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The International Monetary Fund defines globalization as the “free flow of ideas, people, goods, services, and capital leads to the integration of economies and societies” (IMF, 2002). This has led to the economic and societal growth of many countries across the world. Arjun Appadurai’s (2014) theory refers to globalization as a multidimensional construct where the financial flows and trade flows along with countries own culture. With the onset of globalization and a free market economy, Singapore was able to capitalize on new industries and support the growth of existing ones, their strategy attracted “clusters of expertise and talents” (Neo & Chen, 2007, pg. 253) from all over the world, which led to a spike in immigrants.
The process of acculturation has been able to reduce the process of civil unrest through focusing on and celebrating heritage cultures within the different ethnic communities (Berry, 2005). However, Singapore’s Malaysian history is still an important part. The post-colonial theory of Adapt, Adopt, Adept by Peter Barry (1995) focuses mainly on literary cultural works, but when both theories are looked at together they give a greater understanding of the cultural history of a nation. The aim of this research is to examine how Singapore developed its cultural identity through acculturation, mainly focusing on cultural institutions preserving varied cultural heritage. There are three issues that have been important to research on acculturation internationally (Berry, 2005, Sam & Berry, 2016), to study the social engagement of individuals to larger societies and heritage. First is the success of adapting to an intercultural environment; second, forming a sense of belonging; and third, the impact of the experience by discrimination on the sense of belonging and wellbeing (Berry & Hou, 2017).
Singapore has curbed most of the effects of discrimination due to the laws. Singapore being a young nation sets itself apart from other multicultural countries by making acculturation a national objective towards a united Singaporean identity and those results can be seen even to this day which our research will examine. Acculturation takes place when there is an interaction between two or more cultural groups and their members. At a group level, cultural practices, social structures and institutions are affected. At an individual level, people’s behavior is adjusting (Berry, 2005).
According to international research, the integration strategy is most preferred (Sam & Berry, 2016 in Berry & Hou, 2017). At the opening of the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, President Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore is a place where each race is encouraged to “preserve its own unique culture and traditions while fostering mutual appreciation and respect” (Loong, 2017, 3: 20) amongst each other. Singapore, being one of the youngest advanced countries in the world, consists of several different ethnic backgrounds which include ethnic Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian (Loong, 2017). At present Singapore has 4 national languages – English, Malay, Tamil, and Chinese, for each, the National Heritage Board5 runs councils and programs.
There are similar such programs run by the National Arts Council6, People’s Association7 and more. The School of the Arts in Singapore is the first of its kind offering secondary education for talented youth to explore their creative artistic potential. Along with the standard International Baccalaureate programs, they offer programs in the arts such as theatre, film, music, literary arts and so forth as well as programs like ‘Character and Citizen Education. ’ Singapore’s Ministry of Culture Community and Youth has been creating cultural institutions like the People’s Association, National Arts Council and the Singaporean School of the Arts which have over the years helped the government in protecting various cultural ethnographies while maintaining a single national identity. Our research aims to study cultural institutions in Singapore that help preserve cultural identity and accelerate acculturation for all residing communities.
During our interviews, we intend speaking with directors, managerial officials and some participants of these cultural institutions, to better understand their objectives, motivations, and ideas for a further united Singapore. By looking at youth participation and volunteerism within these cultural institutions we aim to explain the impact that these institutions have on acculturation as well as predict the future success of Singapore’s cultural economy. To understand this quantitively within cultural institutions, we would conduct surveys of participants, volunteers, and organizers between the age of 16-34. The data collected would help further understand the impact, participation rate, and if the programs are achieving their objectives. Furthermore, we would look at attendance statistics of particular institutions People’s Association and the National Arts Council. Answering these research questions would we would analyze whether cultural institutions will be able to have a lasting effect on the united identity of the citizens of Singapore.
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