Multiculturalism on Its Head: Unexpected Boundaries and New Migration in Singapore

  • Yasmin Y. Ortiga


This study investigates how discourses of multiculturalism shape public debates surrounding new migration in Singapore. Singapore’s immigration policies led to the influx of Chinese and Indian professionals, many of whom share race and class identities with local Singaporeans. However, Singaporeans of Chinese and Indian backgrounds rejected these presumed similarities, using discourses of multiculturalism to differentiate themselves from co-ethnic migrants. Based on a content analysis of news reports and online forums, this study shows how local actors portrayed new migrants as too prejudiced or bigoted to adapt to Singapore’s multiracial society, thereby creating a paradoxical application of multicultural ideals. This example highlights how contemporary immigration is creating diverse forms of inclusion and exclusion within migrant-receiving nations, challenging models, and policies of multiculturalism based solely on ethnicity and race. This paper also demonstrates how individuals can utilize the discourse of multiculturalism in forwarding their own interests and concerns. Scholarly debates have often portrayed multiculturalism as an ideology or policy imposed by state institutions, where local actors are left to either resist or accommodate such ideas. In the Singapore context, individual Singaporeans transform discourses of multiculturalism, creating a counter-discourse that challenges state immigration policies.


Singapore Multiculturalism Race Class Immigrants Super-diversity Boundaries 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, 302 Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public AffairsSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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