Provides vivid accounts of commercial and leisure spaces that captivated the public imagination in the past but have since been destroyed, forgotten, or refurbished.
Monsoon Marketplace uncovers the entangled vernacular cultures of capitalist modernity, mass consumption, and media spectatorship in two understudied postcolonial Asian cities across three crucial historical moments. Juxtaposing Manila and Singapore, it analyzes print and audiovisual representations of popular commercial and leisure spaces during the colonial occupation in the 1930s, national development in the 1960s, and neoliberal globalization in the 2000s. Engaging with the work of creators including Nick Joaquin, Kevin Kwan, and P. Ramlee, it discusses figures of female shoppers in 1930s Manila, languid expatriates in 1930s Singapore, street hawkers in 1960s Singapore, youthful activists in 1960s Manila, call center agents in 2000s Manila, and super-rich investors in 2000s Singapore. Looking at the historical transformation of Calle Escolta, Avenida Rizal, Raffles Place, and Orchard Road, it focuses on Crystal Arcade, the Manila Carnival, the Great World and New World Amusement Parks, and Change Alley, all of which had once captivated the public imagination but have since vanished from the cityscape. Instead of treating capitalism, media, and modernity as overarching systems or processes, the book examines how their configurations and experiences are contingent, variable, pluralistic, and archipelagic. Diverging from critical theories and cultural studies that see consumerism and spectatorship as sources of alienation, docility, and fantasy, it explores how they create new possibilities for agency, collectivity, and resistance.