Alex Yang by Deepu Ashok

Alex Yang by Deepu Ashok

Canberra bubble a transformative space for Alex Ruixing Yang

20th December 2018

Alex graduated in December 2018 with a Master of Asian and Pacific Studies from the School of Culture, History and Language in the College of Asia and the Pacific.

He comes from Guangzhou in China, where his sociology professor recommended ANU because of the university’s strong reputation in China studies.

Alex appreciated the flexibility of the MAPS program, which allowed him to easily make the shift from China studies to Thai studies. “Although I started with subjects on China, during the mid-year break, I went on the in-country intensive course South East Asian Frontiers and fell in love with Thailand. During the intensive, I immediately discovered that Thailand is a fascinating country with many academic mysteries waiting to be solved.” After returning from this life-changing experience, Alex continued to deepen his understanding on Thailand through undertaking language courses with Ajarn Chintana and an internship at New Mandala, a long-running blog on South East Asia founded by Professor Nicholas Farrelly.

Alex wrote his Master’s thesis on Thai amulets, one of the most popular religious commodities in Thailand. By adopting a new theoretical framework derived from Peircean semiology, Alex tried to deconstruct the commercialisation of religion to reflect on the nexus between religion and the economy. .

“The programme offered me the freedom to choose my courses in accordance with the guidelines provided by my convenor Matt Tomlinson, who was very approachable and personally helped me with my studies a lot. He also supervised my final thesis. Even though his expertise is not primarily focused on Thailand , his profound insight of religion enabled me to develop an enhanced understanding of my topic.” Alex is also grateful to Peter Jackson and Craig Reynolds, as well as other extraordinary scholars in Thai studies at the ANU, for their generous guidance on his research.

Alex also became involved with the Postgraduate and Research Students’ Association (PARSA) after a friend encountered discrimination from fellow students. “I decided to join PARSA because I felt I could be someone who could stand up for my peers, whether they were queer* or international students, whoever might be feeling marginalised. I have learnt a lot about how to be an effective advocate after being elected as the Queer Officer. PARSA empowered me to speak out about the problems that students are facing and say how we want to address these problems. It made me feel like it’s possible to make changes happen.” In addition, he also joined the ANU Ally Network as the postgraduate co-convener to contribute to the grand mission of building a safe and inclusive campus for the LGBTIQ* community.

“The experience educated me a lot and helped me to develop my confidence. I learnt that as long as you have the passion you can take on part of the responsibility to make improvement. It’s more about passion. You can develop the skills afterwards, learning from doing the work.”

Alex, attracted by the vibrant LGBTIQ-friendly atmosphere, plans to stay in Canberra and work for a while after his studies. The Marriage Equality debate in Australia made his time here personally transformative. “I really like Canberra. Although it’s small it’s such a lovely city and I love how LGBTIQ friendly it is. I want to stay here and enjoy the culture and involve myself in the community and learn about how LGBTIQ* culture has developed.”

Throughout his journey at the ANU, Alex has developed not only a comprehensive perspective on Asian societies but also an appreciation of Australian culture via his encounter with amazing students, academics and staff, such as one of his favourite student support officers, Christina Gee.

“I think Australian culture has a great mix of all the things I value. I want to learn as much about it as I can while I am here I have been volunteering quite a bit for festivals like Yes Fest and Art Not Apart. Some people say that Canberra is a bubble, but if there is an opportunity for me to contribute and make it a more solid bubble then I would like to do that. And I will keep on supporting our beloved ANU, for example, by signing up for the LGBTIQ* Alumni Network.”

For more information about PARSA’s support for LGBTIQA* students, please visit: ANU Ally Network and LGBTIQ* inclusion: ANU LGBTIQ Alumni Network:

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster