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.

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2 gigs in two weeks!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Placeholder Post

No Little Birdies (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
No Little Birdies (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Best intentions and all. Life’s totally overtaken my blogging schedule.

I started a new job at a new institution recently, and my new commute is 3 hours a day. While I thought this would mean OMG so much writing time, it has not come to pass. On a swaying bus, the best ‘work’ I can do is checking emails + tweeting from my various accounts (AASRN and Research Whisperer, mostly).

I’m keeping this here as a placeholder until things settle down. I’ve started dozens of posts, but never saw them through. Poised over the keyboard, thinking I needed to write something insightful and worthwhile shunting out into the world, I usually balk.

So, if you’re looking at this blog because you’ve found me via one of the hats I wear, here are some shortcuts for finding the kind of stuff you might be interested in:

Meanwhile, as I’ve been saying for about five years, I need to start shedding some roles…

WORKSHOP REPORT – NYU Global Arts Exchange workshop (by Tseen Khoo)

apa logo
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.

(NYU Global Asia/Pacific Art Exchange)

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.


Love the smell of ARCs in the morning…

Australia Research Council (ARC)

It’s that time of year again!

And I don’t mean the flogging of horses or despicable amount of money spent on inane bits of fashion (yes, I’m looking at you, fascinators).

Two of the most anticipated sets of results from our nation’s key research funder, the Australian Research Council (ARC), are now out!

For Asian Australian Studies, and our members in general, it’s an interesting and celebratory swag.

Many enthusiastic congrats to the successful awardees! May you have a fabulous week of celebrating and feeling relieved!

Similarly, enthusiastic exhortations to those who were unsuccessful in this round to pitch it in again next year. What they say about grants often getting up on 2nd or 3rd attempts is true.

Here’s a quick breakdown of results from a skim (on my day’s leave today…):


Screening diversity

Recently, the mediasphere has been running hot with a series of articles and associated commentary about the lack of cultural (racial) diversity represented on our television screens, and in Australian media in general.

Spurred on by criticisms about the Australian television industry from Firass Dirani and Jay Laga’aia, various commentators contributed to the debate about representing cultural/racial diversity on Oz TV (and many readers voiced their concerns in the very active comment sections). Dirani started the momentum by calling for a more accurate representation of 2012 Australia on TV, while Laga’aia tweeted about being written out of Home and Away and his tweeted comments caused a stir.

The question of culturally diverse representations in our media is a constantly challenging issue, but the conversations that were re-ignited and given air-time since February this year clarify just how big the gap is between the reality of the street and what we see on our screens.


From great things, even greater things grow…

AAFF programmes - Nov 2011 (Photo courtesy of the AAFFN & Indigo Willing:

The inaugural AAFF event in Melbourne on 12-13 November was pretty damn amazing. No two ways about it.

The incredible energy that was brought to, and generated by, the gig has rolled on to create the AAFFN (Asian Australian Film Forum Network). The AAFFN has its own Twitter account (@AAFFN) and Facebook page (here).

Just recently, the “Shout Outs” video from AAFF, which was created and edited by Maria Tran, was uploaded by Indigo Willing to the AAFFN’s Vimeo account. AAFF 2011 SHOUT OUTS:

When I watched the Shout Outs vid at AAFF, and coming off the high that was AAI 4 (where I saw so much intellectual and political creativity – hopefully another post on that will come later; I’m feeling like I need to digest what went on around that event, mostly in a good way), I found myself teary and incredibly inspired. The vibrancy of the talent on the AA screen scene is very exciting. The key realisation I had wasn’t: “Oh, how great it is that another generation is taking the reins of cultural production and forging its own path”. I did think that, but – more importantly – I felt that these kinds of challenges can be taken up by anyone with the drive and skill, across a huge range of cultural arenas. It inspired me to want to be one of those people in a cultural arena, rather than the academic one that I’d been in for a loooo-ong time (*cue sound of plans hatching*).


Networking an academic research network (unabridged)

This post is an unabridged version of the article written by Dr Indigo Willing and myself for The Social Interface. Many thanks to the editors, Sarah Lux and Lyria Bennett Moses, for their invitation, warm encouragement, and generosity in allowing us to cross-post this material. You can read the article as originally published on 10 November 2011 at The Social Interface HERE.

Thanks also to Julie Koh, who first suggested us for The Social Interface! 

