Jinghua: Part of what we wanted to do was to find the stories missing from the narrative, but I’m really resistant to the idea of heroes… I don’t want to topple one statue and put up another.
Liz: But it’s much harder to find out much about the lives of people who don’t get a statue… We had to go into our research without a predetermined idea of what the final story would be. And it’s this, I think, that’s more useful for those of us on the Left than mining the past for forebears, or new heroes: seeing its radical unfamiliarity.
Liz and I wrote a feature for Overland on Underfoot (our Footscray history multimedia project) and how everyone can make and write history. Read it here.
If you want to watch me on the telly, I’m in the new season of the ABC series You Can’t Ask That in an episode about Chinese Australians. Stream it on iview or wait for it to air every Wednesday at 9pm (I’m on June 9).
You can listen to my essay on the politics of changing my name here via Soundcloud. Kim Cheng Boey’s poem for Silent Dialogue is also available as audio, or you can order a print copy of the Silent Dialogue book here featuring Maria Tumarkin, Elizabeth Tan, Julie Koh and many more.
My Meanjin piece from the Summer 2019 issue is now online if you’re interested. It’s a review of The Chinawoman, a book about a white woman sex worker who was murdered in 1856 Melbourne, and it’s also a reflection on Chinese-Australian history, Aboriginal deaths in custody today, who is worthy of protection, who is disposable, and how that’s shifted.
‘Between Australia’s hunger to spin its immigrant communities into a simple, palatable narrative, and the PRC government’s mission to absorb the accomplishments of overseas Chinese into its own national history, the richness and complexity of Chinese Australian life can get lost.’
Underfoot presents four virtual audio tours through Footscray’s past. Liz and I bring an intimate lens to local history as we wander the streets and the archives looking for people like us: queers, migrants, radicals and artists. There are some big conversations about capitalism, nationalism and settler nativism, as well as some finely aged gossip.
Each track comes with a map, transcript, photos and notes so you can either explore these places in real life (observing social distancing!) or just enjoy the stories while staying home. You can even dive into some historical research yourself if you’re so inclined.