The making of the 'transitional generation': language politics, writing diaspora and strategic integration of Chinese students in post-war Australia

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Abstract

This article explores the overlooked experiences of Chinese students in Australia from the White Australia Policy era to the post-war period. It argues that the emerging post-war transitional generation faced racial discrimination and geopolitical challenges, leading to the establishment of student societies and collaborations with religious groups and NGOs. Through writing and publishing in the 1950s and 1960s, they challenged rigid ethnic identities, shaping their ethnic identities, national belonging, language practices, and community involvement amidst historical contexts. Their narratives vividly depict a generational awakening, highlighting complex processes of integration and acculturation into a new societal landscape.
This paper employs historical discourse analysis using Chinese student magazines and bilingual archives to explore language and identity evolution among Chinese students in 1950s and 1960s Australia. It contextualizes ethnic, cultural, and linguistic identity transformations and examines how language politics and diaspora writings shaped integration strategies. The study highlights education and language politics' transformative roles in redefining cultural belonging and fostering community cohesion within the diaspora amid shifting socio-political contexts.
Findings of this study reveal that the concept of the ‘transitional generation’ highlights integration as a dynamic process involving ongoing dialogue, identity negotiation through language, and the redefinition of cultural boundaries. Through analysis of three student-centered magazines—Murhun, Asiana, and East Wind—it becomes evident how Chinese students in Australia navigated ethnic, cultural, and linguistic identities. Murhun used bilingual content to strengthen solidarity and political engagement among Chinese readers, while Asiana employed English to connect Asian students with Australian society and globally. East Wind facilitated a diverse expression of identity, challenging singular notions of "Chineseness" and promoting cultural integration. These insights reflect a transformative period where Chinese students reshaped their historical position, fostering autonomy and challenging stereotypes like "Yellow Perils. This paper examines the often-overlooked experiences of post-war Chinese students in Australia, emphasising their profound influence on immigration history and shifting public perceptions of Asian immigrants. It introduces the concept of the 'transitional generation' to address research gaps and highlight the nuanced complexities of integration, respecting the diverse experiences and identities within this dynamic student community. Emphasising dynamic negotiation and shared experiences, the study underscores how Australia's diverse Asian communities have transformative potential. Integration extends beyond adaptation, fostering inclusive spaces for identity negotiation, thriving NGOs, and enriching Australia's social fabric with resilience, diversity, and cultural vibrancy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory of Education Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Jun 2024

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