Multiculturalism vs. “Post-racial”

Upon reading the introduction to Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore (2009) by Daniel Goh and Philip Holden, I realized that I know nothing on “multiculturalism”. I assumed that the word in some sense valued cultural fluidity and tolerance. But then again…what does “cultural fluidity” really mean either? My point is, previous to this informative excerpt, I recognized “multiculturalism” on a similar playing field to “diversity”, as a vague buzz word which no one in the general public truly acknowledges the layers, history, or politics of.

In relation to how multiculturalism functions in Malaysian or Singapore government, Daniel Goh and Philip Holden make the argument that “multiculturalism imposes limits upon the recognition and interrogation of cultural difference”, because of its roots which are embedded within Western ideology. Goh and Holden press question the reality of how a postcolonial society can conceive of and redefine racial categorization which was founded upon white colonialism? Charles Taylor argues that achieving this sort of multiculturalism in a postcolonial society such as Malaysia required “non-ethnocentric” judgement, which entails the “presumption of equal value and worth” among all racial, ethnic and cultural groups. Taylor also argues that state must also reflect equal sentiments towards conserving the rights of all citizens.

Considering the politics of Malaysia’s pursuit of multiculturalism in the postcolonial framework, I am curious to further investigate how “multiculturalism” functions within the United States since we too are a postcolonial society. I am interested to understand the argument of scholars and writers who claim the United States is in a post-racial society. Based off my understanding of Goh and Holden’s definition of multiculturalism, the claim or boast of reaching a “post-racial” society implies a failure to acknowledge equality and distinguish between racial and ethnic groups. In reflection of what multiculturalism symbolizes, I find it strange how American culture applauds the ideology of the “mixing pot” which realistically encourages the active devaluing of cultures outside what is western or classically “American”.

Post Colonial Governments And Their Forgotten Peoples

Malaysia and Singapore, two nations embracing multiculturalism within the perimeters of a post colonial mindset. Both nations exhibit a post colonial mindset in their government structure. This can be referred to as racial governmentality, and is defined as a pressing issue for Malaysia and Singapore by Goh and Holden in Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore (2009). This ideology results in the lack of recognition for minorities living within Malaysia and Singapore, and allows the majority ethnicities to thrive. Through the examples provided by Goh and Holden, the forgotten people of Malaysia and the issues they face are exemplified. 

Racial Governmentality is defined as a system that allows one race – amongst others within a nation- to thrive whilst the others are left without recognition, representation, and very few resources. Goh and Holden highlight the origins of racial governmentality in Malaysia by explaining the way in which the British segregated the population socially, economically and geographically. The Chinese were “placed as commercial middlemen”, whereas the Malay’s were “confined to the fields” and Indians “imported as municipal; and plantation laborers”. (Holden, Goh. 5) Goh and Holden highlight this societal organization as important pre-text to explaining the way racial governmentality operates today. This organization and separation of races highlights the post colonial mindset  that Influenced this social separation and categorization. This organization lead to the “hardening of racial categories” (Holden, Goh, 5) which is what contributes to Malaysia’s current system of racial identification. Malaysian citizens have the option of identifying as Chinese, Malay, Indian or Other. This system of organization excludes the mired of other ethnicities that inhabit Malaysia, specifically the native peoples of the land – the Orang Asal. The exclusion of the Orang Asal within Malaysia’s system of identification highlights the lack of recognition of indigenous peoples – a expected effect of colonial and post colonial attitudes. The marginalization of the Orang Asal exemplifies the significance of racial governmentality and its roots in colonialism as Malaysia gives priority to other ethnicities, even over the native people of the land.

Goh and Holden’s points on racial govermentality illustrate the everlasting impacts of colonialism and exemplify the meaning of a post colonial society through their analysis of Malaysia and Singapore’s establishment and organization. Furthermore, Malaysia’s system of identification highlights the way in which racial governmentality operates and results in the oppression of other races.

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Works Cited

Goh, Daniel P.S. and Holden, Philip. Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore. New York, Routledge, 2009.

Racial Governmentality in Singapore and Malaysia as Enforced by Colonization

In the case of multicultural relations in Singapore and Malaysia, the age-old adage holds true: history repeats itself. In the introduction to Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore, Goh and Holden argue that the post-colonial racial governmentality in Southeast Asia continued to exist following independence (2009). Additionally, the frameworks that shaped colonial racial governmentality were set in place by pre-existing racialization. The social constructs that form post-colonial racial governmentality are both influenced by pre-colonial racial constructs and the aftershocks of colonial rule, and continue to exist into the present.

