Sunday, March 27, 2022

Decentering Asian Canadian Studies in the Global Diaspora


At an event that promoted intercultural dialogue and celebrated fusion culture, I remember one out-of-town visitor asked what is the point of celebrating “Asian Canadian.” I was taken aback by the question, but upon years of reflection, perhaps the question is worthwhile to ponder. It’s unique to me as someone who’s familiar and identifies with “Asian Canadian,” but to another individual from a different part of the world, it might evoke different emotions. It took a number of years for us to figure this out, but the LiterASIAN Festival, a literary festival that celebrates and highlights Asian Canadian writers, decided for the first time to shine the spotlight outside of Canada on writers of Asian heritage from across the world.

As festival director, I explored this idea of “GlobalAsian: from Grassroots to Globalization” and thanks to a virtual setup, was able to feature authors and cultural activists. It leads to my reading of Chris Lee and Christine Kim’s ​​Inter-referencing Asian Canadian Studies: imagining diasporic possibility outside the (Canadian) nation as they ask critically, what would it mean if Asian Canadian Studies repositions itself towards Asia while decentring the West?
By shifting the poles of discussion from the overly abstract distinction between Asia and the West to linked spaces and societies such as Seoul and Singapore or Delhi and Bangkok, new forms of knowledge are generated as we investigate local problems and draw comparisons among them” (Lee & Kim, 305)
Asian Canadian Studies has always been a comparative project that looks “outwards and engages with other diasporas within and beyond the nation-state,” and I’m heartened that LiterASIAN has matured and evolved to explore the literary traditions of “Asian Canadian” writing to the shared experiences around the world. The anti-Asian racism and sentiments around the world these past three years is yet again a central theme of this year’s LiterASIAN festival and another stark reminder that racism, just like a global pandemic, is a global phenomenon not siloed and contained within the borders of any nation-state.   I hope to see you at the festival, where we will be finding our voices, telling our stories.

1 comment:

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