Conversations in contrast

pineapplecrush-TK
Photo by Tseen Khoo

I was at an event at the Immigration Museum recently.

There was a savvy panel of Asian Australian intellectuals and creatives from Peril magazine and Asian Australian Democracy Caucus.

They generated a fantastic critical race conversation and covered big, exciting territory about nation-state identities, exclusionary processes, dispossession, and everyday racisms and their consequences for senses of community.

Most of the people in the room were activist inclined and on board with the debates – not always in agreement, but willing to take on the issues and talk about them.

There were several white audience members – mostly older and male – who were deeply uncomfortable, if not openly hostile, to the presentations taking place in front of them.  Continue reading

Expressions of Interest: #whispercon 2016 (29 August, ANU)

 

whispercon

The way #whispercon works: each of the five key participants get to invite four people to the gig.

I have used two of my invites and wanted to gift the other two to my broader network of Twitter peeps.

I want to do this for a few reasons. The main one is that, even though I am a big cynic about many things, one thing Twitter has taught me is that there are many potential collaborators and #circleofniceness members out there I may not have had the chance to get to know better.

I love the friends who’ll be getting together in Canberra, and I recognise that growing this wise, positive, supportive bunch serves all of our interests.

My bias is towards those with interests in researcher development, digital communities, and effective, savvy ways for researchers to build non-academic organisational collaborations for the longer-term.

So, if you’re interested in being considered for one of my #whispercon invites, please:

  • Read about the format and aims of #whispercon 2016.
  • Know that the event is in Canberra + we offer no funding.
  • Email me (tseenkhoo@gmail.com) for a link to a short questionnaire. And, yes, I’m deliberately putting an extra step in there.

Expressions of interest welcome till MON 18 April 2016. 

My final decision will be based on entirely opaque personal preferences. I’ll let people know within a week of the closing date.

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EDITED TO ADD: We’ll be welcoming four wonderful people to #whispercon in 2016 – 2 from my open invites, and another 2 from two of my colleagues each making one of their invites open. 

Thanks for your interest and excellent enthusiasm for #whispercon, Kath Albury, Roanna Gonsalves, Linda Kirkman, and Sharon McDonough. We’re very much looking forward to welcoming you to the event in August. 

Where RW can take me

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ECU Library, Joondalup, WA  |  Photo by Tseen Khoo

I’ve just returned from a brilliant trip to WA – to Perth and Edith Cowan University. ECU – Joondalup, to be precise.

I was invited to ECU by Con Wiebrands (ECU’s University Librarian), to give a presentation to her Library staff and Research Office people, too. It was the first time I’d been invited to give a presentation to an audience that was not higher degree researchers or early career researchers.

It felt like a challenge, and my presentation on “What ECRs want” aimed to generate intra-university connection and collaboration to create an enabling ECR research environment.

There were several notable things about this gig, which came about because of The Thesis Whisperer’s advocacy and my work on The Research Whisperer with Jonathan O’Donnell.

One of things I realise repeatedly and gratefully since about mid-2012, is that RW is truly the gift that keeps on giving. We have had so many lovely opportunities to meet with excellent colleagues and try out new audiences, and to be able to share the experiences and wisdom of so many researchers.

Knowing how much rides on invited speakers, it’s always an honour to be approached as an event guest. We often find ourselves giving talks and workshops at society conferences, as part of professional development programs, and within ‘research week’ activities.

For 2015, Jonathan and I have been invited to present across many topics, around Australia. Here’s our speaking trail: RW live!

As well as being invited presenters at others’ events, Jonathan convened the first Whispercon, hosted by RMIT, in August this year. If you want to have a peek at what went on, here’s the Storify from Whispercon, and a post that Jonathan wrote afterwards, How the Whisper workshop works. The 2nd Whispercon is planned for Canberra in 2016.

The second thing that was notable about this WA trip is I got to meet Con face to face.  Continue reading

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.

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Asians seeking Asians – and underachieving

Dare to dream (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Dare to dream (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

It’s a notorious phenomenon in Asian Australian and Asian American communities:

We don’t tend to register to donate blood, organs, or stem cells as much as other communities.

Particularly in the case of stem cells (bone marrow), this is a life or death situation.

The likelihood of a non-Asian donor matching with an Asian patient is much lower than that of an Asian donor and an Asian patient.

