The why of #sadchairsofacademia

This post started life as an interview. A writer from the US had approached me to talk about my #sadchairsofacademia project. This was in late 2016. The interview is still unpublished so I thought I’d rejuvenate it. Thank you to Drew Z. for getting the ball rolling.


What started the project?

I’ve worked in universities most of my adult life, and there’s a real contrast between the old and new faces of any institution. There’s the flagship multi-million dollar edifices that feature in all the university advertising and where international delegations are toured through, then there’s the solid, older work-horse buildings and rooms that carry the weight of the classes and staff offices.

The idea of the #sadchairsofacademia came to me when I was temporarily located in a section of a building that used to house academics who were now gone because of organisational restructuring. This process, always a traumatic one for those who go or stay, is never a clean one. The traces of the absent staff – their sticky-notes, stationery, old event flyers – were still in the offices, and the corridors had discarded furniture with piles of old books and journals stacked on them. This is the chair that brought the idea into being:

Photo by Tseen Khoo | Source:
Photo by Tseen Khoo | Source:

It wasn’t one of the first posted images because it was covered in old journals and books. I went back to that corridor about a year later and the poor thing was still there, without its carapace of unwanted journals and books. Continue reading “The why of #sadchairsofacademia”

Things to spruik 1

Comic Sans - issue 2 | Photo by Rachel Ang
Comic Sans – issue 2 | Photo by Rachel Ang

I wrote ‘Asian Australian Voices‘ in July 2016 and, since then, I’ve had so many things to add.

This is because I missed things out, they started after that last listing, I came to things later, or I just feel like more people should know about the fab work that’s going on with these peeps. If I had done my PhD around now, I would’ve been spoilt for material to study and critical takes on so many cultural works, and I’m saying that knowing full well that there’s a long, long way to go in terms of representation from, and opportunities for, Asian Australian writers, performers, artists, and other cultural workers.

Note that this listing is highly subjective and testament to the wonderful bubble of networks I have around me. I should also mention that my ability to categorise consistently is also rubbish. Caveat emptor!

I realise there’s plenty of other top-shelf stuff out there (please share them in the comments if you’d like!).

I have titled this post ‘Things to spruik 1’ in anticipation of more to come – I would love to write a series of these posts, noting the uber-fab things that you all get up to. Continue reading “Things to spruik 1”

New year, new Facebook Page?

Photo by Andre Mouton |
Photo by Andre Mouton |

I’ve set up a new Facebook Page as one of my first goals for 2019.

I did this despite being constantly told that Facebook is dead and, even if it’s not dead, it’s where all the old people are (which is, apparently, as good as being dead).

I beg to differ, and it’s probably because I use Facebook for different reasons, and am old.

I’m not there to gain a mega follower count, or launch a start-up, or create a professional presence. I already have a significant online profile. Continue reading “New year, new Facebook Page?”

Highlights of 2018

Melbourne Central aerial | Photo by Tseen Khoo
Melbourne Central aerial | Photo by Tseen Khoo

This is post is all about using the benefit of hindsight to contemplate 2018.

Life feels like it moves faster these days and, aside from big milestones such as having a child or starting a new job, much of it is a flurry of half-rememberedness. There are the moments captured in photographs that stick in my mind, but not much else. I sometimes get sad about this.

I recognise that this half-rememberedness and the constancy of it is a privilege in some ways as I have the luxury of steady jobs these past 7.5 years that I can rely on (knock on wood).

The work-face highlights I list in this post aren’t necessarily the ‘best’ but the most memorable and stretchy moments of last year. It was a good consolidating year after a fairly depleting and unhealthy 2017. Continue reading “Highlights of 2018”

The angst inside

My most recent book chapter, “The right kind of ambition,” was published in September 2018. It was part of a book edited by Narelle Lemon and Sharon McDonough titled Mindfulness in the Academy: Practices and Perspectives from Scholars (Springer).

