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Laavanya Kathiravelu
Assistant Professor
School of Social Sciences
College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Laavanya Kathiravelu is Assistant Professor at the Division of Sociology, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Her research and teaching interests lie in the intersections between migration & citizenship, urban studies, and race and ethnicity. Her first book is ‘Migrant Dubai: low wage workers and the construction of a Global City’ (Palgrave Macmillian 2016). She has also published in the ‘Journal of Intercultural Studies’ and ‘Urban Studies’ as well as numerous book chapters. She was Fung Global Fellow at Princeton University between 2015-2016 and prior to joining NTU, was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. She is currently working on a series of projects on Migration Infrastructures, Immigrant integration, Invisible Privilege in Singapore and The Emergence of Nativist Sentiments.

Research Statement

I am a mid career researcher (PhD 2011) building a coherent profile around the inter-related themes of migration and cities, with a focus on Asia as part of the larger ‘Global South’. My recently published book interrogated South-South migrations and the expansion of the global city outside the ‘West’. It examined South Asian labour migration in the rapidly growing emirate of Dubai. I have built on my interest in Asian migrations in my postdoctoral fellowship, which examines how migration from other parts of Asia is impacting diversity in Singapore today. Both studies are interested in how migration transforms cities and the urban residents who populate them. My research interests cover various aspects of multiculturalism, diversity and the everyday encounter as well as how the state is an actor in such interactions. Trained as a sociologist, I utilize a diverse range of research methodologies and theoretical perspectives that speak to a multidisciplinary audience. Embedded in a rigorous analysis of everyday phenomena, my approach is one that starts from the ground up, and aims to unpack, understand and explain current social reality. Despite being strongly grounded in original empirical data, I appeal to larger more global and theoretical debates.

Research One-liner

Laavanya’s research is interested in the intersections between migration and belonging in global cities of the “global South”.


Kathiravelu, L., (2016) Migrant Dubai: low wage migrants and the construction of a Global City. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

This book is my biggest contribution to disputing the unitary and stereotyped views of low wage migrant labour in the Gulf.

Kathiravelu, L., (2019) “Whose Justice and for whom? Low wage migrants, authoritarian regimes and nations of what is fair” in Sandra Brunnegger (ed) Everyday Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

This chapter argues for a shift in understanding justice in spatialised and everyday ways from the perspective of low waged migrants.

Kathiravelu, L., (2017) ‘Rethinking Race: beyond the CMIO categorisations’, Loh Kah Seng Thum Ping Tjin, Jack Chia(ed), Living With Myths: Exploring Singapore’s Pasts and Futures. Singapore: Select Books.

This piece argues for a change in the ways we divide and define the population of Singapore.

Latest Projects

2019 – 2024   MOE Social Science and Humanities Research Fellowship “Does Citizenship matter?” S$777,154 (PI)

2018- 2021    MOE Tier 2 “Mobile gamification strategies to manage Online emergence of Nativism” $602,856 (co-PI)

2017-2021     MOE AcRF Tier 1 Grant “The missing Link: exploring the role of middlemen agents and social networks” S$ 95,700 (PI)

Advice to young researchers

Find your voice – what your unique contribution is to academic knowledge and to society more generally. Recognise how to develop that voice and don’t be afraid to use it.

Other affiliation(s)

Expert Areas
citizenship, migration, race and ethnicity, urban studies

Research Interests
Cities, ethnicity, migration, Persian Gulf, Singapore

Research Category
Social Sciences
Research Sub-category
NISTH Assigned Topic Groupings
Fighting inequality
Affiliated Sustainable Development Goals
GOAL 8: DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH – Sustainable economic growth will require societies to create the conditions that allow people to have quality jobs.
GOAL 10: REDUCED INEQUALITIES – To reduce inequalities, policies should be universal in principle, paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations.
GOAL 16: PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS – Access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
Last Updated
29 Apr 2020
Last Updated
13 Sep 2020