Publication Details

Lyons, LT, Sexing the nation: normative heterosexuality and the ‘good’ Singaporean citizen, in A. Branach-Kallas & K. Wieckowska (eds) The Nation of the Other: Constructions of Nation in Contemporary Cultural and Literary Discourses, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika (Nicolas Copernicus University), Torun, Poland, 2004, 79-96.


Extract: What does it mean to sex a nation? In the discourses surrounding nationalism, nations frequently take up gendered positions – as ‘motherlands’ or ‘fatherlands’, with their leaders as the ‘mothers’ or the ‘fathers of the nation’. In the family of the nation, gendered subjectivity is built around heterosexual reproductive relations in which men and women perform their ‘natural roles’ within families2. Where the language of nationalism reveals the gender of the homeland as female (Britannia, Mother India), the nation-as-woman is built on a particular image of woman as chaste, dutiful, daughterly or maternal” (Parker et al. 1992: 6). And yet, even when the imagery of the chaste mother/daughter is invoked, nationalist movements are often built around a masculinized memory of emasculation at the hands of colonial powers. This tension reveals the inherent contradiction between the depiction of the nation as female and the male homosociality of nationalisms.