1 Introduction: From Migrant Writing to Ethnic Minority Literatures

A brief history of Australian multicultural literary studies

Whatever else we may feel about postmodernist and post-colonialist debates, they have undoubtedly precipitated a widespread acceptance of the fact that positionality--where you stand in relation to what you say--is central to the construction of knowledge. In other words, they have made it more difficult to talk about literature in terms of universal propositions, or about texts without reference to their contexts. This has resulted in an impetus to consider local elements: histories, socio-politics, and ethnic specificities. At the same time, and fortuitously, this development has also been anti-nationalist in some respects by not being limited to the local in any parochial sense. Instead we have become aware of different levels of constructing such unities, and of the investments of power these bring into play. In spite of rhetoric to the contrary, no nation or language has ever been a naturally unified entity (Anderson, 1991), although some have attempted to imply this by means of an emblematic iconography based on imagined or actual earthly boundaries (Boelhower, 1987). This applies even to the island kingdom of Britain, to Englishness and the English language. English can be said to have sprung many leaks, and indeed to have been always the product of spillage from many languages and cultures; consequently we now tend to differentiate, for example, between English literature and literatures in English. Considerations of perspective and positionality, and the relative status of knowledge production, have engendered an awareness of diasporic webs and connections created by means of those many sign-systems we call languages.

To talk about 'multiculturalism' is to be faced with all these elements. Although the term resonates globally, it has very specific local inflections. In the United Kingdom it refers to Black---White relations, where 'Black' encompasses Africans, Caribbeans and Asians. It tends to refer to the old Commonwealth, or, at the very least, to those peoples who have been recently oppressed by colonialism (Anthias and Yuval-Davis, 1992). In the US it refers to historically marginalised groups: Blacks (African-Americans), Hispanics and to some extent Asians (from Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent as well as from Vietnam, Korea, etc.) and Arabs. In Canada multiculturalism, in spite of its history, denotes those who are not included in the English-French axis. In New Zealand the term barely circulates, because it is perceived as detracting from an emphasis on biculturalism which is structured around Maori claims for sovereignty. In response to this last instance we realise that multiculturalism needs to be differentiated from the struggles by various indigenous peoples for independence.

In Australia the Aborigines emphatically distance themselves from multiculturalism, which they perceive as being predicated on various cultures of migration. Having marked this distinction, we should note also that multiculturalism in Australia incorporates all those other than the original settler-colonising groups composed mainly of people from the UK and Ireland. Because the shorthand (and contested) term for this group is 'Anglo-Celtic', 'multicultural' tends to translate into 'non-Anglo-Celts'. In New Zealand the comparable term, Pakeha, also functions primarily in relation to groups descended from the British, and thus occludes other kinds of cultural difference. Multiculturalism in Australia has tended to refer to Europeans, and initially to those Northern groups which are often excluded from multiculturalism in the North American or the British sense because they are associated with privilege and the colonising process. They comprise those who, after World War II, became refugees and 'displaced persons' (DPs). Broadly speaking, after that early postwar period the subsequent immigrants consisted first of those classified as economic migrants (mainly from Southern Europe), and later of people fleeing from various wars in Hungary, Vietnam, Lebanon and soon, no doubt, the former Yugoslavia. Increasingly it has come to include a wide range of over a hundred ethnic groups (Jupp, 1988). Because Australia is unrelentingly an English-speaking country, ethnic diversity has had a number of ramifications, and ethnic groups have functioned to some degree as a way of measuring symptoms associated with national aspirations and anxieties.

Why should we study these 'ethnic minority writings', and is this phrase the best way of referring to them? The Canadian critic Francesco Loriggio (1990a) has made the point that such writings serve to connect literature and aesthetics to history, for by summoning up the history of minorities they draw attention to that which mainstream history has excluded. In Australia these writings have had currency first as 'migrant writing', then as 'ethnic writing', and more recently as 'multicultural writing'. Each of these terms has signalled the alterity of various writings produced in Australia but perceived as 'other' (alter) than the Anglo-Celtic norm. The problems centre upon the paradox of emphasising the difference of that which, eventually, you are seeking to incorporate within the mainstream. Once again, Francesco Loriggio aptly summarises the range of work which faces those involved in mapping ethnic minority writings :

One of the most interesting aspects of ethnic literature as a field of study is the obligations it entails. The critic is forced to work on many levels simultaneously. S/he must name the texts, disseminate them, and, at the same time, at this particular stage of the game, define them, situate them within the literary agenda of the century and the debate it has fostered. Editing, translating, the journalistic piece or the one-page review are not beyond his/her ken. And neither are the more ethereal spheres of his/her discipline. In short, s/he must document the existence of the corpus, of the tradition, while grappling with the criteria that establish them. (Loriggio, 1990a:21)

In other words it has been necessary both to assemble the work and to find the conceptual tools to analyse it. The biggest difference between the Canadian and Australian experience, for example, is in sheer critical mass; more people are working on these issues in Canada, and the Canadians have achieved much more detailed work on the histories and writings of specific cultural groups (Gunew, 1993a). Comparable work in Australia has been much more sporadic and ad hoc, and bedevilled by a slightly different battery of obstacles and prejudices (Gunew, 1992; 1993b).

For a start, Canada is not as unrelentingly English as Australia. Such divisions as are acknowledged in Australia focus on splits between the Anglo-Protestants (usually middle-class) and the Irish Catholic working class, and more recently on a belated attempt to reconcile rifts between the settler-colonisers and the indigenous peoples. Within those divisions, other groups have been lost, or seen as too 'other' and foreign. The very fact that Canada has two founding languages and cultures has made quite a difference to the level of tolerance for non-English cultures and languages.

Another difference is in a sense symptomatic of these conditions, namely that a great deal is revealed, as always, through nomenclature. The general shorthand term for minority ethnic writings in Australia is still 'migrant literature'. In other words it is seen as transitory and not really rooted in the place at all. It is often talked about in the marketplace as a literature that deals with themes, characters and events situated 'outside' Australia. It is to rectify these absurdities that a relatively small group of academics has been labouring to change this picture and align it more closely with comparable international models (Gunew and Longley, 1992b). Roughly five kinds of activity have been involved in setting up multicultural literary studies in Australia: the production of anthologies and bibliographies; the establishment of collections of multicultural literature; the framing of theoretical structures for the study of such materials, including the setting up of academic courses on it; reviewing and publishing multicultural writing; and working with government agencies on multicultural policy.The first three could be termed the general strategy of making an absence visible. It is something learnt from the institutional establishment of women's writing a few decades ago.

Thinking about cultural difference in an Australian context began around 1979, when questions of 'positionality' or 'perspectivism' were just beginning to stimulate a major debate in cultural studies. In this regard, Francesco Loriggio (1990b:89) pertinently suggests that 'point of view, positioning of oneself or the subject matter are at once the ultimate dimension and the ultimate device of ethnicity'.

During the 1970s multiculturalism was being consolidated as government policy. Inevitably, the dominant emphases were mobilised around issues of social justice, such as access and equity, and a welfare model of 'lack' or 'disadvantage'. In other words, Australians were asked to think in terms of a migrant/ethnic 'problem' which led inevitably to the construction of migrants or ethnics as themselves the problem. It was never a question of what these people could contribute to the nation through their different cultures and languages. Instead it became a question of what had to be sliced off the national funding cake in order to keep them quiet, and to lend credibility to the image of Australia as a democratic and equitable nation. It is crucial to distinguish here between those government policies and institutions which are designed to manage cultural diversity and the claims for cultural involvement which emanate from the various ethnic groups themselves. The politics of these two areas are quite different, and often in conflict; but opponents of multiculturalism invariably merge them, and indict both for dividing the nation.

Multiculturalism intersects, but is not synonymous with, immigration. As has often been pointed out, if immigration were to stop tomorrow there would still be multiculturalism. In order to understand the contexts within which multicultural literature operates it is useful to familiarise oneself with the history of the immigration of culturally diverse groups in Australia. The National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia, which the Office of Multicultural Affairs published in 1989, provides a state definition of multiculturalism, and there is in addition the officially endorsed encyclopedia edited by Jupp (1988). But of course it is not only the state or official policy-makers who define these social realities. Fazal Rizvi, for example, traces the movement from assimilation to multiculturalism in the following manner:

The policy of assimilation was clearly and unambiguously designed to preserve the hegemony of the Anglo-Australian ruling class. Yet it was 'sold' to the immigrants in a language that suggested meritocracy, egalitarianism and equality of opportunity. According to the rhetoric used, immigrant groups were encouraged to assimilate into a homogeneous culture so that they, too, could have an opportunity to take an equal and informed part in the maintenance of Australian society. (Rizvi, 1989:8)

Multiculturalism as a policy emerged in the 1960s. According to Andrew Jakubowitz's critique, 'multiculturalism functions as an ideology by appearing to act on behalf of the disadvantaged migrants, though in reality it leaves essential social relations and an unequal distribution of power in Australia unaltered' (ibid.:16).


Once migrants and their descendants became interested in the whole field of 'migrant writing', it was clear that the necessary first stage in the enterprise was what has been termed the strategy of visibility. At that time, around 1979, it was a case of having to sift through old journals and anthologies in order simply to come up with the names of writers and examples of their work. In my own case it resulted in the editing and co-editing of four anthologies of multicultural writing (Gunew, 1981, 1987a; Gunew and Mahyuddin, 1988; Couani and Gunew, 1988). Curriculum work on what were then known simply as 'migrant writers' was grounded more easily in interdisciplinary cultural studies than traditional literary studies, because, inescapably, this writing could make sense only within the context of the history and politics of postwar migration. In my own case, the actual context was the first-year course on narratology in Deakin University's undergraduate literature major. Students in this interdisciplinary course were exposed to various forms of narrative, including film and visual material. Within the framework of an Australian oral history project, they were asked to research the Depression era, using family and friends for interviews. Realising that people like myself would not find such an enterprise easy, it struck me that a parallel concept might be that a comparable and more appropriate task for students from non-Anglo-Celtic families to undertake might be research into Australian postwar migration. From this simple idea, course material was produced. It comprised two videos and an anthology called Displacements: Migrant Writers (Gunew, 1981), which incorporates a wide variety of narratives dealing with the experience of migration, ranging from relatively unmediated first-person accounts to complex texts which use unreliable narrators and multiple levels of irony.

