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The AWARE Sage: Civil Society and Public Morality in Singapore

Edited by Terence Chong

Publication Year: 2011

In March 2009, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) was briefly taken over by a Christian faction. Their coup was overturned within a matter of weeks, but the episode highlighted a variety ofissues, including the role of religion in civil society, sex education, homosexuality, state intervention and media engagement. Although the immediate issue was control of an activist group concerned with women's rights, it has implications for the agendas and concerns of NGOs, "culture wars", the processes of citizenry mobilization, mass participation and noisy democracy, and liberal voices in contemporary Singapore. In this book, academics and public intellectuals examine the AWARE saga within the context of Singapore's civil society, considering the political and historical background and how the issues it raised relate to contemporary societal trends. In addition to documenting a milestone event for Singapore's civil society, the authors offer provocative interpretations that will interest a broad range of readers.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction

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pp. 1-13

On 28 March 2009 a group of Christian women took over the country's most well-known women's rights group, sparking a chain of events that not only enthralled the nation but also forced many to re-examine the way they viewed civil society politics in Singapore. There were...

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Chapter 1 Making Singapore's Liberal Base Visible

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pp. 14-24

Singapore is a postcolonial society with particularistic characteristics. Historical evidence showed that the island was a trade centre in the fourteenth century when it was Temasek. However, by the time of Stamford Raffles' arrival it was no more than a tiny settlement, which...

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Chapter 2 Compensating for the Abdication of the Moral State?

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pp. 25-35

One question looms unanswered in the aftermath of the AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) saga. Why did Christian conservatives feel the need to hijack a civil society organisation to push their agenda? This question is intriguing given the fact that society-state relations in Singapore, though...

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Chapter 3 Not Quite Shutting Up and Sitting Down: The Singapore Government's Role in the AWARE Saga

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pp. 36-50

An internal matter. Not a "national issue"; a "domestic dispute" even (The Straits Times 20 April 2009; 25 April 2009). Early descriptions of the leadership tussle at the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) by politicians and media pundits alike clearly indicated that they did not think much of it at the time...

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Chapter 4 Who Dragged Christianity into the AWARE Saga?: Observations on the Role of Christians, Value Pluralism and Contestation in Public Discourse

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pp. 51-73

With 85 percent of Singaporeans professing to belong to a religion, religion forms a core part of many Singaporeans' identities and value systems. That religion and politics are not distinct and mutually exclusive spheres of influence and experience is also recognised by...

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Chapter 5 Blame it on the Bogey: The Christian Right's Construction of Homosexuality and the AWARE CSE Programme

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pp. 74-95

While AWARE's (Association of Women for Action and Research) "old guard" had repeatedly stressed that their Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) package was but one among many programmes, and that it had received disproportionate publicity, the CSE programme was...

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Chapter 6 The Role of the Media: Investigative Journalism in Singapore

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pp. 96-105

Once in a while, a great story comes along and for the journalists in Singapore, the AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) saga, even in its initial stages, had all the right ingredients — the controversial issues of homosexuality and religion, a covert plot...

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Chapter 7 Strength in Diversity: Organisational Lessons from the AWARE Saga

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pp. 106-118

The engineered takeover of AWARE's (Association of Women for Action and Research) executive committee and the subsequent victory of the so-called "old guard" over the "new guard" raised the important question about what form democracy should take in Singapore. This...

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Chapter 8 Contesting Feminisms: The AWARE Saga

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pp. 119-132

When the AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) saga broke out in April 2009, the opportunity to explore local forms of feminism was lost primarily because the issues that loomed large in the media were homosexuality and religion. The tussle between the...

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Chapter 9 Shut Up and Sit Down! Stand Up and Speak Out!: The AWARE EGM as Performance of Civil Society in Singapore

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pp. 133-155

Some sense of the build-up and behind-the-scene developments leading to the EGM is necessary to understanding its actual performance and significance. Suffice here to summarise that at the 24th Association of...

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Chapter 10 AWARE Re-pluralised, Re-secularised: Transition to Deeper Awareness

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pp. 156-174

Among women's organisations in Singapore, AWARE has thus been unique in its dedication to the promotion of gender equality, irrespective of "race" or religion. This stance implies secularity and plurality, although no explicit statement concerning such matters was ever made by the organisation in its first 24 years. AWARE became explicit about...

Contributors

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pp. 175-178

Index

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pp. 179-181


E-ISBN-13: 9789971696122
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695514

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: New