Sanitizing Ethnicity: the creation of Singapore's apolitical culture

S. Lawson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Since it came to power over 40 years ago. Singapore's governing party is generally considered to have achieved not only remarkable economic growth, but also to have created a high degree of social and political stability in circumtances which seemed conductive to neither in the earlier stages of Singapore's development. These circumtances included an ethnically diverse population perceived as prone to violence and therefore a significant threat to the very survival of the nation. The article demonstrates that the government's approach to the management of ethnicity has resulted not only in the depoliticization of ethnicity, but the depoliticization of virtually all aspects of government. Thus Singapore does not have a 'political culture' so much as an 'apolitical culture' in which there is almost no legitimate space for political opposition. To accept this as a model for ethnic management is to endorse the notion that ethnic relations are not only inherently conflictual, but that they cannot be managed via more open, democratic methods of government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-84
Number of pages22
JournalNationalism and Ethnic Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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