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In the last three decades, Singapore is transformed from a cultural desert to a global arts city, thanks significantly to tourism. The Singapore Tourism Board was proactively shaping the cultural dynamics and policy of Singapore until 2012. But since then its official role in the country’s arts and cultural development almost disappeared. The disappearance of tourism interests in cultural development stems apparently from years of resistance, dialogues and negotiation. This study argues that the tourism authorities are still maintaining influence in the cultural dynamics and development of Singapore by reframing its involvement. It insidiously asserts its influence by enticing members of the arts community with resources, opportunities and economic support to participate in the tourism industry. This paper provides a dialogical understanding of how tourism has shaped Singapore’s cultural dynamics. Cultural dynamics and tourism development in Singapore must be understood within economic and social engineering perimeters defined by the government. The tourism authorities do not only work with other government authorities, they use similar techniques in managing and controlling cultural development in the city-state. The Bakhtinian Dialogic Imagination is the heuristic that organizes and structures the complex and dynamic tourism-culture relations in this study. Three dialogical concepts – carnivalesque, heteroglossia and polyphony – are used. Besides documenting the ongoing evolution of tourism in the cultural development of Singapore, this study questions on the effectiveness of the arm’s length approach to managing cultural development. The Singapore case shows that there are subtle economic and political ways to go round that principle.
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Keywords: carnivalesque; cultural policy; dialogic imagination; heteroglossia; polyphony; touristification

Affiliations: School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania, Australia

Appeared or available online: April 16, 2019

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