Performative silence: Race, riot and the end of multiculturalism | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2057-0341
  • E-ISSN: 2057-035X



On 8 December 2013, the monotonous placidity of Singapore’s streets was disrupted by antisocial violence in a district called Little India. Such acts of mass aggression were unheard of in a country whose policies of multiculturalism have been hailed as exemplary for developed nations. This article examines the conditions and consequences of the riot in Singapore and posits that the event signified a rupture in the politics of multicultural practice. It analyses media representations, official state narratives and vitriolic public responses to consider how the voices of the rioters have been violently silenced. Framed by what Georges Bataille terms the dialectic of civilized speech versus silent violence, where silence is regarded as dispossession and objectification, and vocality as empowerment and subjectivity, this article considers the performativities of silence and violence, and the ways the riot is an event of dissensus, a politics of interruption that fractures hegemonic, state-prescribed narratives of multiculturalism.


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