In the final decade of the twentieth century, it was clear that the Internet had significantly changed the way we think about the world and actively try to reshape it. It was a time where Stanford and the West Coast saw an unexpected Wall Street-approved boom in innovation from computer scientists and geeks that turned Silicon Valley into a (temporary) city of gold. This was a period where terms such as computer-mediated communication (CMC) arose to describe everything from shell based emails to MUDs, and websites to e-groups. This wave of CMC at the dawn of the digital age also gave rise to some notable scholarly insights found in the work of Sherry Turkle in Life on The Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet Age and from Steve Jones who detached the idea of the ‘cyber society’ and emergence of ‘virtual cultures’ from science fiction novels to re-introduce them as serious topics in the field of communication studies. At the same time, Fink (1998) observed that the qualitative social scientists and other disciplines with similar leanings were only taking small steps and remained cautious – even sceptical – as to how the Internet and CMC might be used as research tools.

Since the twenty-first century has unfolded, it is clear that the arrival of various types of new media now rivals, and in some cases has surpassed, earlier forms of CMC (Flew 2005). Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have quickly transformed our lives again, and are used enthusiastically for social networking with friends, peers and colleagues; to maintain transnational and cross-border ties with family;  and most stunningly (and with astounding results) in the realms of politics and social protest movements. On his blog BuzzMachine, Jarvis (2011: 3 October) discusses an example of the latter: Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir suggested that Iceland develop a more democratic constitution via the use of Facebook. There have also been a number of protests that have gained worldwide attention for their use of social media, notably with the use of Facebook to spread news of protests and the eventual overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt in January 2011 and, more widely, the ‘Arab Spring’ protests throughout the Middle East (cf. see Dixon 2001). Most recently, we have also seen digitally mediated activism like the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests, where a tweet in Canada on 13 July 2011 turned into a local protest in Zuccotti Park, New York City on 17 September 2011, before quickly escalating into an ongoing global movement.

However, just as some disciplines in academia struggled with the idea of harnessing the potential of CMC for their research in the 1990s, it appears that many academics remain resistant to the opportunities to shift or expand their networking activities over into new media such as Facebook and Twitter.  From our experiences with the creation of the Asian Australian Studies Research Network (AASRN & on Twitter @aasrn), which was initially formed from a Yahoogroup, we have found that the issue of using new technology – and social media, in particular – is one that creates conflicting rather than united or unanimously pro-new media discussions in academia.


AAI 4 – The programme + the poster!

Just had to blog about the AAI 4 conference programme, which is now ONLINE (.pdf)!

You can also now see the conference poster featuring artwork by Owen Leong. Owen’s stuff is fabulous, and we’ve been long-time fans of his work. Back in 2007, Owen was an invited keynote at the AAI 2 conference, and his work also features on the INDAAR website (launched 2009).

The programme lists all the speakers and their paper titles, times, venues, and other special events associated with the conference. It’s going to be a full-on few days, preceded on Wed 9 November by the ECR workshop that will be facilitated by Jacqueline Lo (ANU), Dean Chan (U of Wollongong), Christine Kim (Simon Fraser U, Canada) and Chris Lee (U of British Columbia, Canada). I’ll be taking the lead in the afternoon session about ‘the market’ (funding, jobs, CVs, etc). Seeing as this is what my day-job entails (advising researchers about their funding opportunities + research career planning), this should be kinda fun. The number of ECRs signed up for the workshop is fantastic! I can’t wait to meet everyone and hear about their work; being able to have all that energetic curiousity in one place is a rare treat, one I will probably not be experiencing after these events.

AFTER the ECR workshop, we’ll all be going out for a casual dinner with the workshop participants, stray AAI 4 delegates who are already in town and assorted AAers from around Melbourne. If you’re interested in coming along to that informal (pay-your-own-way) dinner, please drop me a line (or comment on this post if you don’t have my email addy). The venue is still being decided, but it’ll be CBD-ish and reasonably priced.

As for AAI 4 itself:

As well as the papers and keynotes we’ll all be enjoying, the evening programme for the 2 nights of AAI 4 is excellent. Thanks to Mikala Tai, the performance night (Thurs 10 Nov) features:

The second evening – Fri 11 Nov – is the conference dinner at Garage Cafe, just down the road from UniMelb itself. I’ve been there a few times now, as that’s where we have our conference committee meetings. It’s a great place to have a group feed, and rendang is always a lovely way to end an evening.

The buzz that one can get from a focused, niche conference is incredible. If you haven’t already registered, you should do so now.

Straight after AAI 4 is AAFF 2011, and the programme and list of speakers for that is also amazing. Heaps of people I’ve been fangirling for ages, and they’re all going to be in town at the same event. Cool x 10.

Even though I’m panicking about my conference paper and having background anxiety 24/7 about various aspects of the events, I’m also ridiculously excited about the FIVE DAYS of Asian Australian culture, thinking, and talking. It’s the kind of stuff I only get in dribs + drabs in ‘normal’ life. If my euphoria after each of the AASRN events we’ve had in the recent past is any indication, the intense immersion will be ace.