The videos were to some extent self-reflexive examinations of the so-called authenticity of two formats, the interview and the documentary. Since then, many films, ranging from the realist to the experimental, have dealt with multicultural hybridity (Blonski, 1993). The second anthology was entitled Displacements 2: Multicultural Storytellers (Gunew, 1987a), and the changed subtitle illustrates a necessary historical shift in approach. It became clear to me that this project of 'visibility' needed to distinguish between migrants writing in the main about the experience of migration, and works by non-Anglo-Celtic writers (often second- and third-generation) which are distinguished by their intimate links to linguistic and literary traditions other than those deriving from England or Ireland. The term 'migrant', as pointed out above, conjures up subjects whose presence in the dominant culture is merely temporary, and whose orientation is towards a past nostalgically conceived as a lost motherland and mother tongue. This precariousness is further signalled by such widely used bureaucratic terms as NESB (non-English-speaking background), an exclusionary acronym which indicates an insecure hold on the only language which is the measure of linguistic competence in Australia, namely English.

'Anglo-Celtic' is also a fraught term, given the ways in which the battles between England and Ireland have been fought out symbolically in the Australian arena. We need also to acknowledge the fact that Britain itself is divided culturally as a nation, and that Welsh and Scottish claims need to be separated out (Nairn, 1977). This study uses the designation 'Anglo-Celtic' to indicate not only a British-derived culture based on the use of the English language but also certain political and cultural institutions, and especially a tradition of education in 'English studies'. Those who simply use the term 'Anglo' or 'Anglocentric' (Castles et al.,1988) leave out the crucial Celtic component in Australian culture. Indeed, in Australia, dissidence has been synonymous to some degree with Irish working-class and Catholic groups; while I have no wish to play down the differences between 'Anglo' and 'Irish Catholic' groups, I want to focus here on other forms of dissidence and difference. No other shorthand term than 'Anglo-Celtic' indicates so aptly a prevailing cultural nostalgia that gestures towards an old country which is always either England or Ireland, and which characterises the dominant ethnic groups here. Indeed, the Celtic portion of the term indicates an efficient hijacking of Australian culture by the Irish, who have managed to convince many of us that much of what we think of as quintessentially Australian culture--the laconic humour, the folk-music and many canonical Australian writers--derives directly from Ireland. This study retains the term 'Anglo-Celtic' (with these cautions) to differentiate between the cultural contributions of those whose linguistic and cultural traditions derive from England or Ireland, and those who are linked to the sixty or more other language groups which have colonised Australia. Non-Anglo-Celts need to be as vigilant as second-wave feminists were to the politics of language and naming.

By the time the second anthology was produced in the late 1980s, there was a much greater mix of first- and second-generation non-Anglo-Celtic writers. Concerns were no longer limited to the experience of migration. This was the era of popular stage shows such as Wogs Out of Work, which resulted in the television comedy series Acropolis Now. In popular culture an aggressive counter-discourse was beginning to emanate from inner-city Melbourne and Sydney youths of non-Anglo-Celtic background. It became easier to foreground questions of mediation, in the sense that prevailing stereotypes of the national culture were already being interrogated by second-generation writers perched strategically and knowingly between cultures. Their intervention also cast doubts on the adequacy of categories such as class and gender, which had become an acknowledged part of the critical vocabulary. Ethnicity or cultural difference immediately inflects both class and gender in quite particular ways.

In the literary domain, second-generation Mediterraneans or Southern Europeans are now relatively famous: I have in mind the performance pieces of . O. (Pi. O.) and Komninos, and the writings of Angelo Loukakis and George Papaellinas as well as of Anna-Maria Dell'oso and Zeny Giles. Unlike their parents' generation, which was made up of rural and urban working- or lower middle-class people in a world of milkbars and fish 'n' chip shops, they themselves have been upwardly mobile aspirants to full metropolitan and bourgeois status.

The appearance in the mid-1980s of Manfred Jurgensen's Outrider (a journal dedicated initially to publishing multicultural writing) indicated a different perception of multicultural literature by linking it with bourgeois culture by way of Weltliteratur. Within the ambit of the 'best' of 'world literature', the journal now publishes overseas writers and Anglo-Celtic as well as non-Anglo-Celtic Australian writers . This represents another tactic for integrating multicultural concerns into Australian literature, but it does not fundamentally alter the premises upon which Australia's national culture is founded. In other words, it merely adds some more writers without considering the fact that this 'supplement' redefines the whole domain of Australian literature. It also has a quite markedly Eurocentric framework.

