1st Edition

Diasporas, Weddings and the Trajectories of Ethnicity

By Terence Heng Copyright 2021
    198 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    198 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In an age of increasingly fragmented migration, consumption, and globalisation, how do diasporic individuals navigate their ethnic identities? Diasporas, Weddings and the Trajectories of Ethnicity investigates the ways that Chinese Singaporeans shape their Chineseness through wedding rituals and artefacts. Proposing a framework of ethnic identity as a journey, this book will

    • Interrogate the processes underlying diasporic ethnicity-making through weddings.
    • Offer new concepts of transdiasporic space, ethnic tastes, and aesthetic dissonance.
    • Explore the intersections between commercialism, ethnicity, and socio-economic divides.
    • Map the micro-social ramifications of ethnic and racial policy in Singapore.

    As a former professional wedding photographer, Terence Heng brings a sociological lens to the scripted and spontaneous arena of social interactions that is the wedding day. By combining ethnographic observation, photography, and poetry, Heng reveals the many decisions and demands that underscore Singaporean Chinese weddings, offering novel insights into the roles of the bridal couple, their social networks, and the wedding industry.


    1. Reconceptualising Diasporic Space as Transdiasporic Space

    2. Configuring Transdiasporic Ethnicity, Ethnic Lifestyles and Ethnic Tastes

    3. Weddings as Sites of Ethnicity-Making

    4. Observation, Photography and Poetry – A Methodological Framework of Creative Practice and Social Research

    5. A Visual Introduction to Singapore and Singaporean Chineseness

    6. Taste Performances: Making Ethnic Lifestyles Interactive

    7. Ethnic Taste and Aesthetic Dissonance

    8. Ethnic Taste, Everyday Commercial Activities and the Commercially Dominant Wedding Aesthetic

    9. Conclusion: Aesthetic Dissonance, Ethnic Hybridity and Economic Life-Paths

    Epilogue: Look on My Hands and See it There


    Terence Heng is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Liverpool. He is the author of Visual Methods in the Field: Photography for the Social Sciences (2016) and Of Gods, Gifts and Ghosts: Spiritual Places in Urban Spaces (2020). His work has been featured in Area, The Sociological Review, Social and Cultural Geography, and Visual Communication, and is the 2015 winner of The Sociological Review’s Prize for Outstanding Scholarship.

    "On the face of it, the idea of people ‘making’ their ethnicities may seem unremarkable, but there is nothing ordinary about Terence Heng’s book. Through the use of wedding photography, Heng explores the ways in which Chinese Singaporeans engage in ‘taste performances’ associated with different forms of ethnic lifestyles. This original book will have inter-disciplinary appeal for both students and scholars of diaspora, ethnicity, and contested understandings of Chineseness."

    Miri Song, Professor of Sociology, University of Kent

    "This is a beautiful, poetic and visually stunning exploration of Chinese Singaporean transdiasporic ethnicity. Intimate and political at the same time, it unpacks wedding rituals, objects and photography for their deeper meanings and social significance in making ethnicity."

    Caroline Knowles, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London