MULTICULTURALISM IN SINGAPORE AND ITS CONTESTED MEANINGS
2017/2018, Semester 2
University Scholars Programme (University Scholars Programme)
Modular Credits: 4
Lai Ah Eng,multiculturalism,Spore
Multiculturalism is a foundational pillar and defining feature in Singapore’s history and society. At once celebrated and contested, Singapore’s multiculturalism is imbued with various themes and meanings, and poses many important issues and challenges central to personal, group and national cultural identities as well as to political, economic and social life. How did it come to be a core principle in nation-building? What are state imperatives and social processes in its historical making and constant remaking? Why are race, language and religion its core constitutive elements and how have their saliency evolved over time? What are its main controversial features and areas of tensions, and how do these affect identities, social relations between individuals, groups and communities, and impact social cohesion, citizenship and belonging? How is it further impacted by massive immigration and globalisation? Is its present official form still valid in light of immigration, changing demographics and competing claims of rights and responsibilities? What does multiculturalism mean in citizens’ memories of the past, experiences in their present everyday lives, and imaginings and expectations of the future?
This module explores and discusses these central questions and significant dimensions, issues and problems in Singapore’s contested multiculturalism through a combination of lectures, seminars, on-site learning, research projects, class presentations and personal reflections. It also has a small research component in which students discover and understand multiculturalism through research on selected topics using a variety of research methods, and relate their research and other observations to readings drawn from various disciplines of anthropology, sociology, history, economics, geography, heritage studies and memory studies.
Multiculturalism 1: historical, political and social perspectives
This first segment addresses two core questions: 1) How did multiculturalism become a foundational pillar and defining feature in Singapore society? 2) What are political and state imperatives and social processes in its historical making and constant remaking? Topics include:
- Eras of globalisation
- Political and state imperatives of nation-building
multiculturalism in nation-building: race, language and religion
ethnic and national identity issues
- Socio-cultural roots and processes in migration, settlement and resettlement
Multiculturalism 2: cultural contestations and religious issues
This second segment addresses the following questions through exploring major themes and issues in multiculturalism: 1) Why are race, language and religion its core constitutive elements and how have their saliency evolved over time? 2) What are its main controversial features and areas of tensions? 3) How do these affect identities and social relations between individuals, groups and communities? Topics include:
- Multiculturalism and interculturalism
- Multural heritages and heritage landscapes
sites, objects, practices
tangible and intangible heritages
hybridization and change
contested ownership and meanings
- Multicultural living, spaces and interactions
sharing spaces in the living environment and public spaces
everyday life activities and symbolic occasions
- Religious diversity
Diversities past and present
Some major religious and inter-religious issues: conversions, interpretations, representations, conflict and accommodation
Multiculturalism 3: structural relations
This third segment continues to address the above key questions on ethnicity’s saliency and on tensions and controversies through exploring structural issues in Singapore’s multiculturalism. Topics include:
- Majority-minority ethnic relations, privilege
- Stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination
- Race and class overlaps
ethnicity, inequality and mobility
economic and educational marginalisation
Multiculturalism 4: immigration
This fourth segment considers new dimensions in multiculturalism raised by immigration: How is multiculturalism impacted by and further evolving with massive immigration? Is its present official form still valid in light of immigration, changing demographics and competing claims of rights and responsibilities? Topics include:
- Immigration and changing ethnic demographics
- Indigenous and immigrant statuses
thnicity and validity of CMIO categories
- Impact of policies on local-immigrant relations and identities
- Ethnic and national dimensions
- Cultural identity claims and responsibilities
Multiculturalism 5: citizenship and belonging
This fifth and concluding segment addresses the central question: How do the contestations, controversies and issues in Singapore’s multiculturalism impact social cohesion, citizenship and belonging? It will also assess and explore what contested multiculturalism means in citizens’ memories of the past, experiences in their present everyday lives, and imaginings of the future.
