I think the way in which we use the term Asian-Australian is important. The hyphenation is a critical part of that. The term evokes hybridity and interaction, rather than straightforward identification. It’s necessarily much more complex than either of its two components considered individually. An Asian-Australian, to me, is someone who is conscious of their migrant status, whatever stage of temporality or permanency their journey might be at, as well as of their continued investment in a new homeland. Asian-Australian is an intercultural concept rather than a strictly political one. It conveys a sense of coming-into-being and expansiveness that is quite distinct from the authoritative, established and assertive sense that underlies both strictly ‘Asian’ or ‘Australian’ identification. It conveys a sense of commitment to an ongoing project of discovery and negotiation. Is it a tentative concept? Some might argue that it is. But perhaps that is authentic to the experience of being a migrant or a descent of migrants.
Who represents the diaspora? Representation is always a tricky concept because classifying, categorising or characterising something as representative entails investing that person, idea, practice or thing with power, even if the circumstances surrounding this are problematic. This process of investing something with power is always inherently fraught but spontaneously occurs, takes place or is deliberately enacted in diaspora contexts in an almost unreflective manner. This is arguably true irrespective of whether the participants in this process are members of that diaspora community or others. Sometimes, the links between the cultural contexts of the ‘home country’ and the ‘diasporic enactments’ of the ‘host country’ are seamless, demonstrating a continuity of values, attitudes, thought processes and practices. This may include hierarchical attitudes to representation, both formal and informal.