The subject of national identity has caught the attention of Singaporeans. Who is a Singaporean? What makes a Singaporean? Some think you have to be born and bred on the island, using terms like “true blue Singaporean” or “native Singaporean”. Others think that time and commitment is enough. Still others don’t think that it matters at all.
Even before the great reveal of the Population White Paper people were already talking about the Singaporean identity, drawing lines between citizens, new citizens, Permanent Residents (PRs), foreigners, etc. All of this informs the way in which we perceive one another, which in turn affects our views on policies, entitlements and rights.
When I first came to Cardiff University I wanted to do my Masters dissertation on the government-launched National Conversation. I wanted to track the progress of the conversation and what effect or impact it had on the populace. But as time went by I realised that there was another conversation going on, by far more interesting and more important to Singaporean society: that of nationalism and national identity.
In my dissertation I compare mainstream and alternative media coverage of three case studies: Amy Cheong’s racist Facebook comments, the SMRT bus strike and the Population White Paper. Looking at The Straits Times, TODAY, The Online Citizen and Temasek Review Emeritus I paid particular attention to who got the loudest voice in the media and how issues or groups were framed to invoke ideas of nationalism and a unified Singaporean identity.