This is an instance where the grey areas of identity and belonging do not hold: for bone marrow donations, Asians need Asians.

You can find out why HERE (American site, but still relevant to Asian Australians and others).

Why am I writing about this at the moment?

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Sewing – in a holding pattern

Cool + disconcerting (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Cool + disconcerting (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Since Oanh has immersed herself in sewing, and I’m surrounded by adept crafters on Twitter (looking at you, @meganjmcpherson @deborahbrian @kyliebudge @amieoshea), I’ve experienced a renaissance in sewing interest.

It makes learning and doing all new things feel much more do-able when savvy advice is on hand at just about any waking hour.

I’ve become a person who browses fabric and feels clothes to work out what material they’re made of (still not good at this because I’m only on a first name basis with a very narrow range of them). I also turn sleeves and hems around to see how they’re done, and to work out whether I could do it (current track-record is flagging a ‘no’…).

Our fabric pile is building. Being a texture-freak, with a hoarding habit that extends to kitchenware (particularly Japanese) and stationery, this is a road that poses dangers for domestic space and bank accounts.

So, what have we done since you were treated to the pic-post of PJ Birdy?

Masquerade capes, tunics, and masks!

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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…):

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Mea culpa

Sandmuppet (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

The further I move away from academia career-wise, the more I realise how little I contributed to general commentary about issues relevant to my research interests.

I never had an op-ed published.

Actually, I never even tried to write one.

I only attended a handful of community engagement events. I actively avoided having to be the one quoted voice about particular Asian Australian issues.

My hang-up was that it’s all very complex and I didn’t want to have what I said ‘dumbed down’ to a sound-bite (I know, I know, just bear with me here…). This feeling of being misrepresented in the media was widespread around the areas I moved in academia, and it led to a general suspicion about talking to journalists or pursuing other outlets for research findings.

Now, as one half of Research Whisperer team and working as a research developer, I can see what a negligent and dense attitude that was. Given the sociocultural critique of existing values and hierarchies in Australian society that made up my academic career, what was the point of the research I was doing if it wasn’t communicated to a broader audience in an accessible way?

This complete change of attitude is fed very much by increased confidence in what I’m doing, and the advent of things such as blogging and Twitter (two very effective ways to represent yourself and your work with little mediation, or to ‘set the story straight’ if you needed to). The growing numbers of online news sources, too, is excellent for the flow of more and different kinds of stories and topic concentrations.

Now, when I’m not a full-time academic anymore, I’m thinking about writing for online publications and engaging more broadly all the time.

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Launch of Chi Vu’s Anguli Ma

Anguli Ma (by Chi Vu; Giramondo, 2012) Image sourced from Giramondo Publishing website

It’s probably appropriate that the evening of Chi Vu’s booklaunch for her Gothic novella was a dark and stormy night.

On 24 April, upstairs at the Sidney Myer Centre, we were cossetted from the fickle weather and treated to drinks and nibblies before the main event.

The launch was hosted by Asialink and Giramondo Publishing, and was a full house.

Giramondo has published quite a few Asian Australian literary works to date, including Adam Aitken (Eighth Habitation), Kim Cheng Boey (Between Stations), Brian Castro (Shanghai Dancing, The Garden Book, and The Bath Fugues), and Tom Cho (Look Who’s Morphing).

Chi’s novella is part of a new series by Giramondo that focuses on shorter works (including poetry, memoir and fiction). Also included in the ‘shorts’ series are Eliot Weinberger’s Wildlife and Michael Wilding’s Wild and Woolly: A Publishing Memoir. There are many more in the pipeline, if the entries on Giramondo’s website are anything to go by.

The formal blurb on Chi (from Giramondo) reads:

Chi Vu was born in Vietnam and came to Australia in 1979. After studying at the University of Melbourne, she worked as a theatre maker, dramaturg, writer, artistic director and arts administrator. Chi Vu’s plays, which include the critically acclaimed and widely studied Vietnam: a Psychic Guide, have been performed in Melbourne and Sydney, and her short stories have appeared in various publications, including The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature.

Chi’s adept practice across forms and projects is infused with a consistent awareness of the constructedness of culture and language, a fierce engagement with emotion, and careful attention to the texture of interactions.

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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.

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