Tiffany Tsao • 3 December 2021
How do narrow definitions of ‘Australian’ prevent us from recognising Australian-ness for what it really is? How does the classification of certain issues as 'foreign' obscure the fact that similar problems occur on Australian soil – and off it but under the direction of the government of Australia?
Chris Lin and Elizabeth Flux write about the human rights crises in the respective countries of their birth and the strong connections they, and others like them, continue to feel with their communities abroad. Their essays are also a call for those in Australia to take action – to realise that the oppression and violence taking place 'over there' should concern people here as well.
Alexander Wells’ critical review of canonical Western portrayals of the Stasi in Germany – for American journal The Baffler – is, on the surface, as far from Australian in subject matter as one can get. Of course, one of the points this edition makes is that Australians write about non-Australian things. And this issue draws its curatorial ethos directly from Wells’ observation – that attributing bad behaviour to 'foreign countries peopled by cartoonish figures of evil' lulls us into becoming oblivious about bad behaviour closer to home.
Jeanine Leane’s essay on her month-long residency in China recounts the exclusion of Indigenous peoples in an arena of international cultural diplomacy, bringing this exclusion into conversation with the suppression of minority voices by the Chinese government.
The fuzzy boundaries between domestic and foreign state-sanctioned violence are further blurred by two pieces from Southerly’s latest issue, which is devoted to refugee writing. 'Narrative of the Displaced!' by Erfan Dana (also known as Shams Hussaini) and 'Pokun the Little Black King' by Mardin Arvin are both set offshore – in East Kalimantan and on Manus Island. The writers are people whom Australia has shut out as profoundly un-Australian, but whose suffering is all too Australian, inflicted by the Australian government.
To round out this spotlight on un-Australian people, activities, and things, this week’s instalment of our Writer & Writer series features Amsterdam-based Australian translator of Dutch literature David Colmer in conversation with New-York-based Australian translator of Dutch literature Sarah Timmer Harvey.
Thank you so much for warmly welcoming The Circular onto the literary scene. It’s our eighth week of circulation and we now have over five hundred subscribers. We can’t quite believe it ourselves!
We’re still taking reading recommendations for next week’s issue, which is themed ‘Your Favourite Things’. In the spirit of community, we thought it would be nice to end the year with an issue consisting entirely of people’s favourite online nonfiction reads. Write to email@example.com and tell us: What was your favourite online non-fiction read in 2021 and why? (It doesn’t have to have been published in 2021; it can be an interview, essay, graphic non-fiction piece, book review, non-fiction poem, etc.; and yes, our interest is Australian non-fiction but we do define 'Australian' in the loosest sense of the word.)
The selected participants will be credited for their recommendations unless they prefer to remain anonymous. Deadline: Tuesday 7 December 2021. And a big thank you to all the readers who’ve already written in!