"EAST" AS "WEST:" PLACE, STATE AND THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF MYTH IN VANCOUVER'S CHINATOWN, 1880-1980 by KAY ANDERSON (B.A. Honours, U n i v e r s i t y of Adelaide, 1979) A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY i n THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Geography) We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the requ i r e d standard The U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia October 1986 (c) Kay Anderson 1986 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. The University of British Columbia 1956 Main Mall Vancouver, Canada Department of V6T 1Y3 DE-6G/81) ABSTRACT Over the century 1880-1980, s e t t l e r s of Chinese o r i g i n i n Vancouver, B r i t i s h Columbia have been perceived p r i m a r i l y through the nexus of a r a c i a l category that defines them as preeminently "Chinese" or "Oriental." S i m i l a r l y , t h e i r place i n the urban landscape, "Chinatown," has i n one sense been a product of host-society categories and i n s t i t u t i o n a l practices that have acted to single Chinatown out, and to render i t continuously a place apart. The point of departure for t h i s thesis i s the view that "race" i s not an objectively given b i o l o g i c a l t r a i t , but an idea, defined by the significance people attach to i t . I t i s an idiom around which have been erected epistemological d i s t i n c t i o n s of insider and outsider, "we" and "they." In view of the problematic nature of race, i t i s argued that one of the tasks of the so c i a l science of race relations i s to uncover the s o c i o - h i s t o r i c a l process by which r a c i a l categories are themselves constructed and i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d over time and i n certain contexts. In developing t h i s argument, the thesis demonstrates the ro l e played by place and the state i n the continuous making of a r a c i a l category, the "Chinese." The significance of place i s i d e n t i f i e d for i t s role as the h i s t o r i c a l l y evolving nexus through which the r a c i a l category i s structured. I t i s argued that "Chinatown" - l i k e race - i s an idea, a representation that belongs to the white European c u l t u r a l t r a d i t i o n and the intention of the thesis i s to trace the career of i t s soc i a l d e f i n i t i o n over the course of a century. In so doing, the claim i s made that Chinatown reveals as much of the "West" as i t does of the "East." Ideas of place and ide n t i t y would not be so enduring or i e f f e c t i v e , however, but for the fact that they have been repeatedly inscribed i n the practices of those with the power of d e f i n i t i o n . I t i s argued that the three levels of the Canadian state, as the l e g i s l a t i v e arms of a hegemonic "white" European h i s t o r i c a l bloc, have granted legitimacy to, and reproduced the race d e f i n i t i o n process through t h e i r national, provincial and neighbourhood practices. This process continues through the long period when "Chinatown" was r e v i l e d as a public nuisance, promoted as a " L i t t l e Corner of the Far East," reconstructed as a "slum" and f i n a l l y under the aegis of multiculturalism, courted i n the 1970s by the Canadian state precisely for i t s perceived "Chineseness." Underlying these changing def i n i t i o n s of Chinatown, i t i s argued, i s a deeper r a c i a l frame of reference that has been continuously re-created through discriminatory and more subtle ways as part of the exercise of white European c u l t u r a l domination. Lying behind the career of the r a c i a l category, therefore, i s the history of the relationship between place, r a c i a l discourse, power and i n s t i t u t i o n a l practice i n a B r i t i s h s e t t l e r society. The study i s undertaken with a view to uncovering those relationships and by way of a contribution to the recent rediscovery of place i n human geography. i i TABLE OF CONTENTS Page Abstract . i L i s t of Tables i v L i s t of Figures v Acknowledgements v i CHAPTERS One: Introduction 1 Two: The "Chinese Race" and the Canadian State: Legislating a Category of Outsiders, 1875-1902 55 Three: Dupont Street as "China Town:" The Making of a Racial Category through Place and I n s t i t u t i o n a l Practice, 1886-1920 127 Four: Chinatown as a Maximum Entitlement: The Consolidation of the Racial Category, 1920-35 183 Five: "The L i t t l e Corner of the Far East:" An Expanding Interpretation of the Racial Category, 1935-49 247 Six: The Legacy of a Defenceless Past: Rebuilding the Slum, 1950-70 307 Seven: Chinatown as an "Ethnic Neighbourhood:" Invoking the Benign Myth, 1970-80 364 Eight: Conclusion 429 Bibliography: Archival Sources . 