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Nuraliah Norasid’s award-winning fantasy novel, The Gatekeeper (2017), explores the embedded inequalities of race, gender and class in Singapore through its revisionary take on Malay femininity, which is represented by the monstrous medusa woman and protagonist, Ria. Endowed with the power of petrification, Ria is the gatekeeper and protector of Nelroote community—comprising poor and marginalised human-other hybrids and anthropomorphic races hidden in a forgotten and undeveloped part of Manticura, an island nation that is modelled on Singapore’s modern city-state. Despite boasting a technologised and affluent society, Manticura nevertheless has a dark side: its society is divided along the lines of race and class, with the wealthy and powerful humans dominating the hierarchy while the human-other hybrids and anthropomorphic races are exploited, disenfranchised and displaced. Using related Gothic and gender theories, I examine how Ria’s body forms the fraught site of identity and belonging, memory and loss, and through which Singapore’s dominant discourses of meritocracy, economic prosperity and national progress are interrogated and resisted. At the same time, I consider the ways in which Ria’s beleaguered body speaks to the fear and anxiety surrounding the feminised Malay Muslim Other, while also unpacking the meanings of the female gaze, especially when turned onto the (neo)colonial and patriarchal formations and systems of power, and their violent and damaging effects on the subaltern subject.
Grace V. S. Chin is Senior Lecturer in English Language Studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia. Using comparative and multidisciplinary approaches, she specialises in postcolonial Southeast Asian Anglophone literatures, with focus on the intersections of race, gender and/or class in contemporary societies and diasporas. Her works have been featured in refereed international journals, including Journal of Postcolonial Writing, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, World Englishes, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, SARE and others. She has also published edited and co-edited volumes, the latest of which is Translational Politics in Southeast Asian Literatures: Contesting Race, Gender, and Sexuality (Routledge, 2021). She is currently visiting National Institute of Education (NIE) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and working on her monograph on Anglophone speculative fiction by local and transnational Southeast Asian women writers.