Embracing the Nation: Strategic Deployment of Sexuality, Nation, and Citizenship in Singapore

Minwoo Jung, Sociology, University of Southern California


Nation, Ethnicity, Intimacy, and Sexuality


How do sexual minorities navigate and negotiate with nationalism? While some scholars consider nationalism as a primarily exclusionary force against sexual minorities, how might we understand sexual minorities’ engagement with nationalism? I address these questions by exploring the strategic deployment of sexual and national identities of LGBT movements through the case study of Singapore’s annual LGBT-inclusive event, Pink Dot. In response to the authoritarian and heteronormative state’s construction of sexual minorities as non-national Others, Pink Dot mobilizes both sexual and national identities in an effort to forge a space of inclusion while ensuring its survival. By portraying itself as a uniquely Singaporean event and espousing national identity and belonging through symbolic and performative practices, Pink Dot leverages national identity to minimize differences from and foreground similarities to the majority. In this way, sexual minorities in Singapore endeavor to embed themselves within the narratives of the nation and claim their legitimate belonging while simultaneously projecting a nation more inclusive of sexual difference. The aspirational inclusion of sexual minorities in the national imagery, however, inevitably elicits the state’s backlash that narrowly defines the physical and symbolic boundaries of the political project. This analysis advances our understanding of the interactions between the state and social movements in shaping the relationship among the nation, sexuality, and citizenship.

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CCSEAS Conference 2021 |