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Encountering the other: multiculturalism in Asian Australian women's fiction

Abstract

In 2003 Tsen Ling Khoo pointed out that a new generation of Asian-Australians would soon be hailed by a body of diasporic texts that would reflect the experience of living in a white society as a minority group (108). What this experience might consist of as white Australia’s attitudes toward race relations have shifted from negative stereotyping to reify racial divisions and propagate a masked racism, a move described as ‘acceptance through difference, inclusion by virtue of otherness’, is both varied and predictable (Ang, 2001 146). In contemporary fiction written by second and third generation migrants contestations of selfhood, origin and identity experienced by hyphenated Asian-Australians, are represented through recurring narrative tropes: incomplete belonging encourages the multiracial protagonist to other the Asian ‘other’ in an attempt to diminish social alienation and difference: but there is also exoticising of such subjects as ’other’ by white Australians; return visits to the original Asian homeland in the hope of redressing the absences and tensions constitutive of migration reinforce the lack of belonging to either place. With reference to novels by authors like Simone Lazaroo, Michelle de Kretser and Alice Pung, read as strategic interventions into identity-based politics, this paper asks how recent Asian-Australian writing maps new cultural coordinates in the national landscape and negotiates interstitial positions between the white Australian present and the Asian heritage

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