In the midst of these concerns, the third anthology, Beyond the Echo: Multicultural Women's Writing (Gunew and Mahyuddin, 1988), proclaimed itself as emphatically not an anthology of migrant writing. It signalled a desire, that is, to be considered as part of literature rather than sociology. The primary function of both this volume and the fourth anthology, Telling Ways: Australian Women's Experimental Writing (Couani and Gunew, 1988), is to insert the writings of non-Anglo-Celtic women into the mushrooming domain of women's writing. By this stage Australian feminist debates were increasingly concerned with the differences between women: they constituted another version of the dismantling of a universalist cultural politics. Although the publisher of Beyond the Echo wanted an anthology organised thematically around the migrant experience, we did not provide one. Our anthology questions various generic expectations of women's writing: that it will be confessional or autobiographical; that it is automatically authentic and unmediated by conventions; that 'NESB' means linguistic deficiency and so on. In Telling Ways the particular focus of experimental writing makes this point even more strongly. I should add that many writers first published in Beyond the Echo went on to produce books of their own, thus vindicating the production of anthologies as a visibility strategy.

A Bibliography of Australian Multicultural Writers and the multicultural literature collection at Deakin University

In 1992 there appeared the first comprehensive bibliography of multicultural writers in Australia (Gunew, Houbein, Karakostas-Seda and Mahyuddin, 1992a), which contains around nine hundred authors and numbers three hundred pages of double-column entries. Substantially accumulated by Jan Mahyuddin and co-ordinated by myself, it is based on earlier work by Loló Houbein and Alexandra Karakostas-Seda, but differs in deliberately including second- and even third-generation writers. The project is immersed in the politics of taxonomies and categorisation. The presence of second- and third-generation writers emphasises the continuing necessity to move beyond the category of the 'migrant' so that questions of cultural difference infiltrate all future considerations of the national literature. The bibliography includes some listing of the critical reception of these writers, together with information concerning translators. We found that about 33 per cent published in English, 32 per cent in English and other languages, and 35 per cent in languages other than English. We also included quite well-known Australian writers such as David Malouf and Elizabeth Jolley as well as Henry Lawson, doyen of an earlier era, in order to point out the need to reassess all Australia's literature in terms of the whole range of cultural influences which have gone into its production. The object was both to facilitate analyses of ethnic writers in Australia and to raise the question of ethnicity in all Australian literature. The information collected as part of this project is in the process of being mainstreamed into the BALP (Bibliography of Australian Literature Project) database (National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University).

While it was being compiled, this bibliography--funded by the Australian Bicentennial Multicultural Foundation--formed the basis for the first comprehensive collection of multicultural literature in this country. Judging from inquiries received from Germany, England, Japan, the US and Canada, there is clearly a growing body of critics interested in diasporic cultures, such as those for example, of Italian or Greek writers in Australia. At present the Australian National Library's catalogues of their holdings in foreign languages do not specify whether writers are Australian, so it is extremely difficult to carry out research in the field of Australian writing in languages other than English. In addition, work on the bibliography made us acutely aware that irreplaceable papers and manuscripts were being lost because there was no adequately coordinated institutional interest in them. Deakin University's multicultural literature collection is on the national system and can be accessed nationally and internationally. It is also generating a catalogue and database which will be invaluable to future researchers. The multicultural literature collection, in conjunction with the bibliography, forms the base for future research into the different linguistic and cultural groups in Australia, and particularly those originating in the nineteenth-century. Eventually it will enable much more precise statements to be made about the impact of cultural difference on Australian culture.

Theoretical structures

Critics of ethnic minority writings commonly assume that post-structuralist theories are inappropriate for examining what are deemed for the most part to be unproblematic first-person narratives or community histories. According to the Canadian critic Joseph Pivato, for example, 'the work of the ethnic writers has an immediate grassroots nature that demands that these texts be read on their own terms before they can be related to existing models' (Pivato, 1994). While it is true that we should exercise caution before imposing critical structures on such writing, I find Pivato's phrase 'on their own terms' problematic, since it is precisely such assumptions (reduced to the narrowest terms) which have impeded the reception of multicultural literature in Australia. In an early attempt to tackle the theoretical issues here I argued, on the basis of Jacques Derrida's concept of the 'supplement', that the addition of so-called migrant writing would eventually redefine the premises governing the formation of Australian literature (Gunew, 1985). Later research has simply confirmed this notion, and emphasised the continuing need to wrest these writings away from their allegedly 'natural' place in oral history and sociology, where they are read simply for their historical or sociological content, and in ways that render their textuality invisible. In other words, the old battles to claim these writings as part of literature are still being fought. It is also necessary to reiterate the need to differentiate between migrant writing and non-Anglo-Celtic writing. Recent forays have entered into debates around the formation of national literatures (Gunew, 1990a).

What critical apparatus exists for speaking about minority literatures, or 'literatures of lesser diffusion' or 'other solitudes' as they are referred to in Canada? 'Ethnic minority literatures' (Padolsky, 1991, 1992) is a useful phrase because it implies that there is always an ethnic majority literature, and thus draws attention to the question of ethnicity in all literature. In other words, it acts as a reminder of what we have learnt from various recent emancipatory struggles, namely the primary need to deconstruct the hegemonic centre.

