Mediating Singapore: National Identity and the National Day Parade

Selvaraj Velayutham

To my parents, for their sacrifice and determination


Chapter 1: Inventing National Identity

Chapter 2: Representing National Identity (not available at present)

Chapter 3: Mediating National Identity




Copyright licence/restriction. Permission to copy all or parts of this dissertation for study and research purposes is hereby granted.

I declare that this dissertation is my own account of my research and contains as its main content work which has not previously been submitted for a degree at any tertiary educational institution.

Selvaraj Velayutham
6 November 1995>/p>


The Singapore National Day Parade is a politically and culturally significant event held annually to commemorate the birthday of the nation. Historically the Parade form appeared in order to mark the anniversary of the attainment of Singapore’s self-rule in 1966. Since then, the euphoria over self-government has been translated into a celebration of national formation. The National Day Parade is an invented tradition which epitomises the national character of Singapore. It is through the specific functions of cultivating nationalist sentiments and representing forms of national identification that the Parade can be understood as a vital socio-cultural practice in the discourse of nationality. This dissertation examines, then, how meanings pertaining to national identity formation are reproduced and circulate within the practice of parading. On the one hand, the articulation of national identity and national unity is only symbolically possible through the acts of control, discursive strategies and ideological determinations. This allows for the containment of competing interests and the sustainment of power relations. On the other hand, national identity formation is not independent of complex social relations and changes. That is to say, there are greater uncertainties and challenges facing the evolution of national identity and national unity than can be fully controlled by any one discourse or interest group. Viewed in this way, it can be argued that the Singaporean National Day Parade is a mediatory event which constantly attempts to negotiate differences, divisions, conflicts and contradictions that may otherwise characterise this multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and non-Western but already always Westernised national polity. The National Day Parade is thus actively involved in processes of mediating identity and managing difference for the purpose of positioning the nation and the character of its people.


Firstly, I would like to thank Dr. Niall Lucy, who has always fascinated me as a true inspiring academic, for his encouragement and confidence throughout this project. I am grateful to Dr. Ananda Rajah, Dr. Gavan Butler, Dr. Carol Warren and Dr. Jon Stratton for their contributions at the preliminary stage of my research. I wish to thank Dr. Tom O'Regan and Dr. Xian Lin Song for offering me some insightful remarks on my paper. I am also grateful to the staffs at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies for allowing me to use their library facilities. My heartiest thanks go to my good friends Ramu and Asha in Singapore for offering their invaluable assistance throughout this project. I also thank two special friends, Irvin Lim and Tay Cheng Cheng for being the constant source of inspiration and creative ideas. Their hospitality and company have been much appreciated (including the many cups of tea). I extend my gratitude to Vijayandran Devadas, for bearing with my absurdities and sharing many experiences together for the past four years. Most of all, I am indebted to my parents, for without whose love and financial support, I would not have come this far. Finally I thank my brother and best buddy, Subramaniam who has always kept me going.

New: 19 August, 1997 | Now: 27 April, 2015