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Textual Construction of a Nation: The Use of Merger and Separation

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History is not neutral. It is rendered ideological by the very act of being conveyed in a narrative form, for language is both the purveyor of meaning and the principle locus of ideology. This paper explores the idea of history as discourse, and its deployment in the cultural-symbolic construction of the Singapore nation. To this end, I have chosen to analyse a key moment for Singapore history, the years 1963-65, when Singapore was first merged with the nation of Malaysia, and then separated from it. The way that these events are described in official histories is used by the government of Singapore to justify its policy of multiracialism, which also serves as a legitimating device confirming the state in its political and ideological hegemony. I have examined the events through analysis of local newspapers, The Straits Times and Berita Harian, to see in what ways their reporting may have helped to mould popular understandings of what was happening.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology National University of Singapore


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