English as Racial Embodiment in Shirley Lim’s Joss and Gold

Michelle O'Brien, University of British Columbia


Through a reading of Shirley Lim’s Joss and Gold, this paper explores Lim’s ambivalent approach toward how English mediates anxieties surrounding race in postcolonial Malaysia and Singapore. It proposes that Lim’s work traces how racial subjectivities were shaped through relationships to English in post-independence Malaysia, as well as how this relates to their normalization through state discourses throughout Singapore’s rapid development, and explores English and English writing’s conflicted positions as both signifiers of neocolonialism and vehicles of empowerment for certain subjects. As Joss and Gold contends with English’s ambivalent position, it also explores a vital connection between reading language and racial embodiment across the contexts of Singapore and Malaysia. This paper hones in on this vexed relationship between race and language, and draws out how English's affective work persists as a key mediator of racial identity in Lim’s work.


Transnational; Writing in English; Southeast Asian Literature; Postcolonial; Shirley Lim; Joss and Gold

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