Complex Creolization: the evolution of modern sport in Singapore

Horton, Peter A. (2001) Complex Creolization: the evolution of modern sport in Singapore. European Sports History Review, 3. pp. 77-104.

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As an ex-British Imperial territory Singapore still exhibits many manifestations of the 144 years of cultural imposition of their colonial masters. Absolute political independence has only been a reality for some 35 years. Culturally, however, Singapore began to assume a unique identity the moment social institutions were established. Sport, one of the most pervasive cultural exports of the British, soon gained a significant cultural position in the new colony. This paper analyses the emergence and development of the sports culture of Singapore in relation to the role of the dominant racial group, the Chinese. It is demonstrated that the emergence and development of Singapore’s sport culture, though initially the upshot of the dominant ideology of British Imperialism, soon assumed traits relevant to the idiosyncratic nature of the colony. Even in colonial Singapore, the Chinese were numerically the largest ethnic group; today they are now not only numerically superior, they dominate politically, economically and culturally. This paper illustrates how the Chinese offered a powerful cultural imperialism that ran parallel to the apparently dominant British ideology. In sport this influence had a significant impact upon the diffusion of sport and upon the development of societal attitudes towards physical activity and recreation. It has been demonstrated that the schools of Singapore played a major role in the establishment of its sports culture. The predominant sporting ideology of the leading boys’ schools of Singapore mirrored that of English Public Schools: muscular Christianity. However, the attitude towards sport and physical activity in general, that emanated from the Chinese schools has also had an enduring effect on the sports culture of the nation. The traditional Chinese attitude to ‘play’ (and thus sport and physical activity) exerted a considerable negative influence upon the efforts to establish sport in Singapore. The sport culture of modern Singapore is thus a complex creolized form of the model left by the British. In Singapore, the ideal of pragmatism pervades all avenues of social, political, and economic activity. This pragmatism is the direct product of the policies and philosophy of Lee Kuan Yew and his successors. Any new shift in attitude towards sport – the sports culture - will be only tolerated if viewed as being politically sound; nothing is left to chance.

Item ID: 415
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1462-1495
Keywords: modern sport, Singapore, culture
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Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2006
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1399 Other Education > 139999 Education not elsewhere classified @ 30%
13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified @ 70%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939999 Education and Training not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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