This evolution of racial governmentality is interesting because it illuminates how European colonizers have historically enforced racial systematization in their colonies. However, this systematization was also sometimes pre-existent in colonized nations. Racial governmentality is defined as a governmental system in a multicultural society that primarily focuses on the needs of a specific racial group. Goh and Holden state that the enforcement of racial separation in colonized societies was “not invented by colonial powers […] but rather built on and radically transformed pre-existent social imaginaries” (5). Here, Goh and Holden define racial governmentality as a system enforced by colonialism. However, the framework for this system was laid in place my pre-existing racial systems.

Additionally, racial governmentality has continued to exist post-colonialism in Singapore and Malaysia. Goh and Holden state that “colonialism’s racial governmentality was something that could not easily be left behind by the new national state” (6). Goh and Holden continue to describe the state of the People’s Action Party in Singapore and the United Malays National Organization in Malasyia (6). These organizations sought to reinforce racial primacy in their respective countries through civilian effort (6). In the 1970s and 1980s, similar movements took root as the Malaysian government enacted policies favoring “sons of the soil” (7). The fact that racial separation was often in place before colonization, however, should not be taken to dispel the role that colonization played in racial governmentality in Singapore and Malaysia. Both foreign and domestic influences have played a role in shaping racial governmentality in Singapore and Malaysia.

In conclusion, racial governmentality has roots that extend back to pre-colonial times in Singapore and Malaysia. However, colonial powers amplified these roots, and following colonization, Singapore and Malaysia continued to foster policies and movements that favored racial governmentality. As Goh and Holden state, “historical consciousness plays a major part in the formation of our identities and the definition of multicultural possibilities” (8). The histories of Singapore and Malaysia in terms of multicultural relations shape the present. These histories, furthermore, have influenced the presence of racial governmentality in these nations.


Works Cited

Goh, Daniel P.S. and Holden, Philip. Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore. New York, Routledge, 2009.




Making Sense of a Census

I officially learned about race while sitting in my elementary school classroom years ago when I was taking the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, a state test that begins in third grade. Before then, color and ethnicity was how I distinguished myself from my siblings and friends. But in that moment I was given 5 categories of races to choose from. A look into the way the question of race is approached in a non western perspective is presented in the book Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore (2009) by Daniel Goh and Philip Holden. The authors point us to new views of the construction of race in these countries but also allow us to see how they are similar to the wider world through institutionalization.

         The authors clearly show how the current “state multiculturalism” that exists in both countries are rooted in the colonial past that has framed them (2). It is not just present in a political sphere, but also has a significant effect in the way people see and interact with one another. The authors discuss how this influence creates a “common sense” among the people in a multicultural nation. In critiques of this institutionalization, people see “limits” in “the recognition and interrogation of cultural difference,” which questions how people today can escape a colonial legacy that perpetuates a narrow view of the demographics of the nation (3).  The authors say, “the institutionalizations of identities has foreclosed commitments to cultures other than the official categories of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (CMIO) inherited from the British colonial administration.” (3) This shows  how the decisions of colonizers can directly influence the prioritization of groups in the distributing of resources. It lives on in the forms that people complete, and in turn informs the lives they get to live in their multicultural state.

         I find it interesting how the categories seem so fixed and known to be referred to as the CMIO acronym. I think about my experience as a young kid having to choose between the categories of White, Black, American Indian, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. I don’t believe there was even an ‘other’ option my first time taking the PSSA, as I remember having to choose a race I have never identified with on several occasions over the years. But even if and when I had the chance to chose other, I knew I still didn’t belong. Even when I answer yes to the ‘Hispanic or Latino’ question today, I still feel out of place when it comes down to race. And so I wonder what it must be like for a child, adult or anyone being a descendent from immigrants having to choose between CMIO. I wonder how my experience gives me a different world view from someone my age in Malaysia or Singapore trying to make sense of their place in institutionalized multiculturalism.


Works Cited

Goh, Daniel P.S. and Philip Holden. Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore. New York, Routledge, 2009

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What Gets Left Behind

As an American Studies major, I’ve had a lot of exposure to the histories that contributed to much of the United States’ diversity including the genocide of indigenous people, slavery, and various waves of migration and immigration.  Not often, however, do I consider the ways in which other, non-Western countries have become the way they are currently.  In an introduction written by Daniel P.S. Goh and Philip Holden of the book Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore (2009), the state of multiculturalism in both Malaysia and Singapore is explained as a direct result of colonization.  At one point more specifically, the authors argue that colonial legacies have left a racialized version of multiculturalism.  Malaysians and Singaporeans then were left to create a “medley” of different cultural communities from the remaining racialized groups (Goh and Holden 4).