Multiculturalism 6: doing research
This small research component will be integrated with the above main syllabus on multiculturalism (time permitting):
1. Basics I: a) Institutional and public approaches: library, archival and museum recorded sources, b) Family records & oral sources
2. Basics II: a) Site visits, b) Fieldwork: interviews and observations, audio-visuals, anecdotal evidence
3. Basics III: a) Case studies, b) Personal narratives and histories, anecdotes, c) Focus group discussions, d) Surveys
4. Basics IV: a) Social & economic data sets, census data, b) Social memory
1. Research projects:
Two (2) small research projects are to be undertaken by each student, with findings presented in class (one of the two) and both in written submission. The objectives of these projects are:
- to provide students an opportunity to explore aspects of multiculturalism outside of the classroom for experiential learning, and to apply and relate relevant ideas critically or usefully to a topic,
- to train students to be research-oriented in thinking and to equip them some basic research skills and methods, and
- To hone students’ analytical and writing abilities in writing up research.
2. Seminars on readings and class presentations of research projects:
Seminars by theme will be based on students’ individual presentations of a) one of their small research projects and b) an assigned reading followed by class discussion. Each seminar will be preceded by a lecture or brief introduction to the topic and concluded with a subject roundup and discussion. The objectives of these presentation-based seminars are:
- to enable students to learn to make presentations of their research projects and open their work to discussion,
- to enable students to read critically and relate readings with students’ own understanding and research, and
- to promote mutual and collaborative learning through comment and discussion.
3. Group project:
This small class-based group project will explore, discuss and present on a topic set by the instructor. The objective of this group project is to promote collaborative learning and team-based research.
4. Term paper:
The term paper will be based on a topic set by the instructor or a topic proposed by the student and approved by the instructor. The objectives of this written assignment are:
- To ensure that students keep up with their readings
- To ensure that students attempt and are able to apply and relate relevant ideas critically and usefully to a topic
- To hone students’ research, analytical and writing abilities.
Assessment Components (Total 100% CA, no exams)
1. Research Project 1 (20%): On cultural dimensions of personal-family-community history of migration & settlement; presentation in class and submission of write-up.
2. Research Project 2 (20%): On a cultural event or cultural object; presentation in class and write-up submitted.
3. Seminar (10%): presentation and discussion of one assigned reading.
4. Group assignment (10%): class-based assignment; group presentation; group Grade
6. Final term paper (40%): on an assigned topic or approved proposed topic.
By the end of the module, students are expected to:
1. Have gained some in-depth, nuanced and reflective understanding of key issues and contested meanings in Singapore’s multiculturalism through literature, discussion and research.
2. Be able to summarise, analyse and critique some main issues, especially their competing, contested and controversial dimensions and arguments.
3. Be able to undertake simple research projects on specific topics using a variety of research methods and present them for discussion.
4. Have developed a small portfolio of research-based studies and personal observations on multiculturalism, drawing upon a variety of sources and methods.
5. Be able to interrogate and integrate studies on Singapore’s multiculturalism with research and other data.
6. Relate arguments on multiculturalism’s contentious issues to personal or group experiences.
7. Have developed a deeper intellectual and social awareness and appreciation of multiculturalism and the rights and responsibilities of various groups within the larger interests of social cohesion.
Modes of Teaching and Learning
The instructional and learning approaches used in this module are grounded in lectures, collaborative learning through seminar presentations and discussions of research projects undertaken, discussion of readings, site visits and short analytical essays and reflective writings.
Intellectual Content and Disciplinarity
The module offers some theoretical and mainly empirical perspectives on multiculturalism in the contexts of Singapore, using mainly sociological, historical and economic perspectives and insights. These are augmented by perspectives from geography, heritage studies and memory studies.
Other Class Policies
Students are expected to be punctual (the class starts on time), observe regular attendance and to participate actively in discussions and projects.
Deadlines/penalties: Unless you have a legitimate and documented excuse for not being able to submit an assignment on time, deadlines will not be extended and late assignments will result in lower grades. If you are unable to attend a class, it is your responsibility to find out what was discussed and required.
Academic integrity: Academic dishonesty (e.g. cheating, plagiarism, fabrication) is a very serious violation of trust and will result in a failing grade; students will also be referred to university authorities for disciplinary action. Plagiarism—the use of other people’s ideas as if they were your own—is a serious offence. Your assignments will be submitted for checking. If you are unclear about how to properly use or cite scholarly work, please consult me. There are also websites with useful information about what constitutes plagiarism, how to use sources appropriately, and how to evaluate your sources (particularly internet sources). See, for example, http://www.plagiarism.org/.
To be uploaded as a document that includes assignments allocated to named students for class presentation.
See Assessment section.
It is to preferred that students have taken a critical thinking and writing module.
Not applicable to USP modules.