Popularising Policy:(Re)forming Culture and the Nation in Singapore

Terence Lee

Abstract


Cultural policy in Singapore arguably takes on a ‘policing’ dimension, as it is typically about media censorship vis-à-vis the maintenance of social and political control. At the same time, it aims to extract economic productivity from citizens working in the arts and cultural sector. This paper analyses the cultural mentality of the Singapore government by taking a new look cultural policy positions in Singapore. It provides a brief summary of recent policy statements, namely: Singapore 21 (1999) and The Renaissance City Report (2000), and looks at how these messages of (re)forming culture are relayed and popularised to the Singaporean public. To ensure that these messages reach and engage the people, the Singapore Government employs a mass popularisation strategy where popular cultural items – most notably national pop-songs, music video clips and images of Singapore as youthful and ‘cool’ – are heavily mobilised. As this paper will evince, the lyrics and mediated video images of national songs are not only powerful purveyors of the myth of nationhood, they are also essential tools of national culture and policy. This approach, as this paper will argue, has an immediate dual effect of reinforcing the hegemony of the economic and the legitimisation of the political in Singapore.

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Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management; ISSN 1449-1184
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