The word 'minority' also alludes to an influential study by Deleuze and Guattari (1986), who use the example of Franz Kafka to distinguish between a minor literature (in a major language) and a literature of minorities (written in a minor language). They also introduce the useful (and highly complex) concept of the 'deterritorialisation' of the dominant language by minority languages. Unmoored from within, the dominant language loses its power as a kind of Adamic naming and hence possession of the world.

Post-colonial criticism (deriving from the work of Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha and others) has also been influential in linking questions of language and representation with claims to cultural sovereignty or enfranchisement. It was used initially of colonised indigenous peoples; but more recently, and rather disturbingly, it is being applied in an almost depoliticised sense to those descendants of the colonisers who are now trying to cut free of various imperial mother countries. This is certainly occurring in Australia, where post-colonialism has been appropriated to some degree by these interest groups, who position themselves on the one hand in relation to mother England and on the other hand (and to some degree sentimentally) in relation to Aboriginal Australia. Such moves eclipse both postwar immigration history and a range of positions relating to cultural difference. To some extent, 'cultural difference' as an analytic category emerges out of post-colonialism, but it comes also out of feminist debates about sexual difference, as well as, in turn, analyses of racial difference in the Black movement. These theories and theorists are discussed in greater detail in the next two chapters.

From the very beginning, post-structuralist theories have proved useful in defining this new terrain, because they undo the very notion that pure and separate categories exist within aesthetics or, indeed, cultural politics. Aspects of deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism and post-colonialism thus helped demonstrate that these writings are available to high literary theory. It was equally clear that they are amenable to those current theories of the postmodern which focus on such matters as the 'decentred' subject, anti-narrative fragmentation, and a scepticism about master-narratives (Lyotard, 1984). Post-structural psychoanalysis has also proved important because it provides the most sophisticated framework for theorising the formation of subjectivity in relation to unconscious processes, such as the idea of entering the symbolic order of language. Jacques Lacan's famous dictum that 'the unconscious is structured like a language' raised the possibility that the unconscious may well be formed in relation to particular languages rather than to language-in-general. This in turn provokes many questions about the silences in classic Lacanian theory, which remains remarkably resistant to historically specific enquiries.

With hindsight, the degree of institutional resistance these projects attracted was hardly surprising, because the work was occurring on two fronts. On the one hand there was the project--a big enough task in itself--of challenging the canon of the great Australian tradition, itself barely a few decades old. This deconstructive enterprise had already begun in the work of feminist critics during the 1970s. It was therefore illuminating (and more than a little disheartening) to discover in this kindred territory institutionalised as Women's Studies a measure of hostility towards acknowledging principles of difference, in this case among women themselves. The second task involved the use of post-structuralist theory in a non-metropolitan, that is, Australian environment, which automatically involved further battles (Gunew, 1992).

Given these ferments, it has been useful to locate such debates within the formations of national cultures. Appropriate models are to be found in recent research into 'Englishness' and the rise of English studies in the UK, analysed as a moral technology complicit with structures of imperialism. As Terry Eagleton (1983) pointed out long ago, English literary studies functioned to produce depoliticised subjectivities. Current work on the Australian version of English studies and their significance in the Australian situation is progressing. To trace the impact of English studies on the rise of Australian studies would be a very useful exercise in deconstructing Australian culture.

Early in 1992 the first anthology of critical essays on multicultural literature was published under the title Striking Chords: Multicultural Literary Interpretations (Gunew and Longley, 1992b). This anthology contains up-to-date bibliographic information on critical studies in the area of Australian ethnic minority literatures. It includes a wide range of approaches, ranging from special-author studies to thematic approaches and those which use post-structuralist theoretical perspectives. The book also contains statements by writers on how they position themselves in the multicultural writing debates. Quite often, and rightly so given their current conditions, writers object to the special pleading they perceive as inherent in the label 'ethnic' or 'multicultural' writer. Understandably, they wish to be considered as Australian writers. When they describe themselves in those terms, they assume that their ethnicity is accepted as part of that designation, whereas this is still not the case when used in the wider community. Illuminating comparisons may be made with statements by writers in Hutcheon and Richmond (1990).


To bring forward these issues into the public cultural arena still results in major battles. It remains important, however, to make these challenges in mainstream contexts rather than always in special-interest journals. This work of intervention in mainstream journals is a central part of the enterprise, for it questions those assumptions which permeate current constructions of the national culture. It is crucial that people stop seeing such perspectives as those of a minuscule minority, for the next generation will be bristling with them. There will be no further need then for these relatively crude strategies.

The 'literature machine' has many components, at each of which interventions need to be made, whether by editing new anthologies, publishing essays, or contributing to conferences and professional gatherings. The work is spread over a wide arena, and is very dependent on intersecting networks of patronage (Papastergiadis, Gunew and Blonski, 1993b). A key component is the relatively small scale of publishing in Australia, which has always made things difficult for marginal writers. However, the rise of small publishers as a result of desktop publishing is encouraging. Some of these have links to ethnic communities, but others do not. Literature, like many other art-forms, is not simply an extension of or coterminous with any community, ethnic or otherwise. A related consideration is that as yet there has been no systematic attempt to assess the role of ethnic media either in giving a forum to ethnic minority writers or in airing cultural matters to both minority and majority audiences.

