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Orientalizing Singapore: psychoanalyzing the discourse of `non-Western modernity Gabrielpillai, Matilda


This study represents the scandal of current colonial racist ideologizing by focusing on the American Orientalizing project in Singapore. It argues that, in the era of global capitalism and post-colonial theory, the new colonialist epistemologies rely on collaborations between the ruling classes of the 'third world' and 'first world' as well as a rhetoric of 'native' nationalism to contain threatening non-Western economic success and to create 'third world' populations and governments that will not resist the continuation of the Western/American colonizing project. Using a Marxist-Lacanian psychoanalytical theory of hegemony, of a "libidinal politics" which focuses on the role of desire in national culture, this thesis shows that the Singapore government has used American Orientalist ideology to effect disempowering cultural changes in the people. Examining political and literary texts, I argue that the Singapore government quotes American notions of 'Oriental' difference to keep "dangerous Western (liberal) influences" from 'ethnically contaminating' the nation, and that it has hegemonized an 'Asian'/'Confucianist' nationalism by hystericizing and repressing the people's desire, leading Singaporeans to disavow their location in a post-modern world. The Orientalizing of Singapore, where Chinese identity has been produced as a masquerade of Western culture, has also generated a crisis in male identity, involving an inward-looking escapist cultural narcissism that blocks a positive response to historical realities. Paradoxically, the claim to a non-Western modernity has also been used to suppress ethnic difference by producing ethnicity as 'fetish.' The East/West discourse that emerged from the caning of an American teenager, Michael Fay, in Singapore is used to reveal the entrapment of Singapore's 'Oriental' national identity in American colonial desire, and to argue that the perceived East Asian 'cultural confidence' often spoken about today overlooks the fact that such cultural certitude accrues from the East entering into the West's fantasy scenarios and staging itself as the other's object of desire. This thesis suggests that current 'post-colonial' claims to "ethnic, non-Western" modernisms be viewed with some skepticism as possibly involving the ventriloquistic 'passing' of Western colonial ideology as the voice of the 'racial other.'

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