From a review of The Time of the Peacock (1965) to questions of assimilation and adaptation amongst the diasporic, migrant multitudes of today.
Scents of otherness in the Australian bush
In the The Time of the Peacock, Mena Abdullah captures the out-of-place-ness of an Indian family in 1950’s rural Australia through a series of beautifully crafted, short stories. Abdullah weaves together the family’s experience of holding dearly to the memories and ways of a distant homeland while trying to make a place in a country that marks them as indelibly different. She depicts the nuance and complexity of migrant lives – not just as outsiders in a foreign land, but also in the interconnections between family members. They aren’t just ‘Indian’, the dad is a Punjabi Muslim, the mum from a Hindu Brahmin family and those differences matter. The politics of the partition of India briefly arises, yet ultimately these subtleties are in the background, adding layers of depth to this telling of the migrant experience.
Continue reading “Becoming Present:“
written in early 2019.
A veil of innocence
An affectation of innocence underscores white Australia’s relation to non-white migrants who arrive here. It exists as a certainty in the inherent goodness of the structures of liberal democracy, a belief that the welcome that has been given to us migrants is charitable and tolerant in such a way that reinforces a position of benevolent authority. In conjunction with this belief is the sense that non-white migrants are always looking to exploit the naïve, kindness of white Australia. This is a continuation of racist, colonial narratives that disguises the violence of colonisation by positioning white people as constantly endangered by the lurking, dangerous brown/ black other, who will use any means – barbaric and violent or sneaky and underhanded – to access all the goodness of white society. The sense of fragility and paranoia that these colonial narratives engender mean that migrants’ place here is predicated on endlessly demonstrating our gratitude for having been allowed to stay. We are expected to display our affection and attachment in ways that are both recognisable to, and uphold, the assumed neutrality of liberal democracy by not calling it for what it is: white, liberal democracy. This veil of innocence, of impartiality, attempts to obscure a founding violence that defines all racial politics in this country, while allowing for the ongoing exploitation and dispossession faced by First Nations people.
Continue reading “Anti-colonial Affections: How migrants might spurn white Australia’s demands for love in favour of solidarity with Aboriginal resistance.”
A very long essay I wrote around 7 – 8 years ago. I don’t love all of it now (and have edited a few bits out here) and it takes some ‘interesting’ twists and turns. However, I think the critique of liberal multiculturalism in the first half has some useful moments – although it’s heavily theoretical. Then there’s a strange middle section where I basically review a novel – ‘The Black Album’ by Hanif Kureishi – before a rambling ending that considers the possibilities of radical collectivity.
Understanding contemporary multiculturalism in Australia, in all
its liberal, capitalist garb, sets a background from which we can consider why
it is that certain traditional cultural forms – religion in particular – have
an ongoing resonance for migrants. The point of which is not to lay a critique
about cultural choices at the feet of particular migrant groups but instead to
show how this resonance of traditional cultural forms exposes the empty core of
liberal capitalism and its exhortations to individualistic, market-based
choice. Much of this will be inspired by sections of Zizek’s evisceration of
liberalism in Violence
as well as taking a look at some of the ideas in The Black
Album, Hanif Kureishi’s novel from London in the early 90’s.
Continue reading “Untangling the knots: Finding collectivity in the mire of liberal multiculturalism.”