Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Vanden Driesen

Abstract

This thesis is a comparative study of three selected texts by Australian novelists
Yasmine Gooneratne, A Change of Skies,(1991) Adib Khan, Seasonal
Adjustments (1994) and Brian Castro, Birds of Passage ((1983). All three writers
explore the experiences and perceptions of their protagonists in relating to the
landscape, people and cultural traditions within the Australian context into which
they have migrated from different Asian countries. Brian Castro’s central
characters, Lo Yun Shan and Seamus O’Young, are drawn from two contexts, the
former from the 19th century China while the latter is a contemporary Australian
born Chinese. Gooneratne’s and Khan’s protagonists hail from South-East Asian
contexts, which are again interestingly different, Gooneratne’s character being
from Sri Lanka and Khan’s from Bangladesh. From the multiplicity of cultures
from which these texts emerge with their inevitable movements of the
protagonists between the originary and adoptive homes, there seems to be a
reaching towards a necessary ‘inter’ space, what Homi Bhabha calls the ‘Third
Space.’ In terms of perception of identity and belonging this borderline position
would appear to be crucial to the diasporic condition. (1994, p. 53) While this
study explores the problematics, accommodations, resolutions and synergies
involved in the experience of negotiating this liminal space and living what
Rushdie calls a ‘translated’ existence, (1991, p. 17) the focus is on particular
processes crucial to that translation.


My study will suggest that the arrival at the ‘Third Space’ is represented neither
as a benign experience of adaptation to a different sense of home nor a sense of
being relegated to a state of permanent loss and alienation. Rather it will be
apparent that the migrant experience is more mosaic than formulaic resisting neat
definitions of movement from an initial sense of estrangement from the host
nation to accommodation and assimilation within the new society. It seems that
each individual character is poised on different and differing configurations of
cultural allegiances and identities within the’ Third Space’. The representation
and perception of the’ Third Space’ ‘in relation to the performance of identity as iteration and the recreation of self…[particularly in terms of] the desire for
recognition’ (Bhabha, 2004, p.12) appears more diverse than originally envisaged
by Bhabha. There appears to be a plurality of articulations within this
formulation, suggesting it is not a single, homogenous in-between space but a
constellation of ‘Third Spaces’, fluid and changing, overriding the possibility of a
‘happy hybridity’ which, in any case. most theorists in the field find an untenable
concept. The tracing of this highly complex . inter-related and entangled plethora
of experiences which constitute the fate of the migrant will be explored in depth
and detail in this thesis. Finally, no arrival at certain certainties is promised at its
conclusion; only, possibly, a heightening of awareness, an expansion of
understanding.. This provides an opportunity to revisit, indeed to rethink the
complexities of migrant experience as not only transcending dichotomies of
insider/outsider, belonging/alterity which are encoded in the narrative of a nation,
while simultaneously affirming the processes of hybridity as crucial to the
formation of a ‘double selved’ identity.

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