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Responding to Globalization

Nation, Culture and Identity in Singapore

Selvaraj Velayutham

Publication Year: 2007

Despite unprecedented levels of global interconnectedness, little academic attention has been paid to how governments actively deal with the challenges globalization poses for national identity. This book investigates the Singapore Government’s approach to the construction of national identity and the shifting ways in which Singapore has been imagined in official discourses. The hallmarks of Singapore’s nation-building project have been the state’s efforts to manage ethnic differences and ensure the economic well-being of its citizenry. Unlike other global cities which are embedded in a larger nation-state, Singapore is both a global city and a nation-state. Singapore embodies a curious contradiction: while global cities are often theorized as transient spaces, contradictorily, the nation-state needs to be bounded in order to remain viable. This book focuses on the global/national nexus: the tensions between the necessity to embrace the global to ensure economic survival, yet needing a committed population to support the perpetuation of the nation-state and its economic success. It critically explores how the government has been responding to the challenges of globalization through policy initiatives and official rhetoric to create a “space” for affective identification with the Singaporean nation-state and how Singaporeans relate to and articulate their sense of identity and belonging to Singapore within the context of globalization.

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. xi-xii

My family left a small village in Tamil Nadu to a modern and multicultural city-state of Singapore in search of a better life. As with all migrants, my parents’ primary goal was to provide a good education for their children. It is through their sacrifice and support that I have come this far. I am deeply indebted to my parents...

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Introduction: Globalization and the Nation-State

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pp. 1-19

The first of these quotes comes from a section in Hannerz’s book, Transnational Connections, where he examines the cultural role of world cities in the context of contemporary globalization. Hannerz suggests that Singapore and Hong Kong...

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1. The Making of the Singapore Nation-State and the Quest for a National Identity

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pp. 20-51

In this chapter I present an historical background to Singapore’s national development from colony to early nationhood, and detail the various nation-building strategies employed by Singapore’s ruling PAP. The first section of the chapter offers a critical...

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2. The Rhetoric of Asian Values and the Embracing of a “New Asian” Identity

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pp. 52-81

In Chapter 1, I examined the particular ways in which the construction of national identity began to take shape in post-independent Singapore. This early phase of nation-building was as much about creating a unique national-societal identity as it was about reworking the nation-state norm to suit the local context...

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3. Creating National Citizens for a Global City

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pp. 82-118

Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s quote provides a typically colourful account of the latest set of perceived challenges facing Singapore. Continuing my exploration into the national response to globalization in Singapore, this chapter turns its attention to the government’s project of “globalizing” the nation...

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4. Re-Branding Singapore: Cosmopolitan Cultural and Urban Redevelopment in a Global City-State

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pp. 119-158

Once again, Goh Chok Tong’s colourful and tantalizing image of Singapore in the new millennium has all the hallmarks of the PAP’s developmentalism, efficiency, and orderliness written over it. At the same time, it also speaks of a new kind of Singapore which is lively, innovative, fun, and exciting. The idea of Singapore...

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5. At 'Home" in a Globalized City-State?

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pp. 159-201

In Chapters 3 and 4, I examined the specific positioning of Singapore within the globalized space of flows and the ways the Singapore government has approached the processes of globalization. The 1990s saw a significant change in the way Singapore articulated its relationship to the rest of the world...

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pp. 202-210

Just as I was writing this conclusion, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong delivered his 2003 National Day Rally speech on 17 August. In this annual address, which has become a platform for re-assessing the year’s significant events (in this case: the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, the global...


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pp. 211-232


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pp. 233-238

About the Author

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pp. 239-239

E-ISBN-13: 9789812307170
Print-ISBN-13: 9789812304216

Page Count: 239
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 527383156
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Responding to Globalization

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • National characteristics, Singaporean.
  • Values -- Singapore.
  • Social values -- Singapore.
  • Globalization -- Social aspects -- Singapore.
  • Globalization -- Political aspects -- Singapore.
  • Singapore -- Politics and government.
  • Singapore -- Cultural policy.
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