Tropical Flânerie & the Creative Asian City: a perambulation of literature

Sneha Chaudhury, Anita Lundberg


The flâneur became a literary figure of 19th century Paris and was taken up as a theoretical figure in the early 20th century. During these periods the city was undergoing massive social, architectural and infrastructural change. Today, the notion of the flâneur is experiencing a renaissance as cities are undergoing significant restructuring towards creative industries and economies. 

At the same time, two distinctive aspects of the theory of the flâneur are facing critique. One is to do with geography. The theory is based on cities of the global north, such as Paris, London and New York, and thus inherently entwined with the colonial metropole. The other aspect concerns gender. The flâneur invokes a masculine gaze, and the possibility of a female flâneuse remains under debate.

The current century has been witness to the rapid growth of cities, including in the tropics and Asia. This literature review – in the style of a perambulation – explores flânerie with examples of tropical Asian cities. Singapore is of special interest as it strives to become a ‘renaissance city’ – a global city of the arts, based on creative industries and economies. As a theory and method of critically meandering the creative city, flânerie offers a way of engaging and contributing to an ethnography of urban life. Furthermore, such a method may usefully rework the notion of the gaze of the flâneur to include the use of photography.


flânerie; flâneuse; flâneur; ethnography; creative city; Singapore; Asian city

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