449 Other References 451 LIST OF TABLES Table I. Birthplace of Members of the Provincial Legislature of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1871 - 1900 I I . Licences of Chinese i n Vancouver 1920, 1922, 1924, 1926 iv LIST OF FIGURES Page Figure 1. "East" as "West:" Place, State and the I n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a t i o n of Myth 39 2. Map of Chinese i n Vancouver, 1892 108 3. Map of Chinese i n Vancouver, 1910 133-4 4. "The Unanswerable Argument" 148 5. "Vancouver Must Keep This Team" 156 6. "The Foreign Mission F i e l d i n Vancouver" 163 7. "The Opium Fiend at Home i n Vancouver's Chinatown" 166 8. "Trouble i n Chinatown" 170 9. "Liberal Candidates Pledged to a White B r i t i s h Columbia" 196 10. "Message to the People of Vancouver" 200 11. Map of the Distribution of Chinese i n Vancouver, 1920 207-8 12. Map of the Distribution of Chinese i n Vancouver Schools, 1937_ 251 13. Chinatown Landuse: 1943 253 14. "50,000 Orientals i n B r i t i s h Columbia" 259 15. "In the Chinese V i l l a g e " 265 16. "Dismissed G i r l s Parade to C i t y H a l l " 275 17. Redevelopment Project No. 1 and 2, Strathcona 326 18. Map of HA-1 H i s t o r i c Area Zone and Chinatown Streetscape 389 v ACKNCWLEDGEMENTS My f i r s t thanks i s to my adviser, David Ley for c a r e f u l l y reading both drafts of the thesis and for h i s generous committment of time throughout the research and w r i t i n g stages. I would also l i k e to thank him for encouraging me to write the study as I wanted to. I would l i k e to extend a special note of appreciation to Tissa Fernando for his early moral support i n r e l a t i o n to the general argument. Dr. E. Wickberg of the History Department at UBC was kind enough to allow me access to some of the material collected for the Chinese-Canadian project. I would also l i k e to thank Gary Barrett for his schooling i n population genetics. Thanks to my father f o r offering to launch his retirement with the tedium of sorting a bibliography. Also to my mother who extended warm encouragement from across the miles. To Margaret, Elaine, John and Trevor, I would l i k e to thank them for t h e i r friendship i n the l a s t year of writing. And to Gus - the most loyal of thesis w r i t i n g companions - may he yet be spared quarantine for his part i n my stay i n Canada. My f i n a l debt i s my greatest. I t i s to Ian G i l l , who came to know my argument so wel l that he could remind me of the whole i n times when i t s image was blurred by the parts. For sharing the image with me and ensuring the conditions were as conducive as possible for me to translate i t into words over the years, I extend my deep gratitude and affection. v i Chapter One On February 9, 1985, the Toronto Globe and Mail, reporting on South A f r i c a , stated that almost 800 people had thei r r a c i a l c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s changed i n 1984 under apartheid po l i c i e s . South African Home A f f a i r s Minister Frederick De Clerk said i n Parliament that: "518 coloureds became whites, 14 whites became coloureds and 17 Indians became Malay. There were also 89 blacks who became coloured and f i v e coloureds who became black, three blacks who became Indian, one who became an Asian and a Malay who became a Chinese." While i t i s true that few countries have traded quite so transparently i n the currency of race as has South A f r i c a , there are many p a r a l l e l s outside South A f r i c a to the process by which powerful i n s t i t u t i o n s , such as the state, confer arbitrary r a c i a l i d e n t i t i e s . C l a s s i f i c a t i o n s of iden t i t y - whether of "West Indians" i n B r i t a i n , "Vietnamese" in Australia, "Maoris" i n New Zealand or "Blacks" i n America - d i f f e r from the South African experience i n the degree of force with which they have been wielded, but i n kind, they bear the same stamp of a majority society conferring identity. The d e f i n i t i o n of the "Chinese" i n Canada as a r a c i a l group i s a comparable c u l t u r a l abstraction that belongs to the dominant white society and Chinatowns stand to th i s day i n Canada and the United States as physical manifestations of that abstraction. Neighbourhoods of Chinese-origin settlement i n Western societies have attracted a considerable amount of scholarship throughout the 20th century. These neighbourhoods have inspired a body of l i t e r a t u r e whose volume i s distinguished by a corresponding dearth of attention given to the ethnic expressions of "host" society members. The neighbourhoods of the l a t t e r , by comparison, have escaped attention as objects of study -unless, of course, some aspect of th e i r class status has been under 1 i n v e s t i g a t i o n . The c u l t u r a l i d e n t i t y and l i f e o f B r i t i s h - o r i g i n neighbourhoods overseas has been cons idered l e s s worthy i n i t s e l f o f research a t t e n t i o n . We read s u r p r i s i n g l y l i t t l e i n s o c i a l sc i ence l i t e r a t u r e about the i n t e r n a l dynamics o f the s o c i a l and a s s o c i a t i o n a l l i f e o f B r i t i s h - o r i g i n communities i n Western s o c i e t i e s , about the a s s i m i l a t i o n o f "new w o r l d " t o " o l d w o r l d " c u l t u r a l va lues i n immigrant lives.