Multiculturalism is defined as cultural pluralism and diversity by the Merriam Webster dictionary. Diversity of different cultures is handled and talked about differently in various countries, for instance western multiculturalism is different than post-colonial multiculturalism. In the book Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore (2009), authors Daniel P.S Goh and Philip Holden set out to examine postcolonial multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore compared to western multiculturalism.
Goh and Holden argue that in order to be able to better understand a countries ability to sustain multiculturalism its history of postcolonialism and position in postcolonialism must be analyzed. In regard to Malaysia and Singapore, both countries state and position after colonialism needs to be studied from “the theoretical angles of cultural studies and postcolonial theory” (2). When this viewpoint is studied when discussing Malaysia and Singapore’s multicultural position it can be seen that racial identities from colonial times are still implemented onto political and social life of Singapore and Malaysia lifestyle (3).
I am captivated by the different angles that western multiculturalism and post-colonial multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore are viewed through. In the United States multiculturalism simply stands for the existence of different races, though many races are not given equal significance in the overall culture of the United States. For instance, when an immigrant arrives in this country their first task is to learn English, the primary language of this country, which simply neglects the other languages spoken in this country. The second task of an immigrant is to learn the “American” culture as quickly as possible in order to fit into society. In other words, less is required in the American view in order to be multicultural. In Singapore and Malaysia, the cast and social system of colonialism are still implemented and therefore it in my opinion seems harder to achieve multiculturalism in a country where culture is an uncertainty. In this way the statement, “historical consciousness plays a major part in the formation of our identities and the definition of multicultural possibilities” (8), emphasizes Malaysia’s and Singapore’s approach to addressing multiculturalism, and I can easily understand the historic importance.
Goh, Daniel P.S. and Holden, Philip. Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore. New York, Routledge, 2009.