Indigenous and Asian Encounters in Australian Literature


Dr Xu Daozhi will examine the literature of cross-cultural encounters, alliances and tensions between Indigenous groups and Asian immigrants in Australia.

Start Date

12th Jun 2018 5:30pm

End Date

12th Jun 2018 7:00pm


Harvard Lecture Theatre 1 Centenary Building, Sandy Bay

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Dr Xu Daozhi

This study examines the emergent body of literature featuring the cross-cultural encounters, alliances and tensions between Indigenous groups and Asian immigrants in Australia, published by Indigenous and Asian–Australian writers since the 1980s. Despite the thematic importance and diversity of genres including (auto)biographies, fiction, graphic novels, children’s books, short stories, prose, poetry, scripts and screenplays, these literary texts have received scant critical attention. 

By engaging with literary texts and related archival materials and with questions of vital concern to minority groups and social cohesion in Australia, this study seeks to elucidate the ways by which Indigenous and Asian writers interweave historical accounts and present exigencies to search for cultural identity and a sense of belonging. It theorises a convergence of border-crossing and diasporic experiences of Indigenous and Asian Australians in literary narratives, by connecting the previously antithetical and disparate concepts—indigeneity and diaspora—to yield new ways of understanding the complex affiliations, intimacies, and possibilities in cross-cultural contacts.

In doing so, this study extends the conceptual paradigms of Indigenous and diaspora studies in the postcolonial context, without negating the sensitivities and interests of different groups, and offers a contextualised understanding of the power dynamics within and beyond the borderlands of the nation-state, and particularly the tactical exercise of power by the seemingly powerless.

In this talk, I will outline the on-going research of this project and consider Aboriginal fiction Ubby’s Underdogs (2011, 2013) by Brenton E. McKenna and A Most Peculiar Act (2014) by Marie Munkara to discuss the ambiguity and fluidity of Aboriginal–Asian contacts under the White Australia policy.

Dr Xu Daozhi teaches at the University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, cultural theory, children’s literature, studies of race and ethnicity. She is the author of Indigenous Cultural Capital: Postcolonial Narratives in Australian Children’s Literature. Her scholarly articles have appeared in Australian Aboriginal StudiesPapers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, and Antipodes, etc. She is also interested in translation and has translated or co-translated several books. She is on the Executive board of the International Australian Studies Association.