Associate Professor Denis Byrne and Dr Alexandra Wong presented papers from the China-Australia Heritage Corridor project at the 6th Australasian Conference on Chinese diaspora history and heritage (Dragon Tails Conference) in Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand on 20-23 November.
His paper examines the houses that were built in these villages by men living and working in Australia, either during return visits or via money remitted back to their families for this purpose. Architecturally, the houses in Zhongshan represent a complex translation of traditional Chinese house styles and styles present in Western colonies and outposts. Even since they were built they have been subject to transformations of their form and meaning, currently evidenced in the ways they are being reworked by heritage discourse and practices of diasporic return and identity-building.
Her paper looks into three cases of Australia-born Chinese, who travelled to their ancestral village in China in the last two decades in an attempt to make sense of their family history. The study shows the material and non-material worlds of diaspora intertwined in the complex transnational movement of their homeland journey. This paper reflects on the contingent nature of the identity-making process and contributes to the understanding of the role of material heritage and the embodied experience of homeland travel as a catalyst of identity reflection and reconstruction.
The two presentations have received very positive responses from the audiences. The two researchers also met with academics and practitioners around the world and exchanged ideas on researching and preserving the history of overseas Chinese.