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The Australian National University

National and International Initiatives in Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies at ANU

The following provides a snapshot of some nationally and internationally significant initiatives in Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies being led by scholars in both the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences and the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific.

Asian Australian Studies
Dr Jacquie Lo, School of Humanities, Faculty of Arts, CASS

Asian Australian Studies (AAS) is a growing field that investigates the diasporic cultures, politics and histories of those of Asian descent in Australia. An interdisciplinary field influenced by developments in contemporary cultural theory, particularly in the areas of transnationalism and diaspora, the AAS purview includes analysis of literature, film, theatre, visual art, cultural policy, social anthropology, politics, history, and heritage management. While race plays a crucial role in the construction of Asian Australian identity, it is not deployed as biological 'fact' but rather as a unifying platform for enabling political solidarity and critical purchase.

Jacquie Lo co-convened the inaugural Asian Australian Identities conference at ANU in 1999, at the height of Hanson politics. That conference is now regarded as the founding moment of Asian Australian Studies as an academic field of studies. Although the Asian Australian Studies community is relatively small, it has a strong sense of identity, which is sustained by regular communication and resource sharing through electronic mailing lists, discussion groups, conferences, symposiums, and informal 'live meet-ups'. It is arguably in the area of research that Asian Australian Studies scholars have been making the most impact. Over the past ten years, the Australian Research Council has invested large sums of money in this field through a number of leading projects including diasporic Vietnamese women's writing, Chinese Australian masculinities, Asian influences in Australian theatre, and the emergence of Asian Australian cultural politics within the context of Australian nationalism. Another indicator of the research strength of Asian Australian Studies is the growing number of scholarly publications since the appearance of pioneering texts such as Diaspora (Gilbert et al, 2000) and Alter/Asians (Ang et al, 2000). The growing archive of Asian Australian studies include monographs as varied as Tseen Khoo's Banana Bending: Asian Australian and Asian Canadian Literatures (2003), Ien Ang's On Not Speaking Chinese (2001), J.V. D'Cruz and William Steele's Australia's Ambivalence towards Asia (2003), Regina Gantner's Mixed Relations: Asian-Aboriginal Contact in North Australia (2006), John Fitgerald's Big White Lie: Chinese Australians in White Australia (2007), Gilbert and Lo's Performance and Cosmopolitics:Cross-cultural Transactions in Australasia (2007) and Khoo's edited Locating Asian Australian Cultures (2007).

In 2008, Jacquie Lo and Tseen Khoo (Monash University) received funding to establish the Asian Australian Studies Research Network (ASSRN) with a membership drawn from within Australia as well as overseas. The AASRN, jointly-located at the ANU and at Monash University, represents the peak network for Asian Australian Studies internationally. It aims to build research capacity and profile, and sustain momentum in the field of Asian Australian Studies. Current projects include mentoring early career researchers, joint publications and exhibitions, collaboration with inter/national/regional cultural institutions, and seeding future funded projects. The AASRN recently formalised an exchange visiting fellowship with the Asian American Studies Centre in UCLA. Plans are underway for similar programs in Hong Kong, Canada, and UK.

Jacquie Lo currently teaches an Honours course in AAS and draws on AAS works in a range of undergraduate English courses. She plans to develop an AAS course for undergraduate students in the near future, in collaboration with other ANU colleagues.

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AsiaPacifiQueer Network
Associate Professor Peter Jackson, Division of Pacific and Asian History, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, CAP

Queer studies critiques the idea that heterosexuality and traditional gender roles hold a monopoly on supposedly "natural" or "proper" ways of being. More specifically, queer studies uses critical approaches to examine how heteronormativity shapes domains of life that at first sight might appear distant from the domains of gender and sexuality, e.g. nationalism, economics, race, cinema, literature, and art.

In 2000, Peter Jackson cofounded the AsiaPacifiQueer (APQ) Network in collaboration with Mark McLelland (Wollongong University), Fran Martin (Melbourne University), and Audrey Yue (Melbourne University) to respond to a sense of disciplinary exclusion and professional alienation within the Australian academy by scholars researching Asian and Pacific same-sex and transgender cultures and histories. Established area studies departments have at times been unsympathetic, if not hostile, towards critical theory and research on homosexuality and transgenderism. And until comparatively recently otherwise queer-friendly and theoretically engaged cultural studies departments in Australia have focused on the study of Western societies, with the issues of linguistic, discursive, and theoretical translation at the heart of the practice of Asian and Pacific cultural studies and non-Western queer studies tending to be overlooked. These issues are more than matters of intellectual debate. The multiple exclusions suffered by Asian and Pacific queer studies often impact deleteriously on the academic careers of those who conduct this research. Difficulties in finding sympathetic MA and PhD supervisors, the failure of academic libraries to acquire holdings in Asian-language queer materials, limited access to research funds, and restricted job opportunities together reflect the imbricated networks of professional homophobia and Eurocentrism that students of Asian queer studies confront. Under the former Howard Government, Asian and Pacific queer studies research in Australia suffered an effective political veto. Several Australian Research Council large grants in this field that were approved for funding by academic peer review processes were blocked by then education minister, now leader of the Federal Opposition, Dr Brendan Nelson.

