‘Migrations of Chineseness’: in conversation with Ien Ang
Sharmani Patricia GABRIEL
Ien Ang was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 25th – 29th September 2009 as a guest of the University of Malaya’s Research Cluster on Social and Behavioural Science. In Kuala Lumpur, she had a packed schedule, meeting academics and postgraduate students and holding a roundtable on research with local and visiting faculty. When she sat down for this interview, she had just the evening before delivered a well-attended public lecture on the topic, ‘Towards a cosmopolitan multiculturalism: Intercultural dialogue without guarantees’.
In all of those roles as well as in her research, writings, and lectures, Ang has sought to explore how the postcolonial world has to be shaped by our understanding of difference, by the need to live, not merely exist, with each other. She has recast the complex entanglements of diasporic identity into an ‘in-between’ strategy that troubles binaries of identity and notions of cultural authenticity to mobilize new cartographies of desire and attachment for our multicultural world. For Ang hybridity, creolization, and syncretism are not merely academic concepts but living realities that are urgently needed to break down barriers of understanding between centre and margin, black and white, Asia and the West.
The following interview is based on a personal meeting I had with Professor Ang at the University of Malaya on 29th September 2009.
Sharmani Patricia Gabriel teaches cultural studies and postcolonial literature in the Department of English, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. She was a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Leeds, UK, where she read for a doctorate in literary and postcolonial studies, and a Fulbright Scholar at Northern Illinois University, USA. Her research interests revolve around issues of diaspora, race/ethnicity, nationalism, national identity, and multiculturalism within the politics of the nation-state. She has published numerous articles in leading journals in the humanities and social sciences.