Managing Cultural Difference:Theorizing the S’pore Model

The question of managing ethnocultural diversity—i.e. of how to reconcile particular ethnic and cultural claims with the broader demands of national cohesion and citizenship—is a challenging and pressing issue faced by all multiethnic states and met with a variety of responses that draw from different intellectual traditions. For Singapore, this question has been a key feature of its nation-building process since 1965 and its response has been the cultivation of an ostensibly ‘Asian’ multiculturalism styled in contradistinction to ‘Western’ liberal models. This module examines and evaluates the conceptual framework of the Singaporean model of multiculturalism. It does so by positioning it in relation to other existing theories of ethnocultural identity and rights. In so doing, it asks: 1. What are the theoretical and normative underpinnings of the Singaporean model? 2. How does it stand up against the liberal-democratic model? 3. What might be its differences between both the ‘Western’ communitarian and ‘Confucian’ communitarian models of multiculturalism? 4. Does it adequately account for the complexities of identity? 5. Can, given a changing ethnic and cultural demography, the Singaporean model survive?

Login Required