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Between Sovereignties: Chinese Minor Settler Literature Across the Pacific


Taking as its subject Chinese immigrant-settler literature across the Pacific, this study introduces the concept of minor settler to describe settlers who are marginalized within settler society, as later-coming immigrants, racialized minority, or colonized peoples. Maintaining that their experiences of settlement differ from those of dominant settlers, and also foregrounding their role and responsibility as settlers perpetuating Indigenous dispossession, this dissertation is motivated by two research questions: (1) how minor settler aspiration for identity and belonging may corroborate settler ideology of non-native right to place, and (2) whether and how their minority struggle may lead to productive engagement with Indigenous decolonization. To answer these questions, I examine contemporary literary fictions by Chinese minor settler authors in Hawai‘i, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Taiwan. Using critical insights from settler colonial studies and Indigenous critical theories, I analyze Chinese minor settler narratives against each location’s layered settler colonial history, Indigenous political expressions, and racial and national discourses, illustrating how these different conditions of literary production give rise to specific themes, formal qualities, and political commitments in minor settler literary narratives across national contexts. In each case I scrutinize instances where minor settler articulations facilitate ongoing settler hegemony and Indigenous silence, and also seek moments when they turn to Indigenous historiography and values for alternative relations and conversations. This study concludes that minor settler narratives can and do engage with both dominant settler and Indigenous narratives, as these coincide on the same geographical site and through interlocking historical processes. Despite their marginality, in narrating identity, belonging, place, and history, minor settler authors commit into writing their understanding of nation and subjectivity, and contribute to the ongoing negotiations between settler and Indigenous sovereignties.

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