This Exhibition is centred on a number of critical works on the representation of multiculturalism and multicultural subjectivities in Australian YA novels. The paper which initiated interest in the topic, "Messages from Inside: Multiculturalism in Contemporary Children's Literature" by Sharyn Pearce, is framed around two works by John Stephens (see separate resources). In addition to the articles by Pearce and Stephens this Exhibition brings together a number of other works on multiculturalism and children's literature such as those by Dudek and Ommundsen.
The Exhibition also includes a wide range of texts from the AACLAP collection through which interested teachers, scholars, and/or researchers may further test Pearce's hypothesis and perhaps examine the possibility that since the publication of Pearce's paper the literature has entered a fourth stage (See for instance Xie's chapter).
A link is provided to the AustLit work record of each resource. Here abstracts and bibliographical details can be found as well as further information through the Works About function, located towards the bottom of the work record. The list of YA novels from the AACLAP collection is by no means exhaustive.
The second stage sees a shift to texts which include characters and narrators from ethnic minority groups, thereby providing an 'insider perspective'. Such texts, however, still are usually mediated through Anglo-Celtic authors. Pearce then proposes a third stage in which texts use 'authentic' voices created by authors from minority backgrounds. Rather than focus on aspects of 'difference' the characters' cultural heritage is incidental, rather than pivotal, to developing subjectivities. The third stage includes texts in which, according to Pearce, ethnicity is not the marker of cultural difference, but an accepted part of Australian life.
The chapter in this book which is of particular interest to the Exhibition is Chapter 1, Rethinking the Identity of Cultural Otherness: The discourse of Difference as an Unfinished Project by Shaobo Xie. Xie brings a non-Western perspective to the subjects of 'otherness' and the role of a postcolonial critique which, she argues, does not signify the demise of the colonial past but rather points to a colonial past that remains be interrogated and critiqued (2). This interrogation is an ongoing process. The audience to whom this chapter is addressed is largely non-Western but Western readers and researchers would do well to attend to the critical points of the discussion.
Xie argues that while a postcolonial approach heralds a period of increased understanding and tolerance it is hampered by a world saturated with imperialist ideas, stereotypes, and narratives (1).These ideas and stereotypes have become naturalized in our (Western) thinking and results in the subjugation of 'otherness to the sameness of Imperialism' (1). While commonalities between cultures do exist, Xie maintains that every culture has a unique system of meanings and values which should be celebrated rather than subsumed under generic terms and understandings. Xie argues that we need to move beyond Western Imperialism and otherness to embrace cultural multiplicity. She suggests that children's literature could play an important part in the process of decolonising the world by 'celebrating and legitimising difference' (4).
Chapter 4, Continuity, Fissure, or Dysfunction: From Settler Society to Multicultural Society in Australian Fiction by John Stephens, which contrasts Australia of the 1950s as a settler society with contemporary Australia as a multicultural society, may also be of interest although the focus texts deal with European, rather than Asian, migrants to Australia.
'Imagine that your world was like a Bollywood movie. Every day full of angst, drama, colour, music and dancing. India Singh wants her life to be like that. She is determined to make herself into a Bollywood Star. She is directing her family through the camera of her imagination. Her sister Shanti would rather be a horse, but she also likes to dance. Their brother Rahul is happy to step in to play the handsome hero, so is Vijay, her friend Sunita's brother.
'India has a chance to go to Mumbai but her dream is shattered when her protective father uproots the family from their Darjeeling home to move to Sydney.(...more)
"The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time. A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. He eventually finds himself in a bewildering city of foreign customs, peculiar animals, curious floating objects and indecipherable languages. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment.(...more)
'Anh Do nearly didn't make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing - not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days - could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about.
'Life in Australia was hard, an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything.(...more)
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