Chapter 1 From White Australia to the Asian Century: Literature and Migration in Australia

In: Immigrant and Ethnic-Minority Writers since 1945
Sneja Gunew
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Wenche Ommundsen
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While Australia is a settler-colonial nation built on immigration, the category ‘migrant literature’ (or, more commonly, ‘multicultural literature’) has largely been reserved for writers of non-Anglo-Celtic background, and its integration into Australian literature has been slow and contested. This chapter traces the history of multicultural writing in English in relation to the cultural politics of Australia over the last four decades, along with its critical reception and theoretical framing. Virtually invisible within the canon of Australian literature until the 1980s, multicultural writers have gradually received greater recognition and some are now regarded as part of the mainstream literary tradition. However, while the critical focus on Australian literature has shifted from national to transnational, multicultural writing in global languages other than English has barely been analysed. We argue that residual resistance to cultural diversity still prevents many writers from receiving the critical recognition they deserve.

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