If you are experiencing problems downloading PDF or HTML fulltext, our helpdesk recommend clearing your browser cache and trying again. If you need help in clearing your cache, please click here . Still need help? Email help@ingentaconnect.com

Unsettling whiteness: the slippage of race and nation in Clara Law's Letters to Ali

$10.35 plus tax (Refund Policy)

Buy Article:


This article focuses on Clara Law's Letters to Ali (2004) as a recent example of a refugee-focused documentary film that both complicates and destabilizes the essential and exclusive categories of whiteness and otherness that have shaped Australian identity politics through recent politics. Centrally, this article will position Letters to Ali as a subversive project in accordance with Homi Bhabha's ideas of unsettling, displacing and disturbing the authority of normative whiteness that pervades our national identity in this climate. Through positioning whiteness as neither fixed nor final due to the incommensurable differences it must take into account, this article will discuss both formal and narrative elements of Letters to Ali as working towards destabilizing an essential and static whiteness and, instead, focusing on its marked and constructed nature. Critiquing whiteness as an ideal, according to Bhabha, Ghassan Hage and others, this discussion will displace and disrupt its invisibility or normativity. In doing so, whiteness will be examined as part of national strategies of dominance and subordination, rather than as an authentic or singular identity, reveal[ing] within the very integuments of whiteness the agonistic elements that makes it the unsettled, disturbed form of authority.

Clara Law's position as Asian Australian film-maker in relation to other national others such as Ali, the refugee subject of the film, will be crucial to this disruption: Law's own story of migration, of resettlement and naturalization is foregrounded in the film's narrative and, as such, she and partner Eddie Fong are the national citizens against which the refugee is to be measured in this binary logic. Taking into account these incommensurable differences of the white identity, the categories of Us and Them; of Australians and others, are ruptured and the frameworks of national membership are opened up to more liminal, transnational notions of identity and belonging.

Keywords: Clara Law; Letters to Ali; nationhood; refugees; transcultural vision; whiteness

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/sac.2.2.103_1

Affiliations: Monash University.

Publication date: October 23, 2008

More about this publication?
  • Launched in 2007, the journal engages in critical discussion of cinema from the Australian, New Zealand and Pacific region. Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific regions are home to many indigenous nations and immigrant cultures from all around the world. Studies in Australasian Cinema will maintain an emphasis on this diversity with a special interest in postcolonial politics and contexts. 
  • Editorial Board
  • Information for Authors
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • ingentaconnect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
Related content



Share Content

Access Key

Free Content
Free content
New Content
New content
Open Access Content
Open access content
Subscribed Content
Subscribed content
Free Trial Content
Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
ingentaconnect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more