Goh and Holden expressed how the governments of Malaysia and Singapore had to “negotiate the colonial legacies of racialization and transform them into postcolonial multiculturalisms” which led to the “creation of a colonial plural society” (4).  Such a society is one in which racial and ethnic identities are put ahead of national identity.  European colonizers’ left-behind system of racial classification is one that ignites different cultural communities to cling on to their separate religious and ideological identities within their respective groups.  I find this idea interesting because contrastingly, in the U.S. groups tend to form sub-cultures only after they’ve been locked out of equal opportunities within larger structures and institutions.  Many different ethnic groups in the U.S. wish to claim themselves to be thought of as full American citizens, but their race, religion, or cultural group is often forced into their identity.Image result for multiculturalism

Comparing Malaysian and Singaporean multiculturalism to the myth of the U.S. “melting pot” brings into question how best societies in general should integrate many different kinds of people into one functioning nation.  How do communities preserve their ethnic heritage while still tagging part of their identity to the representation of their holistic country?

Works Cited

Goh, Daniel P. S. and Philip Holden. “Postcoloniality, Race, and Multiculturalism.” Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore. Routledge, 2009, pp. 1-8.



New Racism in Malaysia and Singapore

Historian often say history repeats itself until we learn the lesson that is meant to be learned, and we make the necessary changes to become a more globally accepting, equal, and interconnected society and world. One way history has been repeating itself for centuries is with the way in which we categorize people.Daniel Goh and Philip Holden show the continuance of racial structures that promote “institutionalized colonial identities” (3) which turns into a different form or “new racism” (2) in our society decades after a country established its freedom from their colonizers in their book, Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore (2009).Goh and Holden also acknowledge the damaging effects of this continuance and of the “new racism” it forms.

  To start of, Goh and Holden states that these two countries government are, “shaped by a racial governmentality” (1). Racial govermentiality first started when British assigned labor systems in the countries that they colonized such as Malaysia and Singapore. The British recognized any progress socially, economically, or culturally as being tied to your race. Therefore, racial structures were created that positioned a person’s race and ethnic identity ahead of their Singaporean or Malaysian identity. This created “institutionalized colonial identities’ (3), because years after these colonized countries such as Malaysia and Singapore fought for their freedom, the effects and racial structures stemming from a racial governmentality that the British practiced in these countries remained. Goh and Holden essentially make the argument that race and multiculturalism function as a continuance of “institutionalized colonial identities” (3) that creates “new racism” (2) in countries like Malaysia and Singapore whom were colonized and later established their freedom.This means that the act of freedom from colonizers is not enough, there has to be more actions taken to rectify the structures they left. Malaysia and Singapore are examples that a colonized country still relies on the established government by British colonizers even in a postcolonial and multicultural state.

One way we see this argument shown as accurate is through the use of Robert Hefner’s collection of essays (2001). Hefner’s works showcases the, “investigation of multiculturalism in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in the production and reproduction of precolonial, colonial and postcolonial pluralism”(2). This goes to show how “new racism” stems from the precolonial and colonial decades of history, because the “institutionalized colonial identities” established by the British are still present today in countries that have postcolonial pluralism. I found this to be revealing because often when people think of a postcolonial or multicultural/pluralistic country, they think of it as a melting pot such as with the United States. The terms or view point of multicultural or melting pot often gives of the impression that the country and its citizens are equal, diverse, and legally understanding of everyone. However, that is not true because we see the effects of the race systems from colonial days that still show face in the legal, social, and cultural aspects of our society today. For example, in Malaysia, the “politics of recognition” (3) shows how one must navigate race to have access to resources because it is not evenly distributed among citizens. This is similar to America where the race you are born into already has serious stereotypes accompanied with it. For Blacks, this is often shown through the wealth and economic gap that shows how minorities like blacks are more likely to live in poorer segmented neighbors.

History repeats itself as we learn it, until we understand it enough to change it. The understanding that one has control of their own fate is then seen as only possible if we as a society decide that we want to change our fate and take another route not tied to our colonizers. Daniel Goh and Philip Holden are taking the necessary steps in learning the colonial history of Malaysia and Singapore, and exposing the recurring effects British colonizers have had on the land. They are also arguing for the necessary change in the ways we use “institutionalized colonial identities” (3) because it is creating a system for “new racism” as seen in other countries like America who went from slavery to Jim Crow laws. It is interesting how history has been repeating itself, but it is also revealing because Goh and Holden are revealing to us how to change the continuance of a racially charged and oppressive history.

