Identity in flux: The sarong party girl's pursuit of a “good life”

Hannah Ho, Debbie Ho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the identity of young Singaporean Chinese women, branded as “sarong party girls,” as part of the state government's moral crisis debate. Through an interdisciplinary lens, it combines the study of their literary representation with a linguistic analysis of Singlish, a local variety of Eglish spoken by most Singaporeans in informal domains. By discussing the main protagonist in Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan's novel Sarong Party Girls (2016) in this perspective, the authors argue that the identity crisis she experiences within herself is symptomatic of a wider conflict between Eastern and Western values that Singaporeans have not reconciled. While the Singaporean government enthuses over promoting Asian or shared values, its citizens continue to embrace Western influences that the former would rather eradicate. Therefore, Singapore's state production of a national discourse of questionable morality of those not espousing moral Eastern standards accentuates citizens' conflicted identity. By illuminating the social-cultural conditions giving rise to, and, in turn, informed by the subject of women as problematic for the state, the authors frame the dilemma faced by the sexually autonomous woman with aspirations to marry a white and Western man as her identity in flux, signalled by her deviant behaviour, use of Singlish and material goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-166
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese women
  • Identity crisis
  • Literature
  • Sarong Party Girl
  • Singapore
  • Singlish


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