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An unsettled majority: immigration and the racial ‘balance’ in multicultural Singapore

Frost, MR; (2021) An unsettled majority: immigration and the racial ‘balance’ in multicultural Singapore. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies , 47 (16) pp. 3729-3751. 10.1080/1369183x.2020.1774112. Green open access

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Abstract

This article examines the official idea of racial ‘balance’ in Singapore and its relationship to modern multiculturalism or (as the island’s government refers to it) ‘multiracialism’. The article explores the colonial origins of Singapore’s contemporary ethnic population breakdown and the emergence of ethnic Chinese as the island’s majority community. It examines how the Singapore government has come to officially depict the island’s multicultural ‘success story’ since independence, and the official emphasis on the necessity of maintaining fixed ethnic ratios which ensure that Chinese remain roughly three-quarters of the island’s settled population. At the same time, this article interrogates the official rationale behind such a policy, illuminating the colonial-era discursive assumptions that underpin it, and highlighting the way such assumptions have been contested. The article especially focuses on the role that immigration has played in the state’s effort to ensure Singapore’s racial ‘balance’, and argues that such an ethnically-determined immigration policy has frequently unsettled the Chinese majority it has been intended to bolster, while calling into question the multicultural idealism on which the Republic of Singapore was ostensibly founded.

Type: Article
Title: An unsettled majority: immigration and the racial ‘balance’ in multicultural Singapore
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/1369183x.2020.1774112
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369183x.2020.1774112
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Singapore, multiculturalism, immigration, demography, population, ethnic relations, colonial discourse
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106043
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