In the UK, magazines by minority ethnic publishers seem to be having a moment. Whether galvanised by political shifts or emboldened by global movements, we’re seeing many outstanding independent titles by women of colour, Middle Eastern women, and third culture creatives. Now in its fourth issue, Daikon* is our latest discovery of this ilk.
Personal yet self-aware, it shares stories from Southeast and East Asian women and non-binary people, who live within a European context. Platforming underrepresented Asian voices, it is a nuanced examination of their experience that is at once critical of the oppressions they face and acknowledging of their existing privileges. Find out more in our conversation with the editors (Jess Routley, Jun Pang, Jade Chao, Kay Stephens, Hanna Stephens, Jemma Paek and Bella Normark) below.
I can only speak from my own experiences, but growing up as an East Asian immigrant, I struggled to find literature that reflected my experience as a person of colour. What was it like for you, and was that why you wanted to start Daikon*?
We can relate a lot to that! We decided to start Daikon* in large part because we couldn’t see ourselves or our narratives reflected in the media around us — mainstream literature being one such area. Even within more critical literature there is a lack of discourse around what it means to be an East or South-East Asian immigrant beyond the American context.
We therefore wanted to create a space in which we could meaningfully and critically interrogate what it means to be SE/E Asian, mixed race, queer — what it means to experience intersecting oppressions — in a white majority country. The self-published zine format gives us the opportunity to create our own narrative and to ensure that what we produce is something that we can be proud of.
Do you think SE/East Asian communities have less of a platform than other ethnic minorities?
We would agree that Southeast and East Asian communities have had less of a presence in race-related discussions, but want to be clear that this is not a matter of exclusion. The platforms that currently do exist for people of colour in the UK – such as Burnt Roti and gal-dem – were pioneered by Black and South Asian people, often women and non-binary people. For various historical reasons, such as the ‘model minority’ myth, the geographical dispersal of immigrant communities, and different migration stories, SE/E Asian people have not coalesced into a unified political identity and have therefore not created platforms for themselves — this is precisely what we wanted to do through Daikon*.
What are the some experiences you wanted to represent?
We feel that there is a lack of discussions and stories about what it’s like to be both SE/E Asian and a woman or non-binary person – specifically, about what feminism looks like, and demands, from our perspectives. There is also very little talk about being queer and/or trans and Asian, hence why we decided to have an issue themed around queer and trans identity — we didn’t ourselves know many queer or trans people in our communities, and so this was an incredible opportunity to find others like us, to learn from one another, and to feel validated in our identities.
The whole issue was so affirming for me to read — what was it like to make it?
We’re really happy to hear that you found it affirming, we definitely feel this way too when we are working on the zine. All of our issues have been great fun to put together. It’s amazing to receive such wonderful submissions from our contributors, and it’s a great feeling to see it all come together.
At the same time, we’ve received a couple of points of criticism about our ideas starting from the publishing of our first issue, which included questioning of the foregrounding of Japanese narratives, and more broadly, lightskinned narratives, within discussions about East and Southeast Asia. Our second issue, on the theme of ‘Solidarity’, was borne out of this dialogue, and aimed to examine different power dynamics within our communities. We would like Daikon’s process to be one where we challenge as well as just affirm ourselves and we invite ourselves to be called out by those from more marginalised perspectives.
Lastly, why did you make a print zine instead of just a website?
Something we have always tried to work against is the expectation that Asian women should be respectable and not take up space, so from the start we were drawn to the idea of creating something physical and tangible, that exists in the real world, inscribed with our names and stories. Although all our zines are available to read for free on our website, we have still been able to sell many physical copies. Seemingly, our readers also enjoy being able to own and keep the zine.
Creating a physical community of SE/E people is also really important to us. Having physical issues gives us an excuse to have launches and participate in zine fairs, through which we have managed to meet so many amazing people who we have kept in touch and collaborated with. Community is important to us because it is only through community, through meaningful relationships built on trust and solidarity, that activism can emerge.
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