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30 - The Making of the Asian Australian Novel

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2023

David Carter
Affiliation:
University of Queensland
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Summary

The making of the Asian Australian novel is the unmaking of oppressive notions of history, subjectivity and literary form. Locating ethnic representational politics within power structures of race and nation, this chapter contends that Asian Australian identity is a site of hybrid instability realised through nonlinear forms of storytelling. The chapter examines national and diasporic paradigms across historical and contemporary trajectories of this literature: earlier Chinese Australian novels that blur boundaries between fictional and factual claims; Bildungsroman novels that trouble ethnocentric narratives of either assimilation or return; multicultural novels that unveil ongoing racism in liberal-pluralist ideals; and transnational novels that reimagine the Australian relationship with postcolonial and globalising Asian modernity. Reflecting on the limits of a critical humanist agenda, the chapter identifies an alternative paradigm of Asian Australian storytelling that employs speculative tactics to depict the land, species, climate change and Asian–Indigenous connections. This ecocritical paradigm challenges a normative ideal of the modern, autonomous and sovereign individual as one the migrant subject should integrate into, while pointing to an under-explored terrain for Asian Australian writers whose focus on diversity and justice would offer important insights into the shifting human condition.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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