I attended the second day of the Asian Australian Leadership Summit recently. It was a 2-day event, with a ‘next gen’ focus on the first day (that I unfortunately couldn’t attend – it looked fab and listed some excellent speakers).
The event on the second day that I attended, held in the SLV’s Roadshow theatrette, drew a big crowd. I was appreciative of the invitation, and the opportunity to be part of such an ambitious project. I am glad I attended and (re)met some fabulous people; people I probably wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for this kind of gathering. It was a huge undertaking and I’m thankful to the organisers for creating a space for these conversations and cross-sector perspectives.
This post is a reflection on my experiences and the conversations that took place through the day. The intention is to examine the way issues and tropes manifested during the event, and is in no way intended to diminish the achievement of staging this important, complex, milestone summit. I am speaking from the position of an academic and long-time activist in Asian Australian Studies.
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”→
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.
Excited to be presenting a workshop on “Getting started on social media” for the AASRN with Tom Cho next Monday night (16 Feb 2015). It has already proven to be good fun and highly educational for me because I’ve never worked with Tom on this kind of thing before. We google-doc’d and Prezi’d together throughout the last week, and it was a very good experience.I’ve never used Prezi before – EVER – so learning about the new app was useful. I have had a few bad experiences with Prezi (that nausea everyone talks about) and wasn’t sure about it. Now that I’ve played with it a bit more, though, I think it has huge potential and people just need to rein in their enthusiasm about any given presentation’s visual mobility!We’re hoping that this session, focussed on helping Asian Australian communities to engage via social media, will be the first in a series of activist/lobbying/outreach events that will get Asian Australian research, topics, and debates out into the broader public sphere. These kinds of processes should also create conversations and further networks within Asian Australian groups that will generate more cultural and political activity. And, to me, this is always a good thing.
The second gig is at ACMI in Federation Square and I’m chairing an amazing panel of Asian Australian creative talent. “Growing up Chinese in Australia” (TUES 24 Feb 2015) is part of the China Up Close festival, and features William Yang, Annette Shun Wah, Benjamin Law, and Juliana Qian. After the panel is the Melbourne premiere screening of Yang’s Blood Links. I have fan-girled these people for varying amounts of time, in different ways, and being able to participate in the event is just dreamy.
On Wednesday 15 July 2013, ANU hosted a workshop that was part of the first phase in NYU’s Global Arts Exchange project. The bulk of the participants had only recently come through Shanghai, with a stopover in Perth for the NYU crew.
What is this project about?
This is the overview from the NYU website:
The exchange will bring together scholars, curators, and artists from each site and is meant to be generative for research, resulting in publications, exhibition development, and other research-based projects and programs to share and disseminate research, strengthen international networks of scholars and curators, and create ongoing dialogue between international colleagues, arts communities, and wider publics in the US, Asia/Pacific region, EU, Latin America, Africa, and Middle East in the expanding field of Asian/Asian Diasporic Art and Visual Cultures.
That all sounds great, but what did this creation of ongoing dialogue look like on the ground?
This post is my take on the event, viewed from a perspective that is extra-institutional (I’m into my third year in a non-academic role, though I’ve kept up convenorship of the AASRN).
The workshop took place in the European Studies Centre at ANU, where the Chair of AASRN, Professor Jacqueline Lo, is based. The team from NYU was led by Alexandra Chang, and included Tom Looser, Dipti Desai, and Francesca Tarocco (NYU – Shanghai). It was my first time meeting them all as the NYU collaboration is focused on the visual arts (which is not my field).
Dean Chan and Jacquie have led this initiative from the Australian end, and it is a part of INDAAR (International Network for Diasporic Asian Art Research) activity. INDAAR was founded as part of our ARC Discovery project, as was the AAFFN (Asian Australian Film Forum Network). One could justifiably think of them as two off-shoots of the AASRN that have gone on to create their own momentum and projects.
The workshop felt primarily like a familiarisation meeting, bringing together artists and academics who are working in the field of visual arts from the US/China/Australia. Most of the workshop was about introducing Australian material and context to the NYU crew, with input from the broader academic, vis.arts, and curatorial community in Canberra.
I browsed through it with glee, loving these kinds of walks down memory lane. Even if it wasn’t necessarily my memory lane.
Oddly enough, I encountered quite a few of the items in my adult life rather than my childhood.
I didn’t have my first Pocky stick, for example, till I was 27 years old. I was in Canada doing research for my PhD, visiting one my favourite Canadian authors, and she offered me a Pocky stick. It was the start of a long and fond relationship (for me and Pocky sticks, that is; the author’s pretty damn cool, too, it must be said).
Some of the food items did strike a chord, and reminded me of my Brisbane childhood, the trips to Fortitude Valley, and the evolving Asian grocery shops and malls through the 1980s and 1990s.
