Popular nationalism in the wake of the 2011 national elections in Singapore



Publication Details

Lim, J. (2015). Popular nationalism in the wake of the 2011 national elections in Singapore. Japanese Journal of Political Science, 16 (2), 143-159.


This article is about the contestation of two different forms of nationalism in Singapore during and after two elections in 2011. Manufactured nationalism is topdown, state-defined and economically driven, concerned mainly about accumulation of national wealth through globalization that would eventually ‘trickle down’ to the masses. This view is promoted by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). The PAP projects Singapore as a state born out of the party’s triumph over colonialism, racial violence, and communist insurgency. Popular nationalism, on the other hand, is bottom-up and people driven, concerned about local issues concerning national identity, social cohesion, and an appreciation (or at least an understanding) of local heritage. Proponents of popular nationalism emphasize a common beginning (birth of independent Singapore on 9 August 1965), shared historical memories (local heritage), several elements of a common culture (such as the use of Singlish), and an association with a specific ‘homeland’ (born and raised in Singapore and, formales, the completion of conscription). They view Singapore as a nation-state with a unique and evolving identity destabilized by a liberal immigration policy. The elections generated considerable attention due to the gains by the opposition parties and the public airing of frustrations against the PAP government. These frustrations are strongly driven by the influx of new migrants, especially those classified as ‘foreign talent’ by the PAP government. In this article, I argue that popular nationalism has emerged in twentyfirst century Singapore and examine the debates over the future of Singapore during and after the elections.

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