Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Oceania on 2014-08-18 18:37Z by Steven

Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

University of Sydney
243 pages

Lyn Sue Dickens

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

This thesis examines the extent to which three contemporary Australian novels can be regarded as interventions in “the modern racial imaginary” (Mignolo 2011a, p. 277). In order to analyse the novels as interventions, this thesis looks in particular at depictions and conceptualisations of mixed race subjectivity and experience in the texts. The novels, The World Waiting to be Made by Simone Lazaroo (1994), Shanghai Dancing by Brian Castro (2003) and The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (2007) all explore mixed subjectivities and experiences in the Asia-Pacific region. Throughout this thesis I examine the complexity and disruptive potential of the concept of ‘mixed race’. I argue that through the depiction of people of mixed race and their traumatic experiences of racialisation, the novels critique, resist and disrupt concepts of race and colonial worldviews.

I further explore the ways in which the novels both promote and exemplify alternative ways of perceiving and interacting with other human beings that do not rely on racial categories or the humanitas/anthropos divide (Mignolo 2011b, p. 90). In order to do this I draw on Walter Mignolo’s concepts of border thinking/sensing and delinking, and Édouard Glissant’s work in The Poetics of Relation. I argue that critical examination of mixed race subjectivity and representation, in conjunction with transcultural concepts such as Relation and border thinking, provide a means of both challenging traditional concepts of race and essentialised cultures, and thinking beyond their boundaries. Furthermore, the novels themselves open up a transcultural space with transformative potential, which encourages the imagination of alternative, more equal worlds of Relation.

Read the entire thesis here.

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Transpacific Mixed-Race Literatures: A Reading and Dialogue (Sawyer Seminar IX)

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2014-04-04 03:07Z by Steven

Transpacific Mixed-Race Literatures: A Reading and Dialogue (Sawyer Seminar IX)

University of Southern California, University Park Campus
Ronald Tutor Campus Center (TCC)
Room 351/352
Sunday, 2014-04-06, 10:00-17:00 PDT (Local Time)

How do Transpacific mixed-race authors inscribe and represent their heritage in their artistic representations? Are there common tropes or literary forms that inform these novels? What type of analysis might emerge from putting writers in dialogue with critical theorists?


Brian Castro, Professor and Chair of Creative Writing
University of Adelaide, Australia

Australian novelist of Chinese, Portuguese, and English descent; author of 12 novels including award-winning novels Birds of Passage (1982 Vogel Literary Award), Double-Wolf (1991 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction), Stepper (1997 National Book Council Prize), Shanghai Dancing (2004 Victoria and New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards), and The Garden Books (2005 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award).

Marilyne Brun, Lecturer
Université de Lorraine, France

Author of “Literary Doubles and Colonial Subjectivity: Brian Castro’s The Garden Book,” The Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies (2012), “Racial Ambiguity and Whiteness in Brian Castro’s Drift,” Journal of the European Association for Studies on Australia (2011), and many other scholarly articles on the writings of Brian Castro.


Kien Nguyen, Novelist

Novelist of Vietnamese and American heritage. Author of 3 novels: The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood (2001), The Tapestries (2002), and Le Colonial (2004).

Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University

Author of This is All I Choose to Tell: History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature (Temple University Press, 2011).


Paisley Rekdal, Professor of English
University of Utah

Writer of Chinese American and Norwegian heritage; author of four books of poetry, Crash of Rhinos (2000), Six Girls Without Pants (2002), The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (2007), and Animal Eye (2012), as well as a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In (2000). Her work has received a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the University of Georgia Press’ Contemporary Poetry Series Award.

Viet Nguyen, Associate Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity
University of Southern California

Author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford, 2002).

Presented by the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture’s “Critical Mixed-Race Studies: A Transpacific Approach” Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminars Series at the University of Southern California.

For more information, click here.

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Racial Ambiguity and Whiteness in Brian Castro’s Drift

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Oceania on 2011-11-22 01:56Z by Steven

Racial Ambiguity and Whiteness in Brian Castro’s Drift

Journal of the European Association of Studies on Australia
Volume 2, Number 2, 2009
pages 113-126
ISSN 2013-6897

Marilyne Brun, Lecturer in Postcolonia Studies
Université Nancy 2

This article focuses on Drift, the fifth novel of contemporary Australian writer, Brian Castro, and concentrates on the ambiguous racial inscriptions of some of its characters. While white experimental British writer B.S. Johnson progressively becomes darker in the novel, his desire to escape his whiteness is complicated by another extreme, the albinism of Tasmanian Aboriginal Thomas McGann. This article discusses one essential aspect of these surprising fictional representations: the critique of whiteness that they articulate. The racial ambiguity of the two main characters offers a subtle reflection on Tasmania’s colonial legacy. Yet beyond Castro’s exploration of the contingencies of the Tasmanian context, the characters‟ racial ambivalence destabilises conventional representations of whiteness. The novel both exposes the metonymic nature of whiteness and critiques the specific modes of reading the body that are involved in preoccupations with whiteness.

Read the entire article here.

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Playful ambiguities: racial and literary hybridity in the novels of Brian Castro

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Oceania on 2011-04-28 01:55Z by Steven

Playful ambiguities: racial and literary hybridity in the novels of Brian Castro

University of Melbourne
Université Toulouse-le Mirail

Marilyne Brun

PhD thesis, Arts – School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne and Université Toulouse-le Mirail.

This thesis studies eight of the nine novels of Brian Castro, a contemporary Australian writer born in Hong Kong in 1950, and focuses on the theme of hybridity in his work. Starting with the observation that many of Castro’s characters are mixed-race, the thesis reflects on his suggestion, in his critical essays, that hybridity is deployed at a literary level in his fiction. It seeks to answer three major questions: how is racial hybridity represented in the novels? Why does Castro use a form of literary hybridity in his fiction? And what connections can be established between racial and literary hybridity in his work? The present study argues that hybridity is a useful concept which can be productively applied to literary studies and is particularly appropriate to discuss Castro’s novels. It focuses on two aspects of his literary practice: his use of hybridity as a literary device and his ambiguous representation of the mixed-race body. It argues that racial and literary hybridity are uniquely complementary in the novels and that Castro’s playful resort to hybridity represents a form of resistance to literary canons, racial categorisation and national politics. In this sense, the thesis not only extends the study of Brian Castro’s novels, it also brings new insights to hybridity theory, thus contributing to postcolonial, literary and critical race studies.

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