Encountering the Third Space: A Study of Identity and Hybridity through Trans-cultural Artistic Practice in Australia and China

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Inter Disciplinary.Net


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communication and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications




Zhang, Y., & Barstow, C. (2011). Encountering the Third Space: a study of identity and hybridity through trans-cultural artistic practice in Australia and China. Paper presented at the 4th Global Conference on Diasporas: Exploring Critical Issues, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom.


‘Encountering the Third Space’ examines the issues surrounding national and personal identity through the lens of contemporary Australasian arts practice and in relation to Homi Bhabha’s third space theory. The authors investigate the relationship between nationally constructed identities and those represented by indigenous artists and within the trans-cultural and diasporic communities of Australia and China. Whereas Bhabha proposes a third space that is incommensurate within social and political contexts, the authors examine the counter theories by which productive and creative spaces are offered to artists and writers in order to re-propose the perceived barriers of cultural difference. Theoretical arguments around perceived identities are examined through contemporary Australian immigrant artists working within Western paradigms in contrast to traditional Indigenous artists who are maintaining their cultural language through an involvement in the international art markets. The study compares diachronic and synchronic cultures as a basis for a collective Australian cultural identity. As a parallel study, we also examine women’s identity reflected in contemporary women’s popular fictions in Australia and China. We argue in this section that whereas the public knowledge of feminism/nu quan zhu yi (Chinese Pinyin of English term ‘feminism’) divides the feminists in Australia and China, the pursuit of inner (essential) identity represented in women’s imaginative writing relates and connects women writers and audience in two seemingly oppositional cultural and social contexts. Through these case studies, arguments about the validity of national identities within a modern hybrid society are examined.

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