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Content Analysis on Singapore’s Immigration Rhetoric in the Media

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Abstract

The existing literature on acculturation focuses heavily on the interaction between immigrant and recipient nationals, and it rarely considers the perspectives of other players, such as the state authorities. The current study aims to illuminate on the dominant acculturation narratives and the temporal changes using content analyses on migration-related reports found in the state-controlled media. The data were drawn from official statements on immigrant–host relations enunciated by politicians, policymakers, and state authorities in Singapore between 2006 and 2011, a period where 2 national elections were held. Analysis showed overwhelming concerns on perceived realistic threats from inflow migration between 2006 and 2008; to address the electorate’s concerns, politicians stressed the common economic benefits that immigration brought to Singapore. However, between 2009 and 2011, the concerns had shifted to symbolic threats as a source of tension; policymakers responded with greater emphasis on host heritage preservation, and advocated greater in-group favoritism and recognition to the status of the Singaporean identity. The shift in narrative was further echoed in the reversal of the onus of intercultural adaptation. The political rhetoric in the first half of the study period called for Singaporeans to take ownership to ensure that valued immigrant groups adapt well (i.e., reverse assimilation). A more balanced perspective was observed in the later half with both immigrants and hosts taking a shared responsibility. Although no causal relations can be established, the findings point to the potential role and influence of the state authorities, and the sociopolitical dynamics that is unique to Singapore.

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