Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Oceania on 2014-08-18 18:37Z by Steven

Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

University of Sydney
243 pages

Lyn Sue Dickens

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

This thesis examines the extent to which three contemporary Australian novels can be regarded as interventions in “the modern racial imaginary” (Mignolo 2011a, p. 277). In order to analyse the novels as interventions, this thesis looks in particular at depictions and conceptualisations of mixed race subjectivity and experience in the texts. The novels, The World Waiting to be Made by Simone Lazaroo (1994), Shanghai Dancing by Brian Castro (2003) and The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (2007) all explore mixed subjectivities and experiences in the Asia-Pacific region. Throughout this thesis I examine the complexity and disruptive potential of the concept of ‘mixed race’. I argue that through the depiction of people of mixed race and their traumatic experiences of racialisation, the novels critique, resist and disrupt concepts of race and colonial worldviews.

I further explore the ways in which the novels both promote and exemplify alternative ways of perceiving and interacting with other human beings that do not rely on racial categories or the humanitas/anthropos divide (Mignolo 2011b, p. 90). In order to do this I draw on Walter Mignolo’s concepts of border thinking/sensing and delinking, and Édouard Glissant’s work in The Poetics of Relation. I argue that critical examination of mixed race subjectivity and representation, in conjunction with transcultural concepts such as Relation and border thinking, provide a means of both challenging traditional concepts of race and essentialised cultures, and thinking beyond their boundaries. Furthermore, the novels themselves open up a transcultural space with transformative potential, which encourages the imagination of alternative, more equal worlds of Relation.

Read the entire thesis here.

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Ideas of racial categories that continue to fragment our ability to imagine humanity…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-04-09 04:38Z by Steven

Unfortunately, so long as ideas of racial categories continue to fragment our ability to imagine humanity, many minorities have few choices but to cash in on their ‘exotic’ appeal. For Eurasian women, this means accepting all the baggage of deviancy, prostitution and foreignness that is implicit in it. It also means a lifetime of answering the “what are you?” question and being told that they are not their parents’ children.

Lyn Dickens. “Being a Eurasian Australian,” Yemaya: Sydney University Law Society’s annual interdisciplinary Women’s journal, 2010 (2011): 34-36.

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Being a Eurasian Australian

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Women on 2013-03-17 00:46Z by Steven

Being a Eurasian Australian

Yemaya: Sydney University Law Society’s annual interdisciplinary Women’s journal
Yemaya 2010 (2011-04-17)
Theme: “Intersextions”
pages 34-36

Lyn Dickens

Lyn Dickens relates her experiences of being a young Eurasian woman in Australia

Being a Eurasian Australian is a strange thing. Don’t get me wrong, my mixed-race heritage has never been a source of inner-conflict, nor have I ever had an ‘identity crisis’ about having Anglo-Celtic and Peranakan parentage. Unfortunately, I can’t say that everyone else is always so comfortable with my ethnicity.

When I was fifteen, I was at my local shopping centre when a strange man loomed into my path and demanded, “What are you?” Stunned, I avoided his bemused gaze and kept walking. What did he mean? was my initial reaction. Then I thought, with slow-mounting anger, what kind of question is that? I was not a thing—a “what” could not encompass who I was. But even in my racially naïve teenage brain, I realised that his question was about my not-quite-white appearance. It was not the first time that I had been confronted by a stranger about my racial heritage. The question “Where are you from?” was a disturbingly common occurrence during my teenage years. Funnily enough, while my Asian friends were sometimes quizzed about their origins by acquaintances, they didn’t seem to attract strangers on the street the way my sister and I did.

Were we freaks? Back then, the thought occasionally crossed my mind. It wasn’t until I reached university and actually met a few other Eurasian women that I realised they had all had similar experiences, and that these experiences would keep coming. Even today, meeting someone new all but guarantees a discussion of my race and, inevitably, everyone sees something different. At a conference recently, a woman assumed I was Chinese and when I informed her of my heritage she responded in an offended tone, “but you don’t look Eurasian”. On another occasion I was at a dinner party and the majority of the guests assumed I was half white and half ‘something’. The exact type of ‘something’ which made up this half became a topic of conversation. Was I half-Japanese, half-Singaporean, half-Burmese?

Compared to many other young, Eurasian Australian women, my experiences could have been worse. My friend Serena—twenty-nine, fun, friendly and Eurasian—went to a trendy Sydney nightclub recently. While she was dancing with a group of friends, a Caucasian man grabbed her and bit her on the shoulder. Shocked, she could only stare in amazement when he said, “You wanted that, didn’t you? Girls like you always do.”

“Girls like what?” I exclaimed, slightly scandalised, when she told me. She gave me a wry smile and shrugged.

“Girls like us”, she replied. “Eurasians”…

Read the entire essay here.

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