Thoughts from a Four-Sided Literature

February 14, 2015


This essay appears in the booklet Singapore: Diverse Cultures, Distinct Literature, produced by the National Book Development Council of Singapore for the New Delhi World Book Fair 2015. Singapore is the Guest of Honour Country at the fair held between 14 and 22 February 2015.

Cultural diversity is seen increasingly as not just a hallmark of some societies but also an inevitability in global culture. The shift in understanding is the result of a growing awarenesss that the issues of social convergence and tolerance that will define tomorrow’s world depend on it. This awareness is helped in turn by what is learnt through ever-expanding commerce, travel, technology, and knowledge.

Singapore’s own embrace of cultural diversity has an older and more straightforward reason. Diverse ethnic, linguistic, and religious communities had already populated the island by the time it became a British trading post in the early nineteenth century. This condition put stress on what must become one of its central concerns when it achieved full political independence in 1965. The Singapore today – which enshrines equality for all, regardless of race, language, and religion – is a product of that early pragmatic resolve to protect Singaporeanness.

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Gwee Li Sui

To read the full text, click here.

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