What does 2018 bring?

Card from the peeps. My nerdy fandom wishes come true. How did they know?
Card from the peeps. My nerdy fandom wishes come true. How did they know?

It has been good to be in a stepped-down space (for those who don’t know, I’m no longer convenor of the AASRN).

The best thing about stepping down is doing so and knowing that the network is in excellent hands. Hands that are much more enthusiastic about developing the network in fresh ways, and have new networks of their own with which to strengthen the groups already there.

It’s not that I didn’t want to grow possibilities, but I had been there so long that the continuous work of managing the network, other projects, and the brain-space it took up made me feel tired towards it. Instead of looking for opportunities and taking risks with new connections, I looked at what was manageable and efficient.

That’s not good for the network or, ultimately, me.

At the beginning of March, we had our first AASRN Melbourne meet-up in the city, at our usual spot. It became a propitious ‘handing over’ event, with the fabulous people there presenting me with a card (signed by all) and gift (thanks for the organisation and speeches, Mridula/Olivia/Som!).

Olivia Khoo and Mridula Chakraborty presenting me with lovely gifts and speeches.
Olivia Khoo and Mridula Chakraborty presenting me with lovely gifts and speeches.
Table-shot of the first Melbourne AASRN meetup for 2018: (left from front) Gay, Austin, Tseen, Steven, Adam, Fia; (right from back) Sreejata's friend, Sreejata, Ruth, Helen, Jess, Som. Photo taken by Mridula.
Table-shot of the first Melbourne AASRN meetup for 2018: (left from front) Gay, Austin, Tseen, Steven, Adam, Fia; (right from back) Sreejata’s friend, Sreejata, Ruth, Helen, Jess, Som. Photo taken by Mridula.
Ruth de Souza's awesome foursome: (top left) Mridula + Ruth; (top right) Ruth + Jess; (bottom left) Ruth + Mridula; (bottom right) Ruth, Mridula + Jess
Ruth’s awesome foursome set of photos: (top left) Mridula + Ruth; (top right) Ruth + Jess; (bottom left) Ruth + Mridula; (bottom right) Ruth, Mridula + Jess

Even though just about everything about the evening was familiar – same venue, time, stalwarts – I felt completely different about being there because  I wasn’t hosting it. The lovely Mridula was doing that job, and doing it sterlingly. Doing it better than I normally do because she’s a much more sociable and gracious person!

Being just a normal member again felt nice and light. I spent some of the night reassuring various buddies that stepping down from convenorship didn’t mean I was disappearing from the scene. It means I have time to do other things AASRN-y. More on that a bit later in this post.

On the same evening as the Melbourne meet-up, there were AASRN meet-ups in Sydney and Perth (thanks, Tim Steains and Nadia Rhook!) – see photos below.

I very much saw these gatherings as gifts as well – seeing the wonderful people, with all their diverse passions in research and creativity, brought together under the umbrella of Asian Australian Studies. Long may the constructive tensions, finding of community, and fervent discussions prosper! I had taken all of these instances of intellectual and collegial challenge and reward for granted because it is the research network with which I’m most familiar. I’m realising, however, that it’s a rather rare blend of academic, creative, and community that we have in the AASRN.

AASRN Perth meet-up: (L to R) Qian Gong, Denise Woods, Nadia Rhook.
AASRN Perth meet-up: (L to R) Qian, Denise, Nadia.
AASRN Sydney meet-up: (clockwise from 12 o'clock Tim Steains!) Jarni Blakkarly, Kevin Bathman, Shawna Tang, Ee Ling Sharon Quah, Fiona Lee, Yeow-Tong Chia, Kean Wong, Sukhmani Khorana, Devleena Ghosh, Julie Lim.
AASRN Sydney meet-up: (clockwise from 12 o’clock Tim!) Jarni, Kevin, Shawna, Sharon, Fiona, Yeow-Tong, Kean, Sukhmani, Devleena, Julie.

What has stepping down made room for?

Well, it’s early days yet, being only a couple of months so far of not being convenor, but here’s a few things:

  • As part of my bigger plan to raise the profile and accessibility of knowledge about Asian Australian studies, I started a ‘Shut up and Wiki‘ group at my university. Last year, a few AASRN buddies and I had a short session with Jonathan O’Donnell about editing and creating entries in Wikipedia. Have a look at a few of the Asian Australian topics close to your heart on Wiki and you’ll see what I mean when I say there’s a LOT of work to be done on that platform. And it’s worth doing on that platform because a helluva lot of people use it. My forays into Wiki editing have been fairly lite-on so far (including an update and slight enrichment of Simone Lazaroo’s entry) but I aim to change this. I have a big list of Asian Australian authors and artists that I want to ensure have proper representation and referencing (to highlight other work done on them). It will take a while but it’s contained work with immediate gratification – win-win!
  • Too early to talk about particular research  projects but I’ve had conversations with at least two sets of researchers and time to consider how best to get my personal project off the blocks (something I’ve been very bad at for the last few years). Key threads of research remain in Asian Australian studies, critical race theory, activism, and the rhetoric of diversity.
  • I’ll be travelling more this year than last: Adelaide in April, Perth in May, Toowoomba/Brisbane in September. Trips are for work and Research Whisperer gigs, and RW is also collaborating with Espresso Science for a research communication day later this year. Oh, and #whispercon will be on again. This is all not AASRN stuff, but it’s what happens when I feel I have more breathing space in my life…

Things that won’t change this year: I’ll still commute to campus most of the week (at least 3 hours a day, return trip). My weekends and almost all weeknights are work-free, home-based zones. Let’s see how the work/home formula turns out this year.

7 comments

  1. Quite a few cozy gatherings you’ve attended, Tseen. Looks like AASRN is now in good hands and you have done a great job over these few years. he world of AASRN is so, so dense…so many layers but at the same every single one of these layers are fascinating. Sounds like your upcoming projects and travel are very exciting, and good luck with all of that 🙂

    • Thanks heaps, Mabel! I seem to have that moment where saying yes to projects feels like a good idea, then you realise you’ve done it too many times… o_0 (all good atm, but I really need to keep an eye on that tendency)

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