Policy work

In recent years, the work of Tony Bennett (1992a, 1992b), Stuart Cunningham (1992) and Ian Hunter (Hunter et al., 1991) in the Institute for Policy Studies at Griffith University in Queensland has alerted us to the importance of theorising policy work in relation to studies in the humanities. My own experience of such matters emerges from a different position, namely my experience of how policy is formulated in a number of state institutions. For three years I was a Council Member of the Australia Council, and I have also been on the federal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee as well as the Multicultural Advisory Committee for the Victorian Ministry for the Arts. All of these appointments involved formulating policy on multicultural cultural matters. As a consequence I am less optimistic than some are about the ability of academics, acting as consultants on policy, to maintain an uncompromising critical distance in such work. Like my colleagues at Griffith University, however, I am convinced that in this area there needs to be as much intellectual debate on and engagement with the issues as possible. The role of those co-opted on to a variety of federal and State committees which deal with the formation of policy for managing the cultural sphere is a troubled one. To be regarded as the repository of all things relating to multicultural matters, for example, is a highly problematic activity. The first step consists of always making sure that one is connected to the 'field' outside in order to be able to act as a conduit for disseminating information in both directions. Consider two such examples.

The Australia Council is a federal body that controls funding in the subsidised arts, which currently make up around 6 per cent of all cultural funding. Though this seems a small and elitist area, its symbolic stature cannot be underestimated. In the last decade various attempts have been made to formulate policy guidelines for bringing non-English-speaking background (NESB) artists into the arts-funding arena. It is not that they haven't been producing art; the problem is that their work is neither given the kind of support it deserves nor recognised as part of the national culture. The Australia Council, in response to the National Agenda on Multiculturalism (1989), has developed a Council-wide 'Arts for a Multicultural Australia' policy (see Blonski, 1992), which is a series of strategies for both encouraging and coping with the processing of applications from NESB artists. One problem is that these are still seen too often as falling automatically within community arts business, together with what are deemed working-class or community artists in general. This aspect of the arts-funding area is animated by principles of access and equity that by current definitions are incompatible with those questions of aesthetic judgement or 'excellence' in the arts which the Australia Council defines as its major mission. In other words, excellence is usually defined as transcending such socio-political categories as class or gender or ethnicity. This means that the kind of informed professionalism which operates in adjudicating funding in the major art-form panels does not function in the same way within the community arts. Here an unproblematic concept of the 'community' dominates in relation to class, gender and cultural diversity. In this context individual artists of non-Anglo-Celtic backgrounds who do not see themselves as community artist have a tough time.

In 1991 the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee was convened to draft a plan for encouraging all the collecting institutions in the country--such as libraries, museums, art museums and archives--to respond to cultural diversity. This exercise represents the other side of the cultural coin. While the Australia Council distinguishes between heritage arts and contemporary arts and funds only the latter, the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee addresses the nature of Australia's heritage. What do we choose to conserve and display, or, who 'owns' the past? Once again this has precipitated some interesting conceptual categories, mostly to do with 'heritage' itself, and has also thrown into relief what people mean when they respond to multiculturalism by saying that they will consult with and involve ethnic communities in their institutional practices. Who these communities are, and who is to represent them, become major concerns. Also noteworthy is the recognition that institutional managers rarely consider that the professionals they need may well be found in non-Anglo-Celtic areas, or even that their own current staff have culturally diverse skills to offer. In other words, the 'ethnics' continue to be seen as inhabiting a space 'out there' and not in here and part of 'us'. This in a nutshell is the multicultural dilemma in institutional and policy matters (Gunew and Rizvi, 1994). But let us pause here and consider a little further the interplay between heritage, memory and history in relation to multiculturalism, and specifically the multilingual dimension of non-Anglo-Celtic Australia.

Reinventing the national culture

In the penultimate chapter of the revised version of his influential book Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson makes the somewhat surprising point that rather than simply deriving their nationalisms from European dynastic states, colonial states may be said in fact to have structured the very grammar of nationalism. He consolidates this claim through an analysis of the census, the map and the museum. Using the methodology of totalising classification (the census and map), European usurpers constructed what Anderson (1991:174---5) terms a 'political-biographical narrative' of 'the property history of their new possessions'. Museums in turn encourage the museumisation of sacred sites as 'regalia for a secular state' (ibid.:182), their most important characteristic being their infinite reproducibility in postcards and books, etc.. Nowadays we tend to refer to this process as 'cultural tourism'.

Clearly traced here is a relationship between structuring the genealogy of nationalism (a process equally as fraught in the post-colonial era as it was in colonial times), and who or what is both included and excluded by this activity. Nationalism is always linked to territory, and traditionally is predicated on genealogy, an imagined narrative of kinship and descent that Anderson calls 'serial continuity' (ibid.:195).