- 1 - There i s a sense i n which t o study such matters would be t o reproduce the f a m i l i a r , the mundane. We know (or we t h i n k we know) what i s "ours" - our thoughts , our s u b j e c t i v e r e a l i t y , our c u l t u r e . But i n the case o f Chinatowns, t h e i r p e c u l i a r i t y has s tood as the p o i n t o f depar ture f o r a t r a d i t i o n o f s c h o l a r s h i p . As an "e thnic" neighbourhood, i t s "d i f fe rence" from "mainstream" s o c i e t y seems to have been accepted as a key to new knowledge about the l i v e s o f "others ," the exper iences o f o the r s , " t h e i r " e x i s t e n t i a l r e a l i t y . In p a r t , by v i r t u e o f i t s assumed departure from the norm, Chinatown has been an ob jec t o f study i n i t s own r i g h t . There are good reasons why Chinatowns i n Western s o c i e t i e s should be examined. For one reason, subjec ted , as most C h i n e s e - o r i g i n communit ies have been, t o h o s t i l e hos t popu la t ions , they serve as commentaries upon the problems o f m i n o r i t y s t a tus and the adapta t ions and s t r a t e g i e s t ha t v i c t i m i z a t i o n has r e q u i r e d o f m i n o r i t y communit ies . 2 They have a l s o been an en t ry p o i n t t o many impor tant research ques t ions about c u l t u r a l t r a n s f e r overseas and the dynamics o f s o c i a l o r g a n i z a t i o n and community s t r a t i f i c a t i o n i n new envi ronments . 3 In s o c i a l geography, Chinatown has prompted ques t ions about the demographic, s o c i a l and economic s t r u c t u r e o f i n n e r - c i t y neighbourhoods as e c o l o g i c a l forms and as c u l t u r a l hear ths . Chinatown has been concep tua l i zed as a launching p o i n t i n the a s s i m i l a t i o n o f Chinese immigrants ; as a c u l t u r a l 2 stronghold, an urban v i l l a g e p i t t e d against encroaching land uses; as the product of segregation on the basis of race; and as a Chinese architectural form.^ One geographer summarizes the common soc i a l science conceptualization of Chinatown i n his words: "Chinatown i n North America i s characterized by a concentration of Chinese people and economic a c t i v i t i e s i n one or more c i t y blocks which forms a unique component of the urban fabric. I t i s b a s i c a l l y an idiosyncratic oriental community amidst an occidental urban environment."^ But i t i s possible to adopt a different point of departure to the study of Chinatown which does not accept or r e l y upon i t s "Chineseness" -i t s "difference" - as an i m p l i c i t explanatory pri n c i p l e or as a basis for research questions. Only from the a p r i o r i acceptance of a discrete "Chineseness" are recent studies i n t e l l i g i b l e as research projects, such as Thompson's on Toronto's Chinatown which examines the transformation from "the homogeneous population of the t r a d i t i o n a l period" to "the diverse heterogeneous Chinese population today."6 One only has to imagine the same vocabulary applied to say, the B r i t i s h - o r i g i n communities of Toronto, to see that point. Indeed "Chinatown" i s not "Chinatown" only because the "Chinese," whether by choice or constraint, l i v e there. Rather, i t can be argued, as t h i s study undertakes to do, that Chinatown i s a soci a l product - one which has a c u l t u r a l history and a t r a d i t i o n of thought, image and practice that have given i t a r e a l i t y and presence i n , and for, white European society. "Chinatown," l i k e "race," i s an idea that belongs not to the Chinese, but i t w i l l be argued, to white European society. I t i s , as Ley describes the elements of human apprehension, an object for a subject. 