When Dr Tseen Khoo invited me to contribute to this issue celebrating the 10th birthday of the Asian Australian Studies Research Network, I felt privileged. She flagged to me I’ve been a member of this network for just about all of those 10 years! Many events have taken place in my personal and academic life over this decade and lots of them are related to the Asian Australian Studies Research Network and their members.
First, I started and finished my PhD thesis on duty, obedience and identity in Greek Australian and Chinese Australian literature (1971-2005). This is one of the reasons why I joined this group, because I came across Tseen’s work. They provided me with food for thought on the texts written by Chinese Australians that I had read. Becoming a member of this network was not only a fantastic tool to find resources and contact other academics, but also a useful means to keep up-to-date with news and current debates in Australia. As I live in Spain, and the World Wide Web was not as good and fast as it is now, it was quite difficult at the time to follow the news, debates and popular cultural events of another country. It was through some of the comments of the network that I learnt about many political events in Australia, some involving Asians in Australia but others dealing with general politics. For example, I learnt about the caucus which deposed PM Kevin Rudd from his leadership and, consequently, from his Prime-Ministership or, more recently, the appointment of Tim Soutphommasane as Race Discrimination Commissioner through comments by fellow members.
Second, the AASRN helps me to do my research in a way that is not isolated. In my immediate academic and personal circle, no-one does Asian Studies or Asian Australian Studies. Thus, following the discussions in the group, reading the texts shared, learning about conferences and interests help me to keep focused and learn about different issues, points of views or insights. Also, it is a good tool to wonder and question the situation of migrants of Asian origin in Spain – first-, 1.5- and second-generations – as well as those children who were adopted by white Spanish families, especially in Majorca. There are several communities and they do celebrate some festivities and use public spaces to maintain some traditions, but these actions are not known by most of the population and they only become visible when the events have taken place or if there has been an incident. For example, on Saturday, 10th September 2016, a group of Chinese women were doing square dancing in a public square early in the morning when three young men attacked them. The news appeared in a local newspaper[i] [ii] and this is how I learnt about it. I had to wonder: has it not been for the incident, would square dancing by Chinese women have appeared in the newspaper? What are the experiences of Chinese migrants living in Majorca? Why are they hardly visible? Do they feel represented in society and in politics? Being a member of the AASRN helps me keep these questions in mind, and to try to look for answers.
Finally, belonging to this network also influences my teaching. Most of my students are white, young Majorcans of Spanish descent, many of whom have never travelled outside Europe, and some who have never left Spain. Bear in mind that Majorca is an island that has the third main airport in Spain. The basis of our economy is tourism, and our airport connects Majorca with the main capital cities in Spain and Europe and there are many flights connecting Majorca with the United Kingdom and Germany on a daily basis.
In my classes and courses, I introduce other cultures, usually of English-speaking countries, but sometimes I use works in English with Asian (mainly Chinese) characters, as these are the ones I have mainly studied. I provide my students with historical and cultural information, then ask them specific questions and have a debate to discuss their answers and thoughts. These sessions have several aims but, in my opinion, the most important one is to open their minds to non-Eurocentric views of the world and to question Eurocentrism and power relations.
The AASRN is an active, thrilling association and I hope it continues this way for many years to come, adapting to the different social media platforms that best suit the needs of its members. I hope it continues to serve as a meeting point for those more active members, as well as for those who may not comment but read posts and take in the debates and ideas shared.
Many Happy Returns, AASRN!
[i] This piece of news can be accessed in Spanish: http://www.diariodemallorca.es/sucesos/2016/09/10/golpean-mujeres-chinas-raqueta-baile/1148674.html
[ii] On 15th September 2016, about 20 neighbours of different ages and genders met in the neighbourhood´s public square in order to show their opposition to this racist attack and their support to their Chinese neighbours by dancing with them and displaying placards with the message “Racism out of our streets”. On 13th September, the local neighbour association met to condemn the racist attack, reminded all that theirs is a multicultural neighbourhood, and that they want to live quietly as neighbours, in peace. They also agreed on a message to be shared around the neighbourhood: “Don´t mess with my neighbours. No aggression without response.” http://www.diariodemallorca.es/palma/2016/09/15/pere-garau-pide-expulsar-racismo/1149780.html