Singaporean National Identity – Portraition and Reality

Singaporean National Identity – Portraition and Reality


Ever since Singapore was independent from Malaysia in 1965, the government lead by Lee Kuan Yew had always been trying to erase the Malaysian and colonial background, which is executed by creating a new Singaporean national identity. As a strong government, they tried to come up with an ideal national identity image with lack of adaption of the Singaporeans’ conception of so and thus resulting in creating a contradiction in the government’s master plan visions.

The government is very careful when shaping the national identity because at the beginning the government needed to reduce the tension between different ethic groups and create harmony. Singapore inhabits mainly Chinese, Malay and Indian mainly so ethnicity cannot be the key element of national identity. Therefore, the government needs to promote national identity using civic symbols and other elements with symbolic matter. Infrastructure would be a fast and strong way to create symbolic meaning to the national identity.

In fact, national identity is formed by the people’s sense of belonging and they obligation by law. The sense of belonging is created by sharing experience that bonding will be form when the peers are spending time and communicating with each other. To achieve that, education has done an important role in this aspect as the younger generation receive similar values, knowledge and language it will be easier for them to disperse even they are of different ethic groups. Also the nation service also forced the young Singaporeans to have a greater sense of obligation towards the country and these can make a stronger and more long-termed civic identity for the Singaporeans.


Image reference:

  1. “NUS Kent Misterial Forum © 2009, Sphrazor”
  2. “Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore © 2015”
  3. Book: Oatman, S. (2009) Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs. 2nd Ed. Germany: GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Institute of Asian Studies and Hamburg University Press.



1 Comment on “Singaporean National Identity – Portraition and Reality

  1. I find the idea of Singaporean government trying to erase its colonial background and build a new national identity very intriguing. The nation- building part is understandable as it bears similar significance in every country, but I wonder how a history can actually be erased? As national identity is built on elements that tie people together such as culture, language, history. Those are rooted concept that cannot be exploited, so even though traces such as architecture are erasable, it is hard to erase memory and ensure silence of the citizens. I guess even a strong authority like the North Korea cannot stop the spread of social tales.

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