Essay On Xenophobia In Singapore

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Together with its booming economy, Singapore has seen its population more than double in the past thirty-odd years. This accelerated rate of migration, coupled with the lagging growth in its resident population, has led to rising xenophobia – an irrational fear or hatred of foreigners that is commonly associated with antagonistic attitudes towards immigrants – in Singapore. This paper will discuss xenophobia in relation to ethnocentrism, and consider two ways in which globalisation has contributed to the emergence and exacerbation of this social problem.

While the state’s stand is that xenophobia in Singapore is a phenomenon confined to a minority of the population, and thus not a social problem, various parties have contended otherwise. Robert Heiner (2002) suggests that for something to be considered a social problem, it must be “regarded as bad or undesirable by a significant number of people, or a number of significant people who mobilise to eliminate it” (p. 3).
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As defined by William Sumner (1907), ethnocentrism refers to the viewpoint where “one’s own group is the center of everything and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it… Each group thinks its own folkways the only right ones, and if it observes that other groups have other folkways, these excite its scorn.” Milton Bennett (2013) observed that ethnocentric individuals display skewed perceptions in two ways. Firstly, they view transgressors as “deviants from their own group rather than normal people in a different group”, with different norms and values. Secondly, they “fail to attribute equal humanity to others”, for instance, ascribing simplistic and one-dimensional motivations to the actions of “others”. As a result of these skewed perceptions, society experiences an increase in xenophobic sentiments when a group of “others” – in this case, foreigners – become a perceived
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