It is a chapter I grappled with, both in terms of struggling to find the time to give it proper attention (i.e. to write it!) and in angsting about whether I should even publish something like it. In essence, I say that I have found a way to have a happy balance while working in academia, but the price is my pace of career progression and the risk of being thought ‘less’ because of this. The feedback I’ve had from colleagues has been very positive and empathetic, with many commenting that they related to much of it. Continue reading “The angst inside”

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. Continue reading “What does 2018 bring?”

It’s time


Photo by Annie Spratt |
Photo by Annie Spratt |

One of the first things I did in 2018 was to step down officially as convenor of the AASRN.

It’s a role I’ve had ever since the research network was formally established in 2006. Before that, I was functioning more or less as the convenor when the network was an informal group that came together after the original Asian Australian Identities conference in Canberra in 1999.

That’s about 18 years at the helm. That’s a long time.

In that time, I’ve moved through six different jobs, four universities, shifted states, had two kids, and trudged through countless angstful episodes about career direction and professional identity.  Continue reading “It’s time”

The increasing relevance of our Asian Australian cohorts (Tseen Khoo and Jen Tsen Kwok)

[This article originally appeared in Eureka Street on 1 October 2017, and is reproduced here with original figures derived by ABS census data by Jen Tsen Kwok, who blogs at Borderless Democracy]

It would be fair to say that Australia is in a hyper-nationalist phase. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party is back in the Federal Parliament, extremist anti-migration micro-parties have gained a foothold, and recent proposals for migrant entry echo the days of the White Australia dictation tests, which was once used to exclude those who were considered ‘undesirable’.

Asian students in Brisbane

Yet, our national population is more diverse than ever, particularly when it comes to those of Asian Australian heritage. Just how diverse is something we need to examine more closely if we are to develop a more inclusive, welcoming society. Continue reading “The increasing relevance of our Asian Australian cohorts (Tseen Khoo and Jen Tsen Kwok)”

2017 – just one conference, right?

The AAI 6 conference image is very kindly provided by Nikki Lam. Falling Leaf Returns to its Roots / 落葉歸根, HD video, 2014.

2017 was meant to be the year of one conference.

I’ve been scarred by November 2016. It was a nightmare of overlapping major convening commitments. There was one week where I convened 4 full days of researcher intensives (ran 3, handed 1 day over), attended an evening AASRN 10th birthday gig (that I didn’t have to organise, thank goodness – all power to Audrey Yue and her RUPC team at the University of Melbourne!), and attended/chaired at the Australian Academy of the Humanities (AAH) 2-day symposium. A teleporter would have come in handy; I didn’t have a teleporter.

This mad-cap week was embedded in a few months where I worked with the fabulous editorial team at Peril magazine to solicit and edit the 10 x 10 collection (Peril special issue 26), prepped for the month-long program of #LTUacwrimo, and organised the programming for those researcher intensives.

It was a fantastic whirlwind on many levels and each event was really satisfying, AND I was thoroughly done in.

So, I told myself, this next year was going to be different. It’s going to be a ‘down’ year, a quieter year, a recuperative and consolidating year. Continue reading “2017 – just one conference, right?”

Asian Australian voices

Stuff happens | Photo by Kim Tairi Released under CC licence:
Ninja | Photo by Kim Tairi
Released under CC licence:

Just recently, the lovely Katherine Firth (@katrinafee on Twitter) asked what I’d suggest if she wanted to read more from Asian voices in Australia on various sociopolitical issues.

Specifically, she outlined the genres of text she was interested in as “Sociology/ reportage / special editions journals / activist polemic”.

I started crafting a few tweets in my head, and thought of several links and articles straight away, then realised that it was probably much more useful – and user-friendly – if I just blogged it!

At first, when I thought about what Katherine had asked for, I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t think of what might be the best places to get started or which articles to read. I’d been immersed in Asian Australian Studies perspectives on everything for so long, I had to take a deliberate step back to see how a (savvy, highly intelligent, research-oriented) newcomer might most usefully find a way into the diverse and multi-voiced material that’s out there.

Continue reading “Asian Australian voices”