Imagined Transcultural Histories and Geographies

Bronwyn Winter


In a globalised world, an assumption prevails that the nation has somehow lost its power to regulate our lives, being undermined by other forces, either top-down through the impact of global capitalism or bottom-up through migrations, transnational religious, ethnic or social movement communities or other transversal politics. A related idea is that ‘culture’ is now irrevocably hybridised and border-zoned, that we no longer live in a world of discrete, located, identifiable and historically grounded cultures but in some unstable and for-the-moment insterstitiality, a sort of cultural interlanguage that sits outside well-mapped structures of power.

Yet, just as the nation and the boundaries it sets around culture are being conceptually chased from our maps of the world, they come galloping back to reassert themselves. They do so politically, economically, legally, symbolically. Amidst all the noise of our transnationalisms, hybridities and interstitialities, the idea of what it is to be ‘Australian’ or ‘French’ or ‘Filipino’ or ‘Asian’ reaffirms itself, in mental geographies and constructed histories, as our ‘imagined community’ (to use Benedict Anderson’s famous term [Anderson 1983]), or indeed, ‘imagined Other’, even if it is an imagined ‘Other’ that we would somehow wish to incorporate into our newly hybridised Self.

Using the notion of transcultural mappings, the articles in this special issue investigate this apparent paradox. They look at how the Self and Other have been mapped through imagined links between geography, history and cultural location. They interrogate the tension between the persistence of mappings of the world based on discrete national or cultural identities on one hand, and, on the other hand, the push to move beyond these carefully guarded borders and problematise precise notions of identity and belonging.

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