7 For i f we do not assume that the term "Chinese" expresses an 3 unproblematic relationship to b i o l o g i c a l or c u l t u r a l constants, but i s i n one sense a soc i a l c l a s s i f i c a t i o n , i t becomes apparent that the study of the Chinese and t h e i r turf - Chinatown - i s also a study of our ideas, our c u l t u r a l thought, our practices, our interests. S p e c i f i c a l l y , my concern i s for "white" European myths of difference and the manner i n which they have been wielded and structured through the nexus of place. Before t h i s argument can be elaborated further, however, i t i s necessary to indicate the grounds on which my interpretation of the Chinese and Chinatown i s freed from recourse to what might be considered underlying constants. This can be done b r i e f l y by r e c a l l i n g what i s commonplace to contemporary population genetics. This discussion provides the preliminary context for an introduction to the substance of t h i s study which concerns the role of the Canadian state i n the s o c i o - h i s t o r i c a l production of Vancouver's "Chinatown" and the r a c i a l category, "Chinese." Race as a B i o l o g i c a l Notion For many decades, the meaningfulness of the concept of race within the b i o l o g i c a l sciences has been questioned.^ Given the open and continuous nature of the human gene system, biologists have agreed that c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s of human units w i l l be r e l a t i v e , imperfect and arbitrary. The developments i n genetics i n the 1930s discredited the attempts of nineteenth century B r i t i s h , American and western European biol o g i s t s to divide the world's population into discrete "races" using v i s i b l e characteristics. Not that there had been agreement among those s p e c i a l i s t s on the basis for c l a s s i f i c a t i o n or on the number of races that exist; indeed as Miles points out, i t was already clear from the hopelessly large number of typologies that existed by the late 4 nineteenth century that features such as skin colour, f a c i a l angle, cran i a l shape or hair texture did not co-vary i n any systematic or consistent way.9 The more detailed the c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s , the more d i f f i c u l t the task of c l a s s i f y i n g became. S t i l l , there had been a general acceptance that the defined "types" were immutable, that they had d i s t i n c t o r i g i n s , and that they had d i s t i n c t b i o l o g i c a l , c u l t u r a l , behavioural, s p i r i t u a l and moral characteristics. By the 1940s, the idea that human populations were not independent of evolutionary processes had led to a change i n emphasis i n race science from the anatomy of immutable types to the underlying genotypic variation of populations of individuals. Genetic analysis demonstrated that there i s considerable genetic variation between individuals, and that different local geographic populations did not d i f f e r from each other absolutely, but only i n the r e l a t i v e frequency of different genes.1^ This finding led to the concept of "geographical race," s t i l l used i n biology today, to refer to "inbreeding" populations of varying individuals, who d i f f e r from other l o c a l , inbreeding populations i n the proportions of various genes. The implications of t h i s discovery have been considerable for s c i e n t i f i c thinking about race. Physical differences among people obviously e x i s t , and, as mentioned, these differences are s t a t i s t i c a l l y clear among groups. The w e l l known Negroid ("black"), Caucasoid ("white") and Mongoloid ("yellow") divisions, i d e n t i f i e d i n almost every race typology since f i r s t proposed by J. Blumenbach i n the eighteenth century, 1 1 have some s t a t i s t i c a l v a l i d i t y . 1 2 Some physical anthropologists confidently continue to use the term "race" on the grounds that clusters of populations, that are genetically defined, can 5 be i d e n t i f i e d . - ^ So too may some contemporary population geneticists, who are less interested i n terminology (whether the clusters are "races," "sub-species," "varieties" or "populations") than what the frequency of given characters says about the processes of natural selection and the dynamics of human evolution. I t i s important, however, that human geographers be aware of the d i f f i c u l t i e s of t h i s more recent use of the term "race" for t h e i r own di s c i p l i n a r y concerns. Some biologists argue that the d i f f i c u l t i e s are su f f i c i e n t to warrant dispensing with the term altogether, especially given the emotive baggage attached to i t . 1 4 That human populations d i f f e r i n the d i s t r i b u t i o n of thei r genes i s , as mentioned, a b i o l o g i c a l fact. But no agreement exists among bi o l o g i s t s , geneticists, physical . anthropologists and physiologists over whether that fact provides a bio l o g i c a l basis for the c l a s s i f i c a t i o n of human "races." Apart from the su p e r f i c i a l v i s i b l e characteristics of skin, hair and bone by which we have been socialized to "see" r a c i a l difference, there are, as Appiah notes, "few genetic characteristics to be found i n the population of England that are not found i n s i m i l a r proportions i n Zaire or China."