Place tectonics in Austral/Asia: hybridity and identity drift in southeast Australian women's literature

2017-02-06T04:17:16Z (GMT) by Giffard-Foret, Paul
This thesis looks at the various ways in which fiction and poetry by Southeast Asian Australian women authors have contributed to reorienting the Australian literary canon and challenging how Australia perceives itself and the Southeast Asian region more specifically. Drawing from the academic writings of Asian Australian scholars on the subject, as well as from postcolonial studies, I seek to demonstrate how these authors articulate what Homi Bhabha calls the 'third space' of hybridity through deconstructing lingering historical binaries across linguistic, racialised gendered, class-based and aesthetic lines. The first chapter focuses on language and Filipina Australian author Merlinda Bobis' bilingual poetry. I argue how her poetry provides a framework for (re)thinking multilingualism in Australia. In chapter 2, I analyse the fiction of Simone Lazaroo and Hsu-Ming Teo and the way these two authors playfully draw but also depart from, and ultimately subvert, traditional Orientalist tales of Asia in/by the West, imbuing the signifier of 'Asianness' with new meanings. In chapter 3, I look at the strategic use of magical realism in Beth Yahp's, Hoa Pham's and Lau Siew Mei's fiction as a means through which these authors are able to recover Southeast Asian mythology and folklore while also functioning as a social critique of Western imperialism. In the final analysis, I examine how Southeast Asian Australian women's literature, while retaining a concern for cultural representation in the Australian context, has increasingly moved beyond the precincts of the diasporic to address worldly issues and experiment with the abstract of style, thereby raising a fundamental question: Is literature, and in particular 'ethnic' literature, just about place?