The items from the Foodbeast list that populated my childhood as well are: haw flakes, shrimp-flavoured chips, and pork floss (aka ‘pork sung’ in the Foodbeast listing). There were, however, many others that loomed large for our family. I’m not sure if they were unique to us, or whether they reflected a broader pattern of Malaysian-Chinese consumption.
I’ve been wanting to follow up on Queenie Chan‘s work and read her stories ever since I put together the diverse women authors post for AWW 2012, and @tansyrr left a comment that reminded me of Chan’s work.
The Dreaming series, which I read all at once in a single book, has three volumes.
I must admit to not having read or seen much of Chan’s work. I’m also not much of a manga reader, but I know the broad style.
I was immediately struck by how true to the Japanese manga aesthetic Chan’s settings and characters’ expressions seemed to be.
For me, it was quite a twist to discover that this horror story is set in the Australian bush, complete with gum trees, billabongs, and Aboriginal mythology.
Reading the three volumes at once was such quick work that I felt guilty about not spending time appreciating the inkwork and scene transitions. Chan is refreshingly down-to-earth about her practice and skills (see her entry, “How I got started”) and prioritises the narrative above artwork:
I persevered not because I started off wanting to be a great manga-artist and drawing “cool comics” (though that crossed my mind more than several times), but because I had a story I wanted to tell, and wanted to tell it in manga format.
The Dreaming hit many classic creepy notes for me, particularly as it cross-referenced the girls-disappearing-in-the-bush motif (Mirandaa-aaa! – cf. Picnic at Hanging Rock). The superstitions and untold stories added to the narrative tension, as did the leakage of disturbing dreams to waking life.
Chan consistently references Victorian era schoolgirls in bustly dresses with good, chilling effect. What is it about that element that lends itself to a studied creepiness? Perhaps that brandished carving knife didn’t help…
My two caveats about the trilogy: First, I did have some difficulty in the beginning with the immediate introduction to the cast of characters. The girls in the school, especially, confused me because – dare I say this? – they kind of looked the same… I soon depended on their hairstyles to tell them apart. Second, while I was effectively sucked into the narrative, I found the pacing uneven and, at times, repetitive.
In the end, Chan’s back-story for the school and its dark history is satisfying. She tied up many loose ends, but not all. I liked having some questions floating in the mix after closing the covers.
Chan has also drawn several of Dean Koontz’s books, and she recently featured in a women manga artist symposium at the Art Gallery of NSW (January 2013). I’ll certainly be looking out for more of her work in the future, and am considering snagging the Koontz books.
I forget how much food and cooking knowledge I’ve gained purely through osmosis, and watching others do their thing.
Like many Malaysian Chinese families (or Asian families more generally?), we’ve always been big on feasting and special occasion meals. Wisely, my siblings and I also snagged partners who were similarly appreciative of sharing food and making meals meaningful.
My mum and dad have always been keen cooks, and my mum has taken formal cooking classes in a broad range of cuisines. She takes on the lion’s share of the household’s dinners, and we have a family dinner every Sunday night. Her collection of cookbooks is formidable, and it includes a lot of bilingual 1960s/70s books from Malaysia. Once upon a time, we used to have regular dinners for 40 or more people at our Brisbane house in Chapel Hill. It wasn’t that large a house, and the 1970s kitchen from which she and my dad produced massive feasts was tiny + very badly designed.
My brother is a chef; he’s been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years. He has worked at a whole range of restaurants, bistros, and cafes – in Brisbane, Melbourne, and around the UK. He’s currently in his cheffing dream job, one that allows him to get home in the afternoon so he can focus on gardening and having a life outside the industry. That said, he’s an obsessive breadmaker (and loves experimenting with sourdough and ciabatta), and loves crossing the back fence to bring us samples. This is a practice we encourage. Greatly.
My SIL is a qualified chef. Of course. She introduced us to the seductions of whole cauliflower mornay and excellent coleslaw. She joins my brother in culinary adventures, not to mention the incredible food hampers we are privileged to get every Christmas. C. also writes a food blog and has overall mad kitchen skills.
My husband is a great cook, he’s the obsessive genius behind our family’s novelty cake series. He’s the kind of person who can turn his hand to anything and, with vague instructions from the internet, make it a success. His Christmas puddings have all been excellent (traditional plum pudding, as well as chocolate), and I remember very fondly the meals he cooked for me when we were dating. They were fab, and – strangely enough – seemed inspired by 1970s Women’s Weekly cookbooks (e.g. beef stroganoff, prawn cocktails).
When I was chatting with the lovely people at Radio National’s Life Matters program the other week, I realised that what I really want to say about national belonging and cultural citizenship was this:
Having full cultural citizenship as an Asian Australian should mean that it’s fine to be a ‘bad’ citizen, as well as celebrating those deemed ‘good’.
‘Asian’ shouldn’t be the first point of categorisation, and the heaviness of migrant expectation and stereotyping of migrants shouldn’t curtail a person’s liberty to be, say, a slacker.