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Singapore stories - language and class i Singapore stories - language and class i... - Complex Object ()
Singapore stories - language and class in Singapore : an investigation into the socio-economic implications of English literacy as a life chance among the Chinese of Singapore from 1945 to 2000 / Ernest Koh Wee Song
This thesis is an investigation into the socio-economic effects of English literacy among the Chinese of Singapore between 1945 and 2000. Through the use of oral history, statistical evidence, and existing secondary literature on the conditions of everyday life in Singapore, it explores how English literacy as a life chance has played a key role in shaping the class structures that exist among the Chinese in Singapore today. Adopting a 'perspective from below', this study provides a historical account that surveys the experiences of everyday life in Singapore through the stories of everyday life. It seeks to present an account that more accurately reflects the nation's nuanced past through defining eras in Singapore's post-war history 'Singapore Stories' in the plural, as opposed to the singular. Viewing the impact of English literacy through the prism of Max Weber's concept of life chances allows an examination of the opportunities in the lives of the interviewees cited within by distinguishing between negotiated and corralled life chances. The overarching argument made by this study is that in the later stages of Singapore's postwar history and development, English literacy was a critical factor that allowed individuals to negotiate key opportunities in life, thus increasing the likelihood of socioeconomic mobility. For those without English literacy, the range of possibilities in life became increasingly restricted, corralling individuals into a less affluent economic state. While acknowledging the significance of structural forces, and in particular the shaping influence of industrialisation, economic policy, and social engineering, this study also demonstrates how regarding the Singapore Chinese as possessing a variety of distinguishing social and economic characteristics, all of which serve to segment the community as an ethnic group, adds a new and critical
dimension to our academic understanding of the nation's social past and present. By locating areas of resistance and the development of life strategies by an individual or household, this thesis illustrates how language, literacy, and class operated within the reality of undefined and multilayered historical spaces among the Chinese of Singapore.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Western Australia, 2007
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