture is the hawker centre, consisting of a large collection of individually-run stalls selling various kinds of foods and drinks. These centres, which dot the island and its public housing estates, were built on government initiative beginning in the 1970s, with the prime objective of sedentarising the large number of erstwhile itinerant street hawkers, based on a discourse of promoting ‘cleanliness’ inherent to the entire nation-building narrative of the country. The sedentarised hawkers, now divorced from their earlier way of life and often from their earlier neighbourhoods, had to start naming their businesses overtly. Some did so by including references to the geographical location of their earlier area of street hawking. The linguistic landscape of stall signboards in a hawker centre exhibits various attempts to come to terms with this immobilised itineracy.
Keywords: sedentarisation, itineracy, hawker centre, foodscape, Singapore, multilingualism
Published online: 27 August 2018
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