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Life in the kampongs

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Chapter Summary

Colonial European administrators and laymen considered kampongs 'indigenous neighbourhoods', which they contrasted to European streets and Chinese quarters. The equation of kampongs with indigenous neighbourhoods strongly helped to shape the hegemonic colonial idea that urban population lived racially segregated. Four arguments support designation of colonial kampongs as indigenous neighbourhoods: the association of poor living conditions with indigenousness; the actual ethnic composition of the kampongs; the equation of 'indigenous dwelling' with 'kampong dwelling'; and town planning and zoning based on racial segregation. This chapter explores these four arguments one by one, looking at living conditions in kampongs, quantifying social composition of kampongs, analysing the use of terms 'indigenous dwelling' and 'European dwelling', and reviewing the use of racial categories in urban planning. Kampongs evolved in the urban centre, typically as squatter settlements on vacant land, but more often they began as a rural village that was absorbed into the expanding city.

Keywords: Chinese quarters; Colonial European administrators; ethnic composition; indigenous neighbourhoods; kampongs; rural village; town planning; urban centre



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