8. "Triumph over adversity": Singapore mobilizes Confucian values to combat SARS

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This chapter explores how the Singapore government worked hand-inhand with the media to draw the nation together under the banner of a modified and popularized version of Confucianism during the SARS crisis in 2003. Specifically, it focuses on the ways governmental leaders used civic discourse to renegotiate citizenship through the media’s discursive practices in order to gain public compliance with government directives. Employing Gee’s (2002) discourse analysis framework, this study examines reports published by Singapore’s flagship newspaper, the <i>Straits Times, </i>to discover the relevant discursive themes that link into and perpetuate the national mythology of “triumph over adversity.” The study found that communication strategies contributed significantly to the enrichment of a self-sustaining mythology that symbolically ties citizens to national goals. By demonstrating how socially responsible citizens can contribute directly to the nation, the mythology helped Singaporeans to identify with national strength and character exemplified by the heroism of the medical community during the SARS crisis. Adding successful management of the SARS crisis to Singapore’s mythic lore of “triumph over adversity” should reinforce the government’s efforts to motivate citizens to be socially responsible whenever the next crisis challenges Singapore’s national character.


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