This article revisits the criticisms of “diaspora” by Wang Gungwu, Ien Ang, and Shu-mei Shih, and urges a return to the concept with an attention to temporality. Focusing on the story of Lim Boon Keng (1869–1957)—an Edinburgh-educated baba Chinese who led a Confucian revival in Singapore in the 1890s, clashed with May Fourth writer Lu Xun in China in the 1920s, and has been celebrated since the 1990s—this article argues that diaspora is less a collection of communities than a series of moments in which reconnections with a putative homeland take place. By considering how “diaspora moments” emerge and create actors, scholars may ask why and for whom essential ties become useful, and how the history of mass emigration foregrounds a contingent Chinese identity. Temporally inflected, diaspora is a process to reckon with a world in flux, hence a useful paradigm for analysis.

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