Land Imagined, Nation Cited/Sited - The National Day Parade Sites and Their Varying Conceptions of Land
by LEE Wen Hui, Jolene
Singapore’s independence was not one that was of the common will of the people and the state. The separation from Malaysia was unexpected – Singapore suddenly found her territorial boundaries re-drawn and as a result, the definition of a perceived national identity had changed. The idea of nationhood is closely tied in with the idea of territorial ground. Yet with independence, Singapore not only became ‘a little red dot’ derided for her diminutive physical size, there was also the corresponding concern that this lack of a relationship between nation and land would be detrimental to the survival of the country. The state then sought to impose tropes upon topographical ground and made use of this imagined ‘land’ to compensate for that lack of physical land.
The formation of a national identity was of utmost importance to the state. This in turn was built upon the Singapore story, a state narrative created around the trope of survival and success. This paper is based on the premise that concepts of ‘land’ contribute to this discourse of the Singapore story.
The National Day Parade was one of the mechanisms for the creation and propagation of this national identity. It is a yearly event calibrated to inspire feelings of national pride in the people and hence essential to the popularisation of the Singapore story which is played out yearly in varying forms. The Parade is an event staged to celebrate and instil a sense of home in the people, yet it has shifted its home several times during its history.
The paper seeks to study three previous Parade sites in relation to the overarching trope of the Singapore story: the Padang, the public housing estates and the National Stadium. These sites beyond being Parade sites, have their own exigent narratives that contribute to the reading of the Singapore story. The Parade sites are used as a lens into the study of the varying attitudes towards the concepts and meanings of ‘land’ that Singapore as a state and nation possesses. Through a trace of these sites, this paper attempts to study how these re-imaginings of topographical relations builds upon and contributes back to the Singapore story being performed yearly at the National Day Parade.