ABSTRACT

This paper addresses the identity construction of the Chinese diaspora in Brunei Darussalam. It argues that social, cultural, national and global demands for integration the Chinese in Brunei face collectively shape their sense of self. Considering Wang Gungwu’s claim that because “home is not here” (2018), ethnocultural roots inform the diasporic subject’s sense of belonging. They maintain these roots through cultural customs, beliefs and values, and also historical routes to the host nation—where naturalisation signals localisation. Across generational gaps, Brunei’s Chinese diaspora reflects the demands, dreams and desires for reconstructing individual, familial and transnational selves. This paper aims to provide insights into Chinese Bruneian identity by examining the tensions between these multiplex selves. An analysis of K. H. Lim’s Anglophone Bruneian novel Written in Black (2014), offers a valuable lens through which to view the complex dynamics and internal structures of Chinese Bruneian families. While its representations are by no means representative of the entire Chinese Bruneian community, the novel provides a useful platform to discuss the roles, positions and experiences of the Chinese diaspora in Brunei. Many ethnic Chinese living in Brunei strive to conform to the successful image of “the model minority” at the expense of their individual desires for self-actualisation. Analysing the Chinese familial home as analogous to the Brunei national home, Chinese and Malay cultural demands for filialness simultaneously produce an anxiety among the localised Chinese diaspora that causes a transnational shifting of familial and individual selves.

KEYWORDS: Brunei Darussalam, Chinese, identity, family, nation, diaspora