Rudling_whole_thesis.pdf (1.75 MB)
Tasmanian 'Asia literacy'? : Decentring national approaches for 'engaging' with Asia
thesisposted on 2023-05-28, 08:27 authored by Rudling, ES
After more than 60 policy reports published since the 1950s, a national approach to fostering Australian engagement in Asia has emerged, with the concept of Asia literacy at its core. First coined in 1988, Asia literacy can be broadly defined as the formal learning of Asian languages and cultures, politics, and economics in order to enhance Australian capabilities for engaging with the Asian region. Economic utility is the guiding principle of Asia literacy. The most recent representation of this is the Ken Henry Report (2012) federal white paper, consolidating previous recommendations into a national strategy. Designed to be implemented through compulsory education, Asia literacy is intended as a solution to perceived disengagement from Asia as well as a fear of Asia. These national approaches to Asia literacy are underpinned by the Australian Federation story of nationbuilding and identity in which racist discourses that positioned people from Asia as a threatening other were dominant. Michel Foucault and Stephen J. Ball are valuable to inquiring into the discourses operating behind Asia literacy, to indicate that Asia literacy recommendations carry discourses about behaviour, attitudes and values. However, despite lofty aims, the project of implementing Asia literacy has foundered due to the concept itself being seriously flawed. Australian Asian Studies scholar M. Garbutcheon Singh argues that Australian Asia literacy programs are Orientalist and distance Asia from daily life. Until recently, policy recommendations for developing Asia literacy have not considered the needs of intranational regional areas of Australia such as Tasmania. In 2013, the Tasmanian Government released the first state white paper on engaging with Asia. Taking a critical policy studies approach to the policy data, Carol Bacchi offers a method for interrogating policy solutions as problem representations. The policy discourse of Asia literacy suggests that it is produced uniformly throughout Australia thus disadvantaging intranational regional areas of Australia. Tasmania is a lens through which to decentre this national approach to Asia literacy and to examine the aws implicit to the concept of Asia literacy. This is the first inquiry into Asia literacy in an intranational regional area of Australia It uses original qualitative and quantitative data to explore the affective dimension of `Asia literacy' based on attitudes and values, and the lived experience; not only on the skills acquired through formal education. Using Tasmania as a case study, this thesis demonstrates that when an intranational regional area context is considered, the national model is ineffective and incomplete. Yet instead of designating these apparently deficient areas as Asia 'illiterate,' a more nuanced understanding reveals that Asia engagement frequently occurs outside of the classroom and at the level of everyday life. The affective dimension of Asia literacy is a place-based critique of the national approach. It attempts to, as Julia Kristeva notes, turn we‚ÄövÑvp into a problem for interrogation to recognise the Asia within.
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