By Xu Daozhi (Claire)
“Why are you interested in Australian (children’s) literature?” During my four-year PhD at HKU, I often encountered this question when telling friends what my dissertation was about. For some time into my PhD I still hadn’t figured out a good answer to this. I had a Master’s degree from Renmin University of China, where I studied at the Australian Studies Centre. Since then, I developed an interest in Australian literature, especially the genre of books written for adolescents and young adults. My research topic was actually the outcome of many coincidences (c’est la vie); and while I have been keen on talking about my research with someone who shares similar research interests, the fact is and remains that there are few scholars based in Hong Kong who focus on Australian studies in general (let alone Aussie children’s books). In what follows, I venture to share what I know about the current situation with regards to Australian Studies in Mainland China and the two conferences that I attended earlier this year.
Since the 1980s and 90s, Australian Studies Centres (ASCs) have been established at universities across China. The ASCs in East Normal University (Shanghai) and Renmin University of China (Beijing) are among the most active ones. Though Australian Studies remains less popular compared to American, British or Japanese studies, in recent years there has been a much more vigorous development of Australian Studies in China. So far there have been around forty ASCs across China. Most of them are affiliated with the Department of Foreign Languages or the School of English. The field of Australian Studies largely focuses on various subjects in the humanities, including literature, history, culture, and Australia-China relations. It should be noted that in recent years more interdisciplinary, economic-related research projects in Australian studies have begun to emerge.
Thanks to the generous support from the Foundation for Australian Studies in China (FASIC), I attended and presented papers at the International Symposium on Parallels Between Australian Indigenous People and Chinese Mongolian People from June 26-28, 2015, in Hohhot and the 3rd FASIC Conference on Contested Histories and the Politics of Memories in Shanghai from October 22-25, 2015. Though addressing different themes, these two conferences offered a platform for scholars from China, Australia, and other countries who share an interest in Australian Studies to conduct open dialogues and academic engagements. The Hohhot conference had a special focus on comparative Indigeneity, language revitalization, and education of ethnic minorities. The Shanghai conference had an emphasis on historical perspectives. In each conference a wide range of topics related to Australian Indigenous cultures, cross-cultural engagement, Australia-China relations and so forth, were also discussed. I was glad to meet with scholars who had expertise in the field of Australian Studies and I learnt a lot from their presentations as well as the discussions between the sessions. Both conferences were intellectually inspiring and socially amiable.
For those who are interested in Australian Studies or who have already worked in this field, here is the CFP from the International Australian Studies Association (InASA) for their biennial conference, “Re-imagining Australia’: Encounter, Recognition, Responsibility”, 7-9 December 2016, at Fremantle, Western Australia.
Good news: from this year InASA will launch a competitive postgraduate conference travel bursary. For details, please refer to the following link: