Living as One United Peoples
: A Study of the Practices of Integration and Grassroots Volunteering in Singapore

  • Rebecca T E Tan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This dissertation explores how grassroots volunteers, known as Integration and Naturalisation Champions (INCs) aid in the integration of migrants into Singaporean society. Through using a combined approach of narrative interviews and participant observation techniques, the research finds that INCs occupy a liminal position between the state and their local communities. They work under the purview of and with funding from the Singapore government to implement state integration policy while simultaneously being embedded within their local community. This dissertation argues that INCs use their liminal position between state and society to promote migrant integration into the Singaporean nation by promoting integration into two smaller subnational units. Firstly, the volunteers welcome new citizens to the neighbourhood and introduce them to the often unspoken norms of community living in Singapore, which in turn strengthens new citizens’ sense of rootedness to their neighbourhood and bonds with their Singaporean neighbours. Secondly, as INCs educate newcomers about Singapore’s multiculturalism and embody the ethos of accepting difference in everyday interactions, new citizens feel that they are welcome in Singapore despite coming from different cultural backgrounds.
This research thus provides two key contributions to existing research on migrant integration through its study on integration practices carried out by INCs. Firstly, it brings into focus meso-level actors, who are often neglected by scholarship that tends to focus either on macro, top-down policy approaches by the state or everyday micro practices of cross-cultural interaction, by arguing that these actors act as a vital bridge between state policy and everyday life. Second, it argues that promoting integration into smaller subnational collectives of neighbourhoods and ethnic groups, rather than threatening national cohesion, can lead to a greater sense of national belonging and integration.
Date of Award14 Apr 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJon E Fox (Supervisor) & Tariq Modood (Supervisor)

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