Virtual Activism: Sexuality, the Internet, and a Social Movement in Singapore
Published: June 2020© 2020
180 Pages, 6.25 x 9.25 x 0.53 in, 7 colour illustrations, 1 b&w map
In Virtual Activism: Sexuality, the Internet, and a Social Movement in Singapore, cultural anthropologist Robert Phillips provides a detailed, yet accessible, ethnographic case study that looks at the changes in LGBT activism in Singapore in the period 1993-2019. Based on extensive fieldwork conducted with activist organizations and individuals, Phillips illustrates key theoretical ideas – including illiberal pragmatics and neoliberal homonormativity – that, in combination with the introduction of the Internet, have shaped the manner by which LGBT Singaporeans are framing and subsequently claiming rights.
Phillips argues that the activism engaged in by LGBT Singaporeans for governmental and societal recognition is in many respects virtual. His analysis documents how the actions of activists have resulted in some noteworthy changes in the lives of LGBT Singaporeans, but nothing as grand as some would have hoped, thus indexing the "not quite" aspect of the virtual. Yet, Virtual Activism also demonstrates how these actions have encouraged LGBT Singaporeans to fight even harder for their rights, signalling the "possibilities" that the virtual holds.
List of Figures
Note on Terminology
1. Little Earthquakes
2. The “Spectral Homosexual” and the Singaporean Media
3. Reimagining of the Nation, Online
4. The Internet and A New Public Sphere
5. Pushing the Boundaries in the Physical World
6. The Illiberal Pragmatics of Activism
Appendix 1 Timeline of Events
Appendix 2 Updates on Activists
"Virtual Activism captures the complex, somewhat opaque effects of on-line activisms, representations and communications on off-line, face-to-face activities, politics and everyday relationships in Singapore."David Murray, Department of Anthropology, York University
"Virtual Activism is a pivotal, brilliant contribution. Weaving together a careful ethnographic analysis of national belonging, online sociality, and queer subjectivity in Singapore, Phillips reveals complex dynamics of sexuality activism, tolerance, and rejection. Anyone wishing to understand how emerging regimes of capitalism, state power, and community mobilization are transforming societies in Southeast Asia and beyond will find this book an invaluable resource."Tom Boellstorff, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
"Robert Phillips takes us into the pre-history of Singapore’s Pink Dot and shows us the origins of how LGBT activists mobilized the Internet to create a virtual social movement in a country that prosecutes homosexuality. His cultural anthropology captures the illiberal pragmatic environment that shapes this movement and inscribes the voices of brave activists who had pioneered new networks of visibility and solidarity. For those unfamiliar with what activism was like before Pink Dot, this book ought to be a starting point."Audrey Yue, Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore
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Robert Phillips, author of Virtual Activism , discusses the history of the LGBT movement, and in particular, examines how the movement has unfolded in Singapore over the last twenty years.