Academic journal article Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL

'No Better or Worse Than Anyone, but an Equal': Negotiating Mutuality in Adib Khan's Seasonal Adjustments

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL

'No Better or Worse Than Anyone, but an Equal': Negotiating Mutuality in Adib Khan's Seasonal Adjustments

Article excerpt

One of the most urgent predicaments of our time can be described in deceptively simple terms: how are we to live together in this new century-this century that has begun so sadly, so violently? (Ang 141)

In a world increasingly characterized by globalisation, transnationalisation, and migration, individuals belonging to different cultural contexts are inevitably brought into contact. At this very intersection of intercultural relations, conjunctions, and collusions, resides the fundamental question of whether or not human beings embark on new creative processes of reinvention and re-imagination. Will they be capable of transforming cultural divisions and rigid nationalist boundaries into forms of transnational dialogue, mutual recognition, and inclusion? As encounters and disruptions caused by (neo)colonialism and migration have led more often than not to alienation and conflict, the question of how people can effectively make cultural tensions productive rather than destructive has powerfully edged its way into contemporary theoretical and critical discourse.

Cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, and transculturalism are indeed the new 'isms' on the block of a broad interdisciplinary approach1 encompassing British Studies, American Studies and World Literatures in English, through which cultures are recognised as deeply intertwined and characterised by 'determinants common to all' (Welsch 4). They not only powerfully pinpoint the dynamic aspects of moving through and across the rigid stability of national boundaries experienced by migrants but also recognise at the same time the dangers of possible transnational nationalisms through which hegemonic structures can be further stretched globally across the planet. Here, as Benedict Anderson aptly points out in the case of the global Chinese diaspora, 'wherever the "Chinese" happen to end up-Jamaica, Hungary or South Africa-they remain countable Chinese, and it matters little if they also happen to be citisens of those nation-states' (131). In fact if, on the one hand, diasporic formations are seen transcending the boundaries of nation-states, on the other, the same exclusivist structures of domination may very well shifttransnationally, thus re-establishing diasporic identities based on their 'internal unity, logically set apart from "others" [...] a site of both support and oppression, emancipation and confinement, solidarity and division' (Ang 142).

In order to overcome the usual Manichaean demarcation of an 'us' versus 'them', and indeed between 'Asian' and 'Western', a mutuality negotiated on the linking instead of the ranking of human relationships is therefore fundamental to effectively prevent the absorption of heterogeneous and hybrid identities into the same old hegemonic dominator systems, which structurally rely on exclusivist sameness and homogeneity. As Riane Eisler has remarked in her cultural transformation theory, there are two basic ways of structuring social relations: the dominator model, in which an unequal, fear-based system of ranking posits one half of humanity over the other, and

the second, in which social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking, may best be described as the partnership model. In this model-beginning with the most fundamental differences in our species, between male and female-diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority. (Chalice xvii)

The dominator model primarily refers to social systems generally characterised by hierarchic and authoritarian structures, in which difference is an oppositional dualism based on dominator power and other forms of inequality and oppression. Here, human beings and social systems are divided into 'us' and 'others', 'winners' and 'losers', instead of 'both/and' resolution and co-existence. This is further supported by violent metaphors of combat and warfare as opposed to those supporting cooperation and connection. Conversely, in the partnership model, the question of mixed-up differences is oriented toward finding new ways of making any conflict and difference productive rather than destructive, as 'diversity is not automatically equated with inferiority or superiority' (Eisler, Dynamics 161). …

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