^ A major d i f f i c u l t y for c l a s s i f i c a t i o n i s that overall genetic p r o f i l e s vary considerably more within individuals of a given "race" than between individuals of different "races." Most contemporary bio l o g i s t s agree that human genetic v a r i a b i l i t y between the populations of Asia, Europe and A f r i c a i s considerably less than that within those populations. 1 6 Nor i s there a known gene that i s 100 per cent of one form i n one "race" and 100 per cent of a different form i n another "race.". In the case of the gene that determines blood type, for example, every population i s characterized by some particular mixture of the three forms (A, B and 0) of the gene. 1 7 How large the difference i n the 6 frequency of blood groups or other genetic t r a i t s needs to be to warrant a difference of "race" i s c l e a r l y a matter of judgement. The Kikuya of East A f r i c a , Lewontin et a l argue, d i f f e r from the Japanese i n gene frequencies, but they also d i f f e r from thei r neighbours, the Masai - and although the differences might be less i n one case than i n the other, i t i s only a matter of degree. "This means," the authors argue, "that the soc i a l and h i s t o r i c a l definitions of race that put the two East African tribes i n the same "race" but put the Japanese i n a different "race" were b i o l o g i c a l l y arbitrary."^ 0 The point by now i s clear. "Racial" differences cannot be conceptualized as absolute; genetic variation i s continuous. S t a t i s t i c a l groupings cannot be mistaken, as Marger notes, "for actual human groupings founded on unmistakable hereditary t r a i t s . Racial categories form a continuum of gradual change, not a set of sharply demarcated types. . . . The popular d i v i s i o n of the human population into three major r a c i a l groupings i s thus imprecise and largely a r b i t r a r y . " 1 9 The short-range differences that exist and by which society and s c i e n t i s t s have i d e n t i f i e d a difference of "race" have been formed and maintained by geographic and other factors obstructing intermarriage, not by bio l o g i c a l factors. There are no natural or i n t r i n s i c i s o l a t i n g mechanisms and, given our record of continent-hopping, i t i s doubtful i f there were ever "pure" human "stocks." 2 0 By a l l accounts, differences between sets of interbreeding people w i l l be minute as compared with the genetic v a r i a b i l i t y among individuals. I t i s t h i s which prompts Lewontin et a l to argue: "Any use of 'racial' categories must take i t s j u s t i f i c a t i o n from some other source than biology." 2 1 Race as a Social Construction 7 Reflection on the ontological status of race may not seem a valuable exercise for s o c i a l geographers. After a l l , W. I. Thomas pointed out many decades ago that i f things are defined as r e a l - as race has surely been for years - i t i s real i n i t s consequences and i t i s these perceptions and the i r implications that concern us as soc i a l s c i e n t i s t s . Robert Park was one of the f i r s t s o c i a l s c i e n t i s t s to t r y to recover human ideas and subjectivity from beneath impersonal evolutionary forces i n American sociology i n the 1920s with his argument that regardless of the b i o l o g i c a l significance of race, perceived interpretations of identity were instrumental i n defining soc i a l distance gradients between populations i n the c i t y . However, the issue of the ontological status of race i s important insofar as i t has affected the framing of research questions i n the s o c i a l geography of race and ethnicity. (The term ethnicity has been increasingly used i n the place of i t s more disquieting forerunner, race often being subsumed to ethnicity as i n Peach's d e f i n i t i o n of i t as "the linkage of a particular c u l t u r a l mode with a particular genetic stock."23) j n i-^g ecological t r a d i t i o n , there has been a longstanding interest i n measuring and analysing patterns of what i s said to be "residential segregation by race." Many questions have turned on the r e l a t i v e significance of the independent variables of socio-economic status and what i s said to be "race," i n the determination of a " r a c i a l l y differentiated" urban space. 