This article focuses on the importance of linear time and bounded space to the nation, which must have a past, present and future in a way that occludes other ways of grasping time. It offers a critique of national chronological time and advances an alternative analytical approach to national belonging based on a politics of longing embedded in ‘wet ontology’ that encompasses fluidity and migrant mobility. The article argues that rather than start with the nation-state as a category of analysis, as is the case with methodological nationalism, approaching a sense of belonging to the nation as part of a broader politics of longing offers a more open starting point for exploring the nation’s many manifestations. The politics of longing posits that the nation is but one frame of reference among many, and by no means necessary to individuals’ sense of belonging. It encompasses both restorative and reflective nostalgia as possible means of connecting individual narratives of belonging with ancestors and (national) heritage. The advantage of an approach derived from the politics of longing over methodological nationalism, understood as taking the nation-state for granted as a category of analysis, is that it allows for knitting together narratives of home and belonging in many different ways, both within and outwith the national frame.