Life is Not Complete without Shopping: Consumption Culture in Singapore

6 June, 2017

Photo Credit: “Old and New” from SRN’s SG Photobank

What makes Singapore’s consumption culture a vital part of its national identity? From June to August every year, the shopping malls lining the streets of Singapore are covered with large signs promoting even larger discounts for the Great Singapore Sale. Apart from giving Singaporeans yet another reason to shop, the Great Singapore Sale serves as an excellent tourist attraction, particularly because it occurs during the summer vacation period. When a nation-wide sale period becomes a tourist attraction, one has to wonder how deeply the activity of shopping is embedded in the construction of Singapore’s national identity. Prof Chua Beng Huat’s ‘Life is Not Complete without Shopping: Consumption Culture in Singapore’ – the title a reference to PM Goh’s remark during his National Day Rally Speech in 1996 – explores shopping and consumption across various segments of Singapore’s population, looking at the ideological networks that give rise to and perpetuate Singapore’s consumption culture. Chua delves into the intricate ties between consumption culture and its relation to national identity, specifically in Singapore. Scanning a magnifying glass over the oft -repeated joke of shopping being Singapore’s national pastime, he discusses the role shopping has played in developing the country from what it was in 1965 to what it is today. However, rather than being singularly focused on shopping and economic development, Chua sheds light on the less obvious link between shopping and the socio-cultural construction of national identity.

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