Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, Special Issue: Australian Literature in a Global World

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“From Shanty to Shanti—Teaching Australian Literature in India”

C A Cranston

Abstract


Earlier this year I undertook an Australian Studies Fellowship from the Australia-India Council to teach at the University of Madras, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. As a consequence, this paper aims to address areas suggested for discussion at the ASAL conference. The first part comments on ASAL topics such as the “selling of Australian literature to the world”; the topic raises concerns for developing nations regarding the ”privileging of consumers” as text affordability and availability impacts on the OzLit research scope available to the local, Tamil Nadu, students. The paper then discusses the experiences encountered when Australian Literature is “sold” and taught at an overseas institution. This second part will give examples of (an attempt to) “Translate the local to the world”, along with subsequent re-readings of canonical 19th c texts by Tamil students which challenge Anglo-centric assumptions The paper will also discuss some reasons (why I think) indigenous writing is popular with Tamil students. All together, the paper is comprised of observations made during the application of pedagogical practices; but it concludes with a cautionary note concerning the academic value of selling Australian texts to “the world”. Part of that caution is directed at institutional gatekeepers who will need to go beyond simply theorising about post-colonial interpretations of the text and instead be accepting of its praxis, where Australian texts will be transformed by unfamiliar cultural capital, and will seldom be controlled by its authors’ historical or geographical frameworks.

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