Since ethnic minorities are often signified through their 'other' languages, it is pertinent to ask here what role language plays in this transfer of ownership from one group to another. According to a recent study of community languages (Clyne, 1992), over sixty languages other than English are spoken in Australia. The relationship between nationalism, territory and language is an ambiguous one. As Anderson also points out, in the European states there was rarely a synonymity between territory and language users. However, in a particular formation or process of mythification, language is swiftly yoked to the nationalist enterprise. Thus arose, for example, the notion of the 'civilising' effects of certain languages. Not coincidentally, a hierarchical table of languages was structured entirely according to imperial expansions.

In the recent and expanding field devoted to the study of English and Englishness, numerous commentators link the construction of English as an academic study to a nationalist moral technology, in which Englishness functions both internally (to civilise the working class, for example) and externally to unify the Empire. English literature was disseminated as a civilising force because it was seen to be less compromising politically than Christianity, as Gauri Viswanathan (1989) has shown. Another analyst, Brian Doyle (1989), points out the ways in which English was first constructed out of thoroughly un-native antecedents and then, by a dazzling sleight of hand, turned into a natural and quintessentially native language. Doyle also suggests that the study of English literature, especially nowadays, 'involves a retreat into a museum-like or "monumental" role with teachers of English as professional curators of a residual "national cultural heritage"' (Doyle, 1989:135). Thus in this era of burgeoning literatures in English, English literature still functions as the legitimate and legitimising origins of the language, wherever it operates. English holds the spectre of the old empire together. For proof one need only mention those apoplectic newspaper letters provoked by the release of language policies which attempt to capitalise on Australia's linguistic diversity. Like the Union Jack, the English language itself is a guarantee of the mother country, a sign that one has been born as a legitimate descendant.

What is the relationship of these 'other' languages (and their attendant literatures and cultural traditions) to the diasporic phenomenon in which they are enmeshed? Clearly, and this has been much analysed, there are numerous contradictions and tensions between a so-called genuine or original form of a language and its bastard offsprings developed far from home. Some have argued the reverse, of course, namely that the genuine article has in fact been preserved by being exported, and that purer versions of a language (and culture) now prevail within the diasporic phenomenon.

How do these languages function in Australia? They operate differently according to their institutional embedding, that is, according to whether they are taught in tertiary language departments across Australia, or whether they are closely tied to local communities in those 'Saturday' or other schools which have responded to their constituents' pressures to maintain such languages. That the teaching of languages is tied to various kinds of cultural maintenance is also often the case, and once again such elements are shaped by whether such classes are located in mainstream educational institutions or in community ones. Given the class patterns of migration in Australia, there are both high-culture and low-culture types of linguistic diversity. The high-culture version is to be found in tertiary language departments not necessarily interested in the diasporic phenomenon; whereas in the popular and low-culture developments we encounter community languages which are linked inevitably to manifestations of diaspora. A third suggestion, acknowledging the diasporic experience, is that these languages develop within the new context their own complex histories of representation and hybrid textualities. One aspect of this has been dubbed 'multicultural literature', which is a globalised manifestation of the local in writing.

The question remains as to how this phenomenon should be managed in heritage terms. In the federal heritage plan released in Australia a few years ago, collecting institutions were encouraged to consult with those local communities who comprise their immediate catchment areas. Museums, libraries and art museums were asked to acknowledge cultural diversity by interacting with such communities. But what exactly is 'the community' in this model? In an article exploring that very term, the American philosopher Iris Young critiques prevailing concepts of 'community' which are organised around the metaphysics of presence and an identity politics:

The ideal of community participates in what Derrida calls the metaphysics of presence and Adorno calls the logic of identity, a metaphysics that denies difference. The ideal of community presumes subjects can understand one another as they understand themselves. It thus denies the difference between subjects. The desire for community relies on the same desire for social wholeness and identification that underlies racism and ethnic chauvinism on the one hand and political sectarianism on the other . . . setting up an opposition between authentic and inauthentic social relations . . . Any move to define an identity, a closed totality, always depends on excluding some elements, separating the pure from the impure. (Young, 1990:302)

The notion of community she puts forward is framed instead by a model of the city as the tolerant juxtaposition of various groups--an openness, as she calls it, to 'unassimilated otherness' (ibid.:319). The will to eradicate otherness exists in the current treatment of language groups in Australia. Elsewhere I have analysed this phenomenon in terms of the pure and the impure, and most recently in relation to the concept of 'abjection' developed by Julia Kristeva (Gunew, 1993b).

Further to this point, Anna Yeatman (1994) distinguishes two kinds of relationships between state and community, which she designates the 'customary' and the 'conventionalist'. The customary relationship is based on a model of genealogy and kinship and involves a common language and a common culture. The conventionalist relationship, on the other hand, responds to challenges offered by feminism, post-colonialism and multiculturalism: it is based on acceptance of legal structures that allow different groups to operate together, and with commonly held values which guarantee equal access to resources by all groups, whether such resources are symbolic or other kinds of capital. Like Young's thesis, Yeatman's is built around a politics of difference. In brief, a national heritage which accommodates different languages can survive only in a society based on conventionalist rather than customary principles.