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Works Cited

Goh, Daniel P.S. and Holden, Philip. Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore. New York, Routledge, 2009.



Lenses Of Multiculturalism


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.



Works Cited

Goh, Daniel P.S. and Holden, Philip. Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore. New York, Routledge, 2009. 


Equality of Racial & Cultural Identities


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In the text, “Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore,” (2009) Daniel Goh and Philip Holden discuss multiple main ideas but the one I want focus on is, “institutionalized colonial racial identities” (3). According to Goh and Holden, “institutionalized colonial racial identities” (3) was imbedded in social political aspects of Singapore and Malaysia because it influenced how people understood identities of others and themselves. Unfortunately it influenced favoritism of certain cultural groups over another, so depending on a person’s culture, they received favoritism or were disregarded.

The objective Goh and Holden make, is that different cultural identities should have “equal value and worth,” (3). And to do that there needs to be a rearrangement of, “colonial and postcolonial cultures” (4) through the government. The government is categorized into, “civil groups, citizens and residents as postcolonial actors”, (4) but the way the cultural racial groups are set up makes it difficult to change things so they have to settle for compromising, “institutionalized colonial racialization,” (3) until they can reform it to a new multiculturalism where one race is not ranked higher or lower than another.

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This led to the grouping of labor for people based on the racial and cultural group they belonged to in Malaysia under British rule, “Thus Chinese were placed as commercial middlemen aliens, Malays and Indonesian migrants confined to the fields as indigenous peasant smallholders, and the Indians imported as municipal and plantation labourers,” (5) depending on the rank a racial group has the labor can be bad.

Racial categories relates to America too because both America, Malaysia and Singapore incorporated the same tactics, which are grouping specific racial groups in categories to solely control and regulate their lives, for example in Malaysia, “new immigrant communities were segregated geographically, socially and economically from the local population,” (5). America is perceived as a melting pot of cultures that are so diverse and live in harmony but in reality, America was built on racist fundamentals, is not what it was made out to be which is a country that is accepting and welcoming of everyone no matter how different they are in regard to race and culture. America has strategically done things to keep certain racial groups more controlled such as, segregation in schools and the busing system. Overall, these countries have done everything in their power to put certain racial groups above others.

Works Cited

Goh, Daniel P.S. and Holden Philip. Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore.  New York, Routledge, 2009.







Institutionalized Identities in Malaysia & Singapore

Organizing people into groups fitting their race and culture has been a struggle for centuries. Not so much a struggle for the people themselves, but for the colonizers who come to their land and become tasked with forming a new
hierarchy of races. Daniel Goh and Philip Holden address these issues of “institutionalized identities”(3) in their book Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore (2009), by demonstrating how devastating it is for groups excluded from those categories. 

Goh and Holden first credit Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylors argument regarding state imposition. He claims a state giving support to “selected cultures
can be justified only as long as the fundamental rights of citizens within commitments to other cultures or no commitments are protected” (3). Taylor’s ideas for a fair acknowledgment of all races is contradicted in the forms of state multiculturalism in Singapore and Malaysia imposed by the British. The creation of “official categories” of race create a category know as “other” who do not identify as Chinese, Malay, or Indian. Goh and Holden argue that this system makes it impossible not to “commit”(3) to one of the 4 groups. The groups hierarchal position in society reflects how citizens are treated.

I find this interesting considering it has similar parallels of how America views race. We live in a multicultural society and yet it is evident races are treated different. But even before society decides how to treat them, the government must first decide which racial box everyone belongs in. As in Malaysia and Singapore, some races are excluded. Latinos for example are not considered a race despite us being the second largest ethnicity in the United States. Filling out forms leaves many of us confused since we are either given our own “race section” or “other”. If there is no “other” option we are left with the confusing task of categorizing ourselves into races we may not feel accurately represent us. As discussed in class today, similar issues regarding declaration of race on documents appear in Malaysia. 

It is important to understand that the definition of multiculturalism includes supporting a diverse number of racial and cultural backgrounds. But a problem arises when we have foreign powers imposing their pre-colonial views of race on ethnic people. It creates a huge confusing and unfair mess we are still trying to figure out to this day. 


Works Cited:

Goh, Daniel P.S. and Holden, Philip. Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore. New York, Routledge, 2009.