UWA Institute of Advanced Studies

Asian Australian Studies Research Network (AASRN): Perth Symposium


I had the privilege of presenting Maybe it’s Wanchai? to a group of academics at the “Where’s your Asia?” symposium organised by Nadia Rhook and Denise Woods,  the co-conveners of AASRN Perth. The person in the centre image is  Denise who shared with us her research on the representations of Asia and Australia in Overwatch, a multiplayer video game. (My son  says it a really really popular MMORPG that everyone talks about so I sense that he will be asking Santa for a PS upgrade this Christmas).

AASRN was set up by Tseen Khoo over a decade ago and I joined after meeting  Tseen through our anonymous blogs — I miss the days of being an anonymous blogger.  At the time the network had just become or was on the cusp of becoming a formal one.

I felt a little out of place at the symposium because I was there as a creative writer and not as an academic.  At one stage, I was tempted to turn this into a PhD project because postgrads have access to academic data bases, libraries, a mentor and an email address that people will respond to but I’m too far along now to turn back. I’m really hoping that as a creative writer with an academic thread to my bow (my other research interest is Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory and it’s application in the 21st Century), I’ll have the opportunity to attend a symposium or conference here and there.

I really enjoyed the inter-disciplinary nature of the symposium and it was a reminder that there is a much wider world beyond my little outer-suburban nook.  At least two of the presenters were originally from cities of over 30 million people. The population of Australia is less than 25 million! I barely coped in Beijing when it was a city of around 12 million people so I doubt I’d survive in a 2018 mega city.

Some of the Chinese-Australian presenters spoke to each other in Mandarin and while I got the gist of what they were talking about, it’s been so long since I’ve been amongst Mandarin speakers that I found it hard to say, “I think this food is tasty too!” I am going to refresh my rusty skills and perhaps one day present part of something in a Chinese dialect.

I was also quite surprised that the experience of being on the outer, left me with a sense of loss; a loss of language, even though Mandarin is not my mother tongue, and of culture, even though I understand that culture is a contested concept etc. etc.

Antipodean Encounters: Western Australian Artists and Taiwanese Culture —Ashley Yihsin Chang and Greg Pryor

Ashley’s Yihsin  is the International Exchange Programme Manager at Turner Galleries and her husband Greg is a lecturer at ECU. Their  project involved bringing together Perth’s Taiwanese community and twenty local artists to work on a number of cultural projects. Ashley and Greg discussed the challenges of face-to-face community building in the social media era.


I can’t post the excerpt from Maybe it’s Wanchai on this blog yet because it’s currently under consideration for the Deborah Cass prize.

But here is a copy of my intro:   

UPDATE: I got runner-up! It won’t appear in a literary journal, which is okay because I’m currently not a university academic trying to rack up points,  but it will be available online at the Deborah Cass website.

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