Through an examination of characters' relationships and encounters in Claire Tham's novel The Inlet (2013), I argue that state narratives of racial identity and national progress may dislocate Singaporean Chinese subjects from a sense of homeliness by engendering nostalgia for an uncertainly located cultural hinterland. My analysis, which addresses the heterogeneity of class and linguistic identities among these subjects, corrects the common misidentification of the Chinese in Singapore as de facto members of a universal Chinese diaspora. Instead, my reading grounds characters in the homeland of Singapore but explores their attitudes toward social and spatial elements that produce a feeling of cultural alienation and challenge their sense of national belonging. In this way, I assert that the pressure to constantly reinvent themselves can unmoor Singaporean Chinese from their psychic and physical landscape, especially amid recent immigration from China as well as historical and ongoing urban redevelopment. This process of reinvention leads to a nostalgic yet anxious subjectivity that characters—and critics—may confuse with belonging to a global Chinese diaspora.


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pp. 141-170
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