Since it was established in 2000, the aim of APQ has been to intervene strategically to confront these multiple exclusions, bringing together academics, research students, and activists in collective attempts to inscribe queer studies within Asian and Pacific studies and to locate Asia, the Pacific, and the non-West, within cultural studies. Members of the APQ network have used a variety of approaches. To build networks amongst often-isolated Asian and Pacific queer studies researchers APQ has organised dedicated conferences and convened streams of panels within Asian studies, cultural studies, and Western queer studies conferences. APQ's largest and most successful activity to date was the co-convening the conference: "Sexualities, Genders and Rights in Asia: The 1st International Conference of Asian Queer Studies" in Bangkok in July 2005, at which over 160 papers were presented and 500 participants attended. One direct outcome of this conference has been the establishment of a "Queer Asia" monograph series by Hong Kong University Press. The general editors of this monograph series are Peter Jackson, Prof. Chris Berry (Goldsmiths, London), Prof. John Erni (Lingnan, Hong Kong), and Dr. Helen Leung (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver). In collaboration with Fran Martin, Mark McLelland and Audrey Yue, Peter Jackson is also co-editor of the forthcoming collection, AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Gender and Sexuality in the Asia-Pacific (University of Illinois Press, 2008).

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Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Dr Carolyn Brewer, Gender Relations Centre, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, CAP

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Learning Oceania
Dr. Katerina Teaiwa, Faculty of Asian Studies, CAP

Katerina is Pacific Studies Convener in the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific. She has developed a new program of transdisciplinary Pacific Studies teaching at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. This program is the first of its kind in Australia. Faculty participating in the program are drawn from the Learning Oceania network which Katerina developed with Pacific colleagues. It is based in the Pacific Centre in CAP and is focused on integrating Pacific Studies research, teaching, publishing and outreach at the ANU and internationally.

Katerina's research areas include dance studies, diaspora studies, visual ethnography, multi-sited ethnography, histories of Pacific phosphate mining and superphosphate consumption, popular culture and especially cultural industries, and women's studies. She organized and convened Culture Moves! Dance in Oceania from Hiva to Hip Hop in 2005 in Wellington, and in 2008 is organizing Oceanic Connections: the 2nd conference of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies with Stewart Firth and Margaret Jolly, and Gender, Youth and Economic Empowerment in the Pacific with Satish Chand, Margaret Jolly & AusAID. She is also working on developing the first Pacific Studies Reader Series with colleagues at the University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, the University of the South Pacific, the University of Hawai'i and the University of California at Los Angeles.

Katerina is co-editor with Monisha Das Gupta and Charu Gupta of a special issue of Cultural Dynamics, "Margins and Migrations: South Asian Diasporas Across the World" (2007) & editor of a special issue of the Centre for Pacific Islands Studies Occasional Paper Series, Indigenous Encounters: reflections on relations between people in the Pacific (2007)

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Southeast Asian Cinema Studies
Dr Gaik Khoo, School of Humanities, Faculty of Arts, CASS

In the field of Film Studies, Southeast Asian cinema and filmmaking practices are a little known and relatively minor area. However, it is a growing one, due in part to advances in digital video technology that have democratised and revolutionised filmmaking in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand since 2000. The digital revolution has created its own alternative parallel stream of independent filmmaking, and independent filmmakers are winning awards in well-known international festivals.

In 2004, while a postdoctoral fellow at the Asia Research Institute (NUS) in Singapore, Gaik Khoo convened the first Annual Southeast Asian Cinemas conference, with the expressed intention of giving academic legitimacy to filmmaking practices and focusing cinema studies on the region. The conference has since become an annual one rotating within the region, moving from Bangkok (2005) to Kuala Lumpur (2006) and (2007) Jakarta. The organising committee consists of young scholars working on Southeast Asian cinema who are based in Australia, London, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, the USA, and The Netherlands. Each year, the conference gains more attention and participation from scholars in various fields, including anthropology, literary and film studies, history and gender. These conferences foster clear linkages between film scholarship and film practice, with filmmakers, critics, festival programmers, and film activists having a presence. They also generate publications, with Gaik editing and co-editing special issues of journals such as Asian Cinema, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies and contributing an essay to a new book forthcoming on independent filmmaking in the region.

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Updated:  21 September 2016/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific /Page Contact: