Southeast Asia and Australia: Literary and Cultural Connections

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Modern Language Association
contact email: 

            This call is for a proposed collaborative session between the Southeast Asia/Southeast Asia Diasporic Forum of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Association for Australasian Literary Studies (AAALS) at the January 2020 MLA conference in Seattle. Given the geographical proximity and intertwined histories of several Southeast Asian countries and Australia, we envision a session that explores existing and emerging literary and cultural connections between them across a range of writing, media, and languages. 

            Although there are numerous monographs and essay anthologies in the social sciences on the ties between Southeast Asia and Australia (and the wider region of Oceania), with one exception there has not been a recent substantive study of literary and cultural productions that arise because of such connections. In Tseen Khoo’s Banana-Bending: Asian-Australian and Asian-Canadian Literatures (2003), Alice Pung’s edited anthology Growing Up Asian in Australia (2008), Amerasia journal’s 2010 special issue comparing Asian Australia and Asian America, and more recently the Journal of Postcolonial Writing’s 2016 special issue on Asian Australian writing, most of the works discussed are by authors of East Asian and South Asian descent, although there is some attention given to writing by a few authors of Southeast Asian ancestry. 

            We take our lead for this collaborative session from José Wendell Capili’s recent literary history, Migrations and Mediation (2016), which traces the emergence and growth of Southeast Asian diasporic writing in Australia from the 1970s to the present day. Thus, we welcome papers on authors such as Hsu-ming Teo, Lau Siew Mei, Simone Lazaroo, Julie Koh, Dewi Anggraeni, Nam Le, Hoa Pham, Merlinda Bobis, Arlene Chai, and others. We also invite papers that focus on exchanges and collaborations between Southeast Asian and Indigenous authors and artists. Topics of interest include (but are not limited to): colonialism and race/multiculturalism, nationalism and national culture, migration and diaspora, critical refugee studies, transnationalism and globalization. 

            Please send 250-word abstracts and 100-word speaker bios, as well as any questions, to Weihsin Gui (weihsing@ucr.edu) and Brenda Machosky (machosky@hawaii.edu) by March 15, 2019. Please note that speakers whose papers are accepted for this session will need to become members of the Modern Language Association by April 7, 2019 in order to participate in the conference itself.