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9 Policing Religion: Discursive Excursions into Singapore's Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act

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Chapter Summary

This chapter applies discourse theory to a study of Singapore's Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (?MRHA'). In discourse theory, language choices and power relations in society are seen as co-determined such that an analysis of communication in a particular social institution ties together the macro analysis of society with the micro analysis of particular texts. The chapter traces the contemporary discursive genealogy of ?religion' as a security issue, and the related genealogy of the state's characterization of ?religion' and ?politics' as mutually exclusive forms of activity. Discourse in Singapore, legal and otherwise, is marked by the recurrence of certain categories of social identity, in particular, ?race', ?language' and ?religion', framed by the category ?nation'. In May 1987, a group of young, English educated professionals were accused of being part of a Marxist conspiracy to overthrow the state. ?Class' is almost an absent category in public discourse in Singapore.

Keywords: discourse theory; Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act(MRHA); Marxist conspiracy; public discourse; Singapore



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