The Past in the Present: Memories of the 1964 'Racial Riots' in Singapore

in Asian Journal of Social Science
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Abstract

The 1964 racial riots are a prominent event in Singapore's history. They are often cited officially but rarely discussed by the Singapore community. This paper examines the riots from the perspective of a sociology of collective memories. A comparison of official and popular memories reveals a number of contrasts in the interpretations placed on these events by different groups. An official interpretation of the memory of the riots is disseminated to the younger generation through the media and education, and used to justify and legitimize the ideology of multiracialism and its social policies. Older people's memories give rise to more varied interpretations. Although the riots occurred more than thirty years ago, they have not been forgotten. The past still lives in the present because it serves a purpose and has implications for the next generation.

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