University of Tasmania
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Representations of Vietnamese culture in children‚ÄövÑv¥s picturebooks

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posted on 2023-05-27, 19:47 authored by Huynh, NT
The implementation of policy on Asia Literacy in Australian school contexts is the significant driver of this thesis. The study in the present thesis directly relates to the field of Asian cultural studies in children's literature. Studies on intercultural understanding, especially on Asian cultures in children's literature, have pointed out issues related to cultural authenticity, under-representations, and misrepresentations of cultural aspects integrated in children's literary works (Creany et al., 1993; Harlin & Morgan, 2009; Said, 2003; Wee et al., 2015; Yoo-Lee et al., 2014). Bishop (1990) considered books as both windows and mirrors for readers to see themselves and others. This suggests that misunderstandings about a certain culture may result in negative consequences for readers who either belong to or do not belong to that culture. Also, Byram (1997) emphasized the role of the ability to interpret and understand intercultural texts as one of the essential skills of Intercultural Communicative Competence. Furthermore, the Australian Curriculum [ACARA, 2016] requires students to be taught skills for interpreting and understanding Asia-related texts. Research on teachers‚ÄövÑv¥ Asia literacy reported that understanding of and selection of suitable Asia related texts are influential factors in teachers‚ÄövÑv¥ level of confidence in Asia literate (Halse et al., 2013). However, studies on teachers‚ÄövÑv¥ use of multicultural materials found limitations of teachers‚ÄövÑv¥ understanding of intercultural documents, especially multicultural literary texts (Bullen & Lunt, 2015; Rodriguez & Kim, 2018). This indicates that there is an urgent need for research to facilitate teachers, parents, and students in analysing and interpreting Asian cultural representations in children's literature. To date, no research has been conducted to explore Vietnamese cultural aspects and appropriate methods for interpreting Vietnamese culture in one sub-set of children‚ÄövÑv¥s literature ‚ÄövÑv¨ picturebooks. This is a major shortcoming in the literature in Southeast Asian cultures in children's literature. Therefore, the study of this thesis aims to address this gap by exploring Vietnamese cultural representations in children's picturebooks. To achieve this aim, this thesis sought answers to four research questions. The first two research questions focus on theoretical backgrounds for interpreting visual and Vietnamese cultural meanings in childre‚ÄövÑv¥s picturebooks. The third and fourth research questions are on practical perspectives of Vietnamese painters and illustrators on methods of representing Vietnamese cultural aspects in children‚ÄövÑv¥s picturebooks. Grounded Theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) and qualitative research design (Burgess & Bryman, 1999; Mayring, 2014) along with influential theoretical frameworks in the field of cultural studies and children‚ÄövÑv¥s literature (Hall, 1976; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Painter et al., 2013; Weaver, 1993) were applied in the study of this thesis. More than one hundred images extracted from various contemporary picturebooks about Vietnam were employed in the process of analysis. Additionally, in-depth interviews with nine Vietnamese professional painters and illustrators were the second source of data for analysis and developing an analytical framework for non- Western images interpretation. The overall results of the thesis suggest that the study was successfully completed following the research direction of Grounded Theory, which is to create a new theoretical foundation and provides insight into understanding, interpreting Vietnamese culture through artworks. Thus, the research aims were achieved and the outcomes were strengthened in forms of peer-reviewed published papers or under-reviewed manuscripts. In particular, key findings of the thesis were reported in six papers. Papers 1, 2 and 3 found that contemporary Western analytical frameworks have some applicability to Vietnamese picturebooks, but also obscure aspects of Vietnamese culture. Based on these findings, a model for interpreting cultural meanings in Vietnamese picturebooks with East Asian philosophies was developed. Papers 4, 5 and 6 revealed the perspectives of Vietnamese artists and their professional experience in relation to East Asian philosophical concepts. The outcomes of these papers demonstrate that artists apply East Asian philosophies of art in their illustrative works, and not just in ‚ÄövÑv=great‚ÄövÑv¥ works. A model for interpreting Vietnamese cultural aspects in children‚ÄövÑv¥s picturebooks was proposed as a major outcome of this thesis. Based on the outcomes of this thesis, researchers and teachers, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, have reliable theoretical and practical references for gaining insight into Vietnamese culture, Southeast Asian cultures through visual texts. This contributes to addressing one of the pressing points in the time of globalization (i.e., misunderstanding and undervaluing in intercultural communication) and at the same time, facilitating teachers, researchers in teaching and researching intercultural understanding. The results of this thesis also take part in resolving issues associating with Asia literacy in the Australian educational context and globally.



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