Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-x24gv Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-21T06:21:35.075Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

13 - Geographic-Ethnic Segregation in Singapore: Emerging Schisms in Society

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2020

Get access

Summary

INTRODUCTION

Social diversity has been a hallmark of Singapore's cultural identity since the founding of the island by the British East India Company. For decades since independence in 1965, Singapore's most discernible national trait has been its multiethnic and multireligious contour with the population comprising a Chinese majority (approximately 74 per cent), followed by ethnic Malays (14 per cent), ethnic Indians (10 per cent), and other races (2–3 per cent). This ethnic proportion has remained relatively stable for over fifty years. Racial and religious identities in Singapore overlap substantively. The ethnic Malays are predominantly Muslim, the Chinese practise mainly Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity or Catholicism, and ethnic Indians embrace Hinduism, and Christianity or Catholicism. Suffice to say, this demographic terrain shapes the daily lives of people and their interactions with those from other backgrounds. It also has a profound influence on the city-state's political landscape and is closely tied to the geopolitical dynamics in the region. Beyond ethnicity and religion, there are other forms of tribalism that distinguish one group from another and, in some cases, there are material, psychological, and existential consequences.

This chapter begins with a brief history of the evolving sociodemographic scene in Singapore, followed by an introduction to the principles that govern diversity discourse in the city-state. It will highlight signs of a new socio-economic divide along geographical boundaries, tagged with ethnic overtones. The implications of this emerging spatial class segregation on urban planning will be discussed.

Broadly speaking, the British colonial government practised a Furnivall model of pluralism, where the ethnic communities each specialized in a different economic field and interact only for a functional purpose but are not emotionally invested. They maintain a separate culture, identity, language, and religion, with little or no overlap. This social environment played an influential role in shaping relations between ethnic groups via a “divide and conquer” strategy, stratifying the immigrant population via an imperialist capitalist system that emphasized ethnicity and associated it with divisions of labour. The ethnic Chinese were largely treated preferentially by the British due to their pre-eminence in trade, business enterprises, and population size, while the ethnic Malays were found mostly in the agricultural sector, resulting in essentialized identities.

Type
Chapter
Information
Navigating Differences
Integration in Singapore
, pp. 231 - 247
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×