Secularity in the Singapore habitus: an investigation of the genealogy of secularity in Singapore from 1819 to 1990

Koh, Germaine (2023). Secularity in the Singapore habitus: an investigation of the genealogy of secularity in Singapore from 1819 to 1990. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis investigates the genealogy of secularity in modern-day Singapore from 1819 to 1990. It argues that existing paradigms tend to approach secularity from either societal or institutional perspectives, thus reducing the meaning of secularity to either state-religion relations or the public role of religions. Thus, this thesis studies the interactions between institutional and societal perspectives of religion to reveal a more complex and case-specific study of secularity in Singapore, focusing on state-religion relations and the societal status of religion from the perspectives of Christians, Muslims, and state actors.

This thesis uses Michel Foucault’s genealogy as methodology and Norbert Elias’ concept of the habitus as analytical framework to capture how tensions between religious and state actors produce secularity dispositions in the national habitus of Singapore. In gist, the habitus is a product of history and interactions between groups in society that produces instincts or dispositions that the society operates upon. The habitus as a framework presents viable tools to analyse interactions between state and religious actors, and intersections between religious and national identities. In its investigation, this thesis identifies significant historical sequences that contributed to the production of secularity principles and structures in the present-day habitus in Singapore. At these junctures, there are corresponding shifts and continuities in the society’s secularity dispositions brought about by contestations between state and religious actors on the shape of secularity in the national habitus. This thesis hopes that it has challenged the existing theories and models of state-religion relations by presenting the habitus as a useful framework for studying the specificities of secularity in different societies.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia


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