Indigo Willing (Griffith University)

Indigo Willing has a PhD from The University of Queensland and lectures at Griffith University in sociology and criminology. She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research.

Indigo is a former ARC Research Fellow studying Australian multiculturalism, the recipient of the Medal in the Order of Australia for her work with adopted Vietnamese, and the past recipient of a travelling fellowship with the Australian Academy of Humanities & Rockefeller Fellowship in Boston.

Her research interests include identities, migration, cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, and subcultures. She is also a skateboarder and does volunteer work in various community sectors.

Paper title: Constructions of Asian American and Asian Australian Identities in the Lifestyle Sport and Subculture of Skateboarding

This paper explores constructions of race, racism and belonging within the skateboarding scene. As figures like Jeremy Lin in the world of basketball reveal, Asian American males in traditionally Western and hyper-masculine sports can be the targets of considerable racism. Sport is not just about athletic achievement but also plays a critical role in the construction of ‘imagined communities’ (in the Benedict Anderson sense) and identities. Various social constructions of sport, identity and ‘authenticity’ can exclude or marginalize. Nevertheless, as this paper argues, boundaries of inclusion and exclusion need to be seen as porous and flexible.

How do Asian Americans and Asian Australians, often stereotyped as ‘passive’, ‘bookish’ and ‘non-athletic’ pave a space for themselves in the lifestyle sport and subculture of skateboarding?

The talk provides examples of how race and racism are sometimes suspended, averted, or overcome through practices such as ‘hyper’ and ‘alternative’ masculinity for males, female empowerment narratives for females, self-directed racial humour and parody, and things such as subcultural capital. The paper concludes by arguing that such practices can chip away at presumptions of whiteness as the measure of belonging in skateboarding and key to embodying being a skater, and provides directions for future research into other sports and subcultures.