Globalization, Citizenship and Postfeminist Media Culture in Singapore

Project Number
OER 55/12 JRB

Project Duration
April 2013 - March 2017


NIE aims to promote a moral and philosophical, as much as skills-based, education to students, an endeavour that is reflected in the rationale behind MOE's inclusion of Literature on the Singaporean school curriculum, ensuring that students ''explore the human condition'' and ''better understand their own existence and values in relation to society'' (MOE Literature Syllabus 2013) through the study of literary texts. Directed largely by the utilitarian dimension of this aim - which offers a platform to promote universal ideals through the study of literature - trainee teachers often study canonical texts that deal with humanistic concerns, while the study of popular culture and the media remains on the margins. This is problematic, as popular media not only reflects wider movements in Anglo-American popular culture - consumed by younger Singaporeans on a daily basis - but is more commonly read by Singaporean students outside of the classroom compared to literary texts. This project will extend existing scholarship on postfeminist media culture, and provide a much needed and long overdue exploration of the representation of women's issues and the role of feminism in Singaporean media culture. In terms of practical applications, the research will directly inform the content of the courses taught at NIE. This research project seeks to explore the manner in which discourses of postfeminism have emerged - concurrently with the development of neoliberalism as a global system of governance - in the Singaporean media as a cultural condition in which feminism is positioned as irrelevant and no longer necessary. A number of research studies have been published on postfeminist media culture in North America and the UK, yet academic enquiry into media culture in Singapore has largely neglected women's issues and has been concerned with governmental control and Singapore's ideologies of pragmatism, meritocracy and multiculturalism. Projects such as Terence Lee's The Media, Cultural Control and Government in Singapore (2010) have explored issues of Singaporean citizenship, yet is representative of the manner in which current scholarship on the media in Singapore is ''gender blind'' in scope. By contrast, this project seeks to explore the manner in which Singapore's media culture mobilizes state ideologies through a globalized post-feminist discourse that specifically and erroneously positions Singaporean women as financially and politically empowered. It will examine media reports of women's role in employment, the family and the public sphere, and examine the ways in which the local media is thoroughly invested in Western discourses of neo-liberal ''new femininity'', locating women's empowerment entirely in the hands of the individual and beyond the remit of state intervention and responsibility. While the proposed project will invoke and extend many of the arguments presented in prominent research on postfeminist media culture, it will constitute the first exploration of postfeminist media culture in Asia.

Funding Source

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