Thus diasporic languages and cultures serve to deconstruct a nationalism based on those exclusive imaginaries which are structured around heritage in terms of kinship and genealogy, common descent and language. Such matters are not dealt with adequately by speaking to or appointing some of those self-styled community spokespeople encountered in ethnic political networks. It is far more significant to scrutinise the ways in which the writings of these different language groups deconstruct that spuriously unified national culture whose 'unity' is based, as Young suggests, on the eradication of the very difference it supposedly avows. This point is developed at greater length in a recent book by Floya Anthias and Nira Yuval-Davis (1992) discussed in the next chapter. Their contention is that, as a plan for managing cultural diversity, multicultural policy constructs communities in terms of an ethnic absolutism which results in separate and homogeneous entities. Within a social justice framework, participation by the community is often further reduced to those activists who speak on its behalf. In turn, the community comes to signify a motley collection of outsiders. Where the artist is concerned, it has rightly been pointed out that the creative individual is often at odds with the concept of community (Anthias and Yuval-Davis, 1992:158). Much of this is pertinent to the Australian context. How can we ensure that these differences operate specifically within Australian culture, and in terms that will not construct them as mere addenda to the dominant culture? It is precisely in the multicultural arena that we encounter most confusion between the two ways of defining 'culture': first as those many elements which symbolically organise life, such as food, language, religion, and rite-of-passage ceremonies; and second as artistic productions which constitute culture in the sense of art or high culture. Multiculturalism in Australia is acceptable as a celebration of costumes, customs and cooking. It is not acceptable as high culture.

Redefining the public sphere

The moment they move away from social or welfare issues, those working in the multicultural field in Australia find that they are still talking mainly among themselves. Multiculturalism continues to be reduced to 'the migrant condition'. Thus the reception of multicultural writings in Australia (even those written in English) swings between primitivism (or nativism) and Eurocentrism--the endorsement being offered in both cases by emissaries from the 'civilised' centre. Needless to say, there are hierarchies of languages and cultures within Australia. And while Australia can cope to some extent with both the North (France and Germany) and the South (Italy and Greece), it begins to have problems the moment it confronts the East or non-West.

The very term, 'multicultural literature', already conjures up the spectre of homogenisation. What are the common points, except perhaps certain thematic preoccupations, between an Italo-Australian and a Vietnamese-Australian text? The thematic concerns most favoured by editors, publishers, and reviewers tend to be those which deal overtly with the migrant experience, and preferably in the generic form of confessional oral history. This results in a couple of related problems: reductive homogenisation, and 'representation' by tokenism.

In order to block such moves in the treatment of multicultural literature, a few scholars have attempted to develop the strategies outlined above. In particular, they have set up 'cultural difference' as a category within cultural analysis, so that critics will not always rediscover the same, but allow instead for those incommensurable differences which resist assimilation. This includes allowing also for the heterogeneity not only of different languages but also of that which exists within each language. Non-Anglo-Celts need not always speak either in the first person or about the migrant experience; they too may play about the edges of English and other languages.

Nor can such issues and contradictions be resolved by finding the right terminology for these writings. Simply to call them 'migrant writing' often amounts to maintaining a reductive notion of their content (they deal 'simply' with the migrant experience) and locating them in oral history and sociology, where they signify 'migrant problems'. To describe them as 'non-Anglo-Celtic writing' is both to define them negatively and to generate unnecessary controversy about their relation to older settler groups in Australia. To call them 'multicultural writing' is to homogenise the very differences which are demanding to be analysed. In this study I have settled for 'ethnic minority writing', partly because it signals that such writing needs to be seen always in relation to something designated (although rarely in any overt manner) as ethnic majority writing; this usage ensures that cultural majority groups no longer remain invisible. The term 'ethnic minority writing' also encourages the analysis of cultural difference as a critical category within cultural criticism. In the next chapter I shall examine, among other matters, the complexities of ethnicity. None of these terms is satisfactory because all present problems. We also need to consider the terms in which these minority writings are discussed within a global context, because ultimately the global dimension is a significant factor in all these debates, although this has not been recognised generally in Australia. Speaking pragmatically, we have to make sure that these writings are preserved, and that their extent and diversity is acknowledged in the various classifications and taxonomies to be found in national cultural institutions. We also need to foment as much debate as possible concerning their significance.

In the remainder of this study, Part I examines the theoretical frameworks appropriate to multicultural literary studies. Chapter 2 summarises both the debt to post-colonial theory and the adjacent contributions from debates about the formation of national cultures, especially those concerning ethnicity and race. Chapter 3 looks at the kindred 'minority' area of feminist theory (and notably the work of Julia Kristeva), focussing in particular on that problem of 'authenticity' which often functions reductively in discussions of both women's writing and ethnic minority writings. Part II comprises readings of some major theorists of subjectivity (notably those who use psychoanalytic concepts) and writers who use the first person in non-realist and non-autobiographical ways. Chapter 4 analyses the poetry and poetic prose of Antigone Kefala and Ania Walwicz in relation to concepts of the literary and the avant-garde. Chapter 5 discusses the controversial work of Rosa Cappiello in the context of Bakhtin's theory of carnival. The final chapter examines in the urban and postmodernist work of Anna Couani the issue of the homeland and nostalgia, using as its point of entry Sigmund Freud's seminal essay 'The Uncanny'.