Monday 4 October was the Asian Australian Forum + Amerasia launch that I convened at the newly refurbished Museum of Chinese Australian History, Cohen Place, Melbourne. It was a privilege to hold the event in a space that contained so much community history and aspired to transform conceptions of who an ‘Australian’ could be.
The forum was very busy, fun, exciting, satisfying and so worthwhile. It was a half-day event that featured three sessions (you can view the event information HERE for the Asian Australian Forum), and ended with the launch of the first issue ever of Amerasia Journal that engaged specifically with Asian Australian content.
The sessions focused on:
- The ARC Discovery Project, “Being Asian in Australia and the United States” (me, Jacquie Lo and Dean Chan reported on our research and activities to the broader community audience).
- Asian Australian heritage, with speakers talking about contemporary considerations for AA heritage sites, upcoming major events for the area, and creative projects associated with AA communities.
- Asian Australian perspectives online, where those who invest in an online presence and address issues of cultural identity, racism and identity politics talked about their motivations for doing what they do.
|Happy campers at the Asian Australian Forum: (L to R)
Lian Low, Dom Golding, Hoa Pham & Rose Misajon
|John Connell (left) & Kevin Wong Hoy|
It was great that all the presenters gave stimulating talks that resonated with the mixed community/academic audience. The interested, savvy participants made the event buzzy and cosy.
The forum had a friendly, informal vibe that encouraged conversation, which was exactly what I’d hoped for. Feedback about the event from the day and afterwards (thanks for the emails, everyone!) was very positive, with many saying how much they had enjoyed it, and even that they’d been inspired by the proceedings. For a convenor who loves generating new connections and momentum, it doesn’t get much better than that!
|Karen Lin of Slanted Magazine|
|Maurice Leong (left) & Amy Chan|
|Where the important work takes place – afternoon tea: (L to R)
Kathy Lothian, Liam Connell, Keir Reeves & Damien Williams
|Audrey Yue chairing the last session, ‘Asian Australia Online’|
Specific highlights for me?
- It was wonderful to share the day with Don Nakanishi and his wife Marsha (who were in Melbourne as part of a holiday). Having Don launch the special issue of Amerasia Journal, “Asian Australia and Asian America: Making Transnational Connections” (36.2) was a real privilege because Don has been instrumental in fostering links between AAustralian and AAmerican scholars. In part of my introduction to the forum, I talked about ‘organic research networks’ as the most long-lasting and constructive ones (as opposed to those forced into existence by bureaucratic funding pressures); Don’s relationship with our group, and subsequently the ones with his colleagues whom we’ve met, are some of those organic networks that happily generate activity and collaboration.
- Seeing my ARC co-CIs, Jacquie and Dean, again. It’s a rare thing to find collaborators with whom you work really well. Particularly after the harrowing process of pulling a big project/publication together, you know you’re onto something good when you still want to hang out with them and brainstorm more ideas to put into motion. My only regret on this front was not having the time to do an event ‘debrief’, which usually involves a lot of uncensored discussion and, er, updates about our academic colleagues.
- I relished spending the day with so many of my AASRN and other buddies, including Tom Cho, Dom Golding, Keir Reeves, Sophie Couchman, Jen Tsen Kwok, Audrey Yue, Chris “Eurasian Sensation” Mitchell, Mayu Kanamori, Lian Low, Chi Vu and Hoa Pham.
End of the day forum crowd – I don’t think anyone’s napping…
- It was also fabulous to meet face to face – finally! – with Karen Lin (of Slanted Magazine), Mikala Tai (of MiFA) and John Connell (of Indian Ocean Productions), and to hook up again with some of the ‘Dragon Tails‘ folk (Amy Chan and Liam Connell in particular).
- I hadn’t seen Kevin Wong Hoy for ages so it was nice to have him there, and see him in conversation with John C. about China to Australia. I was also glad to see Fengqi Qian again, someone I hadn’t caught up with since I first arrived in Melbourne and gave a talk about my fellowship project at Deakin University!
- Last, and certainly not least, it was great to meet up with people who aren’t normally at AASRN events, and who seemed to enjoy and get something out of the day. I’m thinking here in particular of Kathy Lothian and Damien Williams.
I only managed to take photos near the end of the day when the manic pace (for me) of the forum had abated, and I’m hoping others who were snapping away will send on their pics! Mine were taken in a rush, and I missed out on quite a few participants and sessions. Inevitably, there were people there I didn’t get to meet at all, so I guess that would be my ‘low-light’ for the day.
The Amerasia Journal launch took place, very aptly, on the second floor of the museum in the ‘Bridge of Memories’ exhibition. ‘Bridge of Memories’ showcases the diversity of Chinese communities in Australia, and flags the necessary educational and community work necessary to gain a better understanding of what constitutes ‘Asian Australia’. We couldn’t have had a more appropriate special issue launcher than Don Nakanishi, a long-time journal associate and one of the founding members of the editorial team. Don was able to trace Amerasia‘s development, from its humble beginnings as a graduate student idea to its position now as the foremost journal in the field. The special Asian Australian issue is not, of course, the first time Amerasia‘s featured diasporic Asian issues. There have also been special issues focused on Asian groups in Canada and Latin America, and one devoted to the ways in which Asian American Studies has ‘travelled’ internationally.
Putting together this special issue journal has been a long process, with initial discussions starting way back in 2007. Since then, the guidance of Russell Leong (general editor), Don, Arnold Pan (assistant editor) and the design work of Mary Kao have ensured the successful publication of this striking and important journal issue. We all hope that this is but the beginning of more collaborations and connections between Australia and North America. There’s a lot to share.
Edited 13 Oct 2010: This entry has been edited slightly because I realised that a section (about the journal launch) had become mangled!