The Cultural Articulation of Fear in Singapore - An Ethnography of Television Production Practices


Siao Yuong Fong

PhD defended at: 

Royal Holloway University of London


This thesis examines how fear is articulated in Singapore’s Chinese-language television through an ethnography of its production practices. Singapore has on more than one occasion been described as having a ‘culture of fear’. However, on closer analysis, it becomes evident that a wide range of sometimes-irreconcilable social phenomena has been represented as indicative of fear or as sources of fear for Singaporeans. This raises the question of who represents something as fear or as reason to be fearful, for whom, on which occasions, and for what purposes. With an almost 100% television penetration rate in Singapore, this thesis proposes that television is a good mass medium to investigate how fear is articulated in Singapore, with a particular reference to Chinese-language programmes, which are historically more popular than others. Such an approach involves investigating the processes of representation in Singapore television, including the specific ways in which producers understand and represent what Singaporeans are supposed to fear as well as what they raise as their own anxieties. Informed by ethnographic materials gathered during 15 months of fieldwork, the thesis analyses the worries of producers while working on six entertainment television programmes, namely a Reality TV show, two game shows, and three dramas. Through the producers’ concerns, the thesis examines the underlying antagonisms of Singapore society and the media industry.