Envisioning Chinese Identity and Managing Multiracialism in Singapore

Envisioning Chinese Identity and Managing Multiracialism in Singapore

International Association of Societies of Design Research Conference
2009-10-18 through 2009-10-22
Coex, Seoul, Korea
9 pages

Leong Koon Chan, Associate Professor
School of Design Studies
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Multiracialism and bilingualism are key concepts for national ideology and policy in the management of Singapore for nation building. Multiracialism is implemented in social policies to regulate racial harmony in the population of Chinese-Malay-Indian-Other, a social stratification matrix inherited from the British administration. Bilingualism—the teaching and learning of English and the mother tongue in primary and secondary schools—is rationalised as the ‘cultural ballast’ to safeguard Asian identities and values against Western influences. This focus on ‘culture’ as a means of engendering a relationship between the individual and the nation suggests that as a tool for government policy culture is intricately linked to questions of identity. In discussing multiracialism it is necessary to address ethnicity for the two concepts are intertwined.

This paper investigates the crucial role that imagery plays in our understanding of nationalism by examining the policy and process of language reform for the Chinese in Singapore through the visual culture of the Speak Mandarin Campaigns, 1979-2005. Drawing upon object analysis, textual/document analysis and visual interpretation, the research analyses how the graphic communication process is constructed and reconstructed as indices of government and public responses to the meanings of multiracialism and Chineseness.

Central to the findings are Anthony D. Smith’s (1993) contention that “national symbols, customs and ceremonies are the most potent and durable aspects of nationalism,” and Raymond Williams’ (1981) contention that social ideologies are reflective of “structures of feeling”, defined as individual and collective meanings and values, “…with specific internal relations, at once interlocking and in tension…a social experience which is still in process.”

Read the entire paper here.

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