Document Type

Journal Article


In the fifty or so years of building recognition for first "migrant" and then "multicultural" writing in Australia, it is a fair generalisation to say that visible emphasis shifted from European to East and Southeast Asian voices without much mention of South Asians. Some might attribute this to an exclusionary domination of the label "Asian Australian" by one ethnic group under the influence perhaps of critical debates in the US, or they might regard such a label, whatever it means, as a neo-colonial homogenising of ethnicities and cultural differences by ongoing white hegemony (Rizvi). Without playing a blame game, one can suggest reasons for the greater attention in Australia to diasporic writing by people of Chinese ethnic origin. One might even point to notable exceptions, as with the clear visibility on the national literary scene of Sri Lankan, Yasmine Gooneratne, Filipina Merlinda Bobis and recently - albeit with only small claim to hyphenated Australian identity - Indian Aravind Adiga. (No writer is quite so Australian as when they win the Booker Prize, J. M. Coetzee being another instance). Nonetheless, the relative paucity of non-Chinese names in "Asian-Australian writing" lists rather proves the general rule that the "Asian" label commonly means something other than "South Asian".