>AASRN musings

>The AASRN has been running now since 2006. We’re up to about 125 members, with representation from around Australia (except Northern Territory and South Australia, strangely enough), as well as a scad of international folk (including those from China, India, UK, USA, Switzerland, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Zealand, Germany, Malaysia, Spain, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Denmark). A fair percentage of the AASRN membership is based overseas (some ex-pats, some not).

The heaviest concentration of members is on the East coast, with most of our members coming from Syd/Melb (not surprisingly); also not surprisingly, a significant number are based in WA. With our single member from Tassie, and no members from NT or SA, I do wonder about the gaps. Are there so few people doing research in Asian Australian Studies at those sites? Is it just a question of no-one being ‘networked’ into AASRN? There’s a certain knock-on effect with research networks, whether it’s peer-to-peer or supervisor-to-postgrad, and many subscribing folk have mentioned that they heard about AASRN from academic friends and mentors. I had hopes of an SA recruit, but then he moved to NSW.

Since we started, I think we’ve managed to achieve quite a lot, given the size of our budget and everyone’s time restrictions. I put together a report for ICEAPS to acquit our grant, and we’ve done much more since. I’m in a list-making mood, so this is what we’ve done since we started up in 2006:

DEC 2006
Badged panel at Cultural Studies Assoc of Australia conference (Canberra) – speakers were Christine Clark, Simon Choo, Jen Tsen Kwok and Jacqueline Lo (session chaired by Dean Chan).

MAY 2007
“An Asian Australian Occasion”: Film festival and panel discussion (Brisbane; convened by Indigo Willing). The panel discussants included Ben Cho, Ben Law, Anna Yen, Alan Han, Jen Tsen Kwok, David Ip, and Jacqueline Lo. The film program included Fish Sauce Breath, Delivery Day, Karaoke King, Chinese Take Away, Pho Now! and The Girl in the Mirror.

“AAI 2: The 2nd Asian Australian Identities conference” (Melbourne; convened by Tseen Khoo and Jacqueline Lo). The conference was preceded by a postgraduate workshop (organised by JL). Our keynote speakers for AAI 2 were photographer/artist William Yang, academic Suvendrini Perera, Senator Penny Wong (before the Rudd-slide and her speedy ascent to the front bench), and filmmaker Tony Ayres. Don Nakanishi from UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center was the chair/discussant for Senator Wong.

In addition to the plenary keynotes, we also had two feature panels. One focused on Asian Australian writers, the other visual artists. The writers were Michelle Bakar, Merlinda Bobis, Tom Cho, and Simone Lazaroo. The artists were Greg Leong, Owen Leong, and Savanhdary Vongpoothorn, with Christine Clark as chair/discussant.

Jacqueline Lo and myself are guest editing a special issue of Journal of Australian Studies, titled “Asia@Home: New Directions in Asian Australian Studies,” that will be published at the end of 2008. Selected papers from AAI 2 make up this special issue.

NOV 2007
“Asian/Australian Values: New Directions in Australian Literature” (U of Wollongong; convened by Wenche Ommundsen and Alison Broinowski). This workshop/symposium wasn’t an AASRN event per se, but the network was invited to participate and suggest panels. AASRN participants in “Asian/Australian Values” included Olivia Khoo, Tseen Khoo, Robyn Morris, Tom Cho, Hoa Pham and Paul Giffard-Foret.

JULY 2008

  1. AASRN convened a single-day stream at the 30th Association for the Study of Australian Literature conference (U of Wollongong). Our keynote speaker for the day was Merlinda Bobis (chaired by Nick Jose), and other speakers were: Kim Cheng Boey, Anne Brewster, Marilyne Brun, Paul Giffard-Foret, Dennis Haskell, Lars Jensen, Hoa Pham, and Hsu-ming Teo.

  2. Dean Chan convened a panel on diasporic visual arts and popular culture at the Asian Studies Association of Australia conference (Melbourne) with speakers Andrea Ash and Tom Apperley.

  3. Tseen Khoo organised a public lecture by visiting Columbia University academic, Prof Mae Ngai, that was co-hosted by the Museum of Chinese Australian History (Melbourne). I’ll cut’n paste the short report I did for the AASRN bulletin here, for posterity:

    On Saturday 12 July, the AASRN and the Museum of Chinese Australian History hosted a public lecture by Professor Mae Ngai of Columbia University . To an audience of about twenty-five academics, local heritage scholars and interested community members, Mae gave a talk about Ah Jake, a Chinese goldminer who was convicted of murder on the Californian goldfields in the 1880s. Her presentation highlighted the fraught nature of interpretation and translation practices on the goldfields, and offered a more complex interpretation of the everyday negotiations between Chinese groups and European society and law. The lecture was received with great enthusiasm and interest, and Mae fielded many questions from the audience. Her generous intellectual and social manner was inspiring, and a small group of us were lucky enough to spirit her away for a lovely lunch after the event. For me, the lecture also meant (re-)meeting key researchers in Chinese Australian history, including Keir Reeves (who has since joined AASRN), Amanda Rasmussen and AASRN member Sophie Couchman [LATE EDIT: And Paul Jones – missed him out on the original report. Mea culpa]. Also attending the lecture were other AASRN members Yvonne Foley, Rey Tiquia, and Marilyne Brun.

    Mae is in the early stages of a new comparative project that examines goldminers in the nineteenth-century from the North American West, Australia and South Africa . She spent part of her time in Melbourne at the Victorian archives, and hopes to return to Australia for more fieldwork in a couple of years.

    Many thanks to the Museum of Chinese Australian History for holding the lecture, and specifically to Lorinda Cramer and Mark Wang for their assistance with the organisation and catering!

All these events have been successful and brought the network to wider attention. Almost all of them have resulted in new members signing up (and staying) with us.

What’s coming up for the AASRN?

At the moment, there are two things on the horizon:

DEC 2008
Prof David Eng’s workshop on 11-12 Dec. This is an ECR-focused event that’s funded by AASRN and a Cultural Research Network ECR grant (being organised by Olivia Khoo and myself). I’ve been surprised by the number of university people who’ve been amazed that we’re holding an event specifically for ECRs. So much lip-service is paid to mentoring and providing opportunities for ECRs; we felt that it was about time a solid attempt was made at transforming words into action.

LATE 2009
We’ve flagged that the next AAI conference (AAI 3) will be taking place this year. As yet, no firm details. We’re hoping that it’ll be a biennial event, something that coheres AAS researchers and enables momentum in the field.


There’ve been heaps of encouraging and inspiring things that have taken place since the AASRN came into being.

I may whinge every once in a while about how much work it is to keep the network ticking over (e.g. compiling good information and soliciting event reports for the [approx] fortnightly bulletins) but, in many ways, it’s the culmination of all my academic dreams. So, will shut up for now. Just for now.


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