Jose Rafael Martinez GARCIA 

Title: Research Fellow

Alumni: PhD, National University of Singapore

Discipline/s: Anthropology


Contact: 64994053


Rafael Martinez is a Research Fellow in the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities where he works in a multidisciplinary project on Southeast Asian megacities. He is trained as a lawyer and a linguist. He recently completed his Ph.D. in anthropology at NUS. His research focuses on mainland and insular cities in Southeast Asia and involves recycling of sacred places, the production of ephemeral and provisional space, urban mobilities, and temporary identities. He uses an experimental methodology based on a collaborative approach with informants in the field. By means of collaborative experiments such as descriptive, interpretative, ethnographic, biographical, reflexive, and technical, Rafael sees informants as epistemic collaborators, encouraging them to pursue the analytical interests of both the ethnographer and the subjects themselves.

Rafael’s research focuses on:

  1. Identities and practices shaping/informing urban landscapes in Southeast Asia;
  2. Survival strategies and “ways of operating” of marginal groups in cities;
  3. Collaborative and participative approaches in the collection and processing of data in urban contexts.

His research is applied in the following areas:

  • Migration studies (ethnicity, social class and spatial mobility)
  • Consumption and marketing (patterns and habits, especially among urban poor communities in urban Southeast Asia)
  • Policy-making (urban planning, poverty, human mobility, governance, elderly population)


  • PhD in Anthropology, National University of Singapore (2018)
  • MA in Southeast Asian Studies, Ohio University (2011)
  • Bachelor of Law, National Autonomous University of Mexico (2006)


  • Martinez, Rafael., and Masron, Irna. (In press). City Profile. Jakarta: A City of Cities. Cities.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2015). Flirting as a skill: Snapshots of gender interaction in the everyday life of Singapore’s foreign workers in Global and the local: New concepts and approaches. Seoul: Hangkuk University of Foreign Studies, 59-75.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2011). Remembering within a sacred space in Vientiane. The Journal of Lao Studies, 2(2), 75-103.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2010). Buscando el pasado de una ciudad en su futuro: Kuala Lumpur a 40 años de 1969 (Seeking the past of a city in its future: Kuala Lumpur 40 years after 1969). Humania del Sur, 5 (8), 141-160:
  • Martinez, Rafael., & Luna Becerril, Atzimba. (2010). El papel de la sociedad civil en las transiciones hacia la democracia en el Sudeste Asiático (“The role of civil societies in transitions towards democracy within Southeast Asia”). In L. Rubio Díaz Leal (Ed.), El Sureste Asiático: modernización económica, cambio político y posicionamiento mundial. Mexico City: M.A. Porrúa-ITAM-Senado.
  • Martinez, Rafael.  (2009). Ban That Luang: The materialisation of a symbol through its urban space. Heritage Asia, 56-63.
  • Martinez, Rafael.  (2009). El desarrollo en la Indochina francesa: El orientalismo como el mal menor (Development in French Indochina: Orientalism as the lesser evil) from Revista Seda, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Web site:
  • Martinez, Rafael.  (2008). La globalización incompleta: Islam y mundo moderno (The incomplete globalization: Islam and the modern world). Mexico City: UNAM-Facultad de Derecho. ISBN: 9789700775784 970077578X.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2008). El Islam, ¿un rector económico global? (Islam: A global economic guiding force?) Mexico City: UNAM-Facultad de Derecho. ISBN: 978-970-32-5495-8.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2008). Astronáutica Musulmana: ¿Existe Bid'ah fuera de la Tierra? (Muslim astronautics: Is there any bid’ah outside Planet Earth?) Ágora(5), 46-48:

Conference Presentations/Proceedings

  • Martinez, Rafael. (2019, Jan). Jakarta’s Provisional Life. Seminar hosted by the FASS Global Urban Studies Cluster, National University of Singapore, Singapore.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2015, Oct). Flirting as a skill: Snapshots of gender interaction in the everyday life of Singapore’s foreign workers. CAAS 6th Annual Consortium for Asian and African Symposium, Seoul, South Korea.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2012, Mar). Cambodian Souvenirs: Postcards and other memories of control in French Indochina. 2012 AAS (Association for Asian Studies) Annual Conference, Toronto, Canada.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2011, Mar). Vientiane’s new landmarks: Postcards from an urban oscillating modernity. 13th Cornell University Southeast Asian Graduate Studies Conference, Ithaca, New York.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2010, Oct). The boulevardization of Phnom Penh: Revisiting Haussmann in French Indochina. MCAA (Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs) 2010, Columbus, Ohio, USA.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2010, May). Remembering within a sacred space in Vientiane. 5th Annual HGSA (History Graduate Student Association of Ohio University) Conference. Athens, Ohio, USA.
  • Martinez, Rafael. (2010, Apr). Talat Sao and the process of an urban undefinition of Lao modernity. UC Berkeley-UCLA Space, Movement and Place in Southeast Asia Conference, Berkeley, California, USA.