2 4 Others have been interested i n the dynamics of urban housing markets and how they have, become " s p l i t " along the lines of race - how the "dual" market has been reinforced by f i n a n c i a l and other i n s t i t u t i o n s , and by such gatekeepers as real estate agents.2-* There has also been a widespread concern, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n the 8 United States, over the "neighbourhood t r a n s i t i o n " that i s said to occur when blacks "invade" white neighbourhoods.2^ (The process of white invasion of tinner c i t y ] black neighbourhoods i s commonly termed "neighbourhood r e v i t a l i z a t i o n " or "gentrification.") Others have investigated exclusionary strategies involving agencies of the state, such as zoning, school segregation and f i s c a l measures.27 consistent with the predominant l i b e r a l perspective on race relations i n the soci a l sciences, soc i a l geographers have been generally concerned with the effects for urban form of white prejudice toward " r a c i a l l y d i s t i n c t minorities," to use a common phrase. Now, as Thomas suggested and Park f i r s t demonstrated, as long as people believe i n the existence of d i s t i n c t races, geographers and other s o c i a l s c i e n t i s t s have an important role to play i n studying the consequences of t h i s belief. The issue, however, i s how research questions with regard to the race issue are to be framed, given that for the purposes of so c i a l science, i f not for society, race must be located s t r i c t l y i n the realm of ideology. The ecological perspective on race relations i n human geography takes what are presumed to be society's definitions of i d e n t i t i e s i n order to make measurements and claims about the patterns and correlates of r a c i a l segregation i n c i t i e s . But the issue i s t h i s : i s i t segregation by d i s t i n c t and discrete races that exists, or i s i t s o c i a l segregation that has been forged around the arbitrary c r i t e r i o n of skin colour? The question i s not simply a semantic (or pedantic) one. Whereas the suggestion that segregation by race exists gives i m p l i c i t causal power to race difference i t s e l f - i t i s something constant that ipso facto inspires prejudice and discrimination - my contention that segregation has been forged 9 c u l t u r a l l y around a s o c i a l l y defined c r i t e r i o n does not invest race with a concreteness of i t s own. In short, i t recognizes that race must also be explained. The problem of the r e i f i c a t i o n of race i s pronounced i n survey research based on census data where i t i s a system of arbitrary s o c i a l c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s , not s e l f - d e f i n i t i o n s , that i s used as the record of identity. Geographers i n the ecological t r a d i t i o n u n c r i t i c a l l y accept these c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s as a basis for establishing research samples; they make measurements and conduct s t a t i s t i c a l tests using categories that are i m p l i c i t l y held to imply something constant, i n order to reach what i s thought to be an objective conclusion about the significance of r a c i a l differences for urban c o n f l i c t and form. As Marshall argues more generally, "what i s often unrecognized or ignored i s the fact that the 'races' about which many sc i e n t i s t s speak and write are those perceived and delineated by particular groups of people who interact i n given s o c i o - p o l i t i c a l contexts."28 History i s replete with examples that reveal the e n t i r e l y arbitrary, and contextual nature of r a c i a l c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s . Few geographers interested i n the " r a c i a l " t r a n s i t i o n of neighbourhoods i n the United States today would study the movement of Americans who came from Germany into Anglo-neighbourhoods. Most would agree that both these groups comprise the "white" race. But t h i s has not always been the case. In New England between the 1850s and 1920s, Solomon demonstrates that those now regarded as members of a "white" race - Anglo-Saxons, Celts, Teutons, etc - were perceived as separate "races." 2 9 Each was considered immutable on the basis of behavioural and physical endowments. Over time, however, New Englanders adapted thei r evaluation of the "races" of Europe. In Alberta, Canada, i n the early decades of the twentieth 10 century, Germans and East Europeans were not considered "white" but rather, "non-white." 3 0 i n the United States today, an apparently "white" c h i l d of a "mixed" marriage may be a f f i l i a t e d with the lower-ranking "black" s o c i a l category. 3 1 s i m i l a r l y indicative of the arbitrary nature of " r a c i a l " c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s has been the notion of the "Jewish" race. Only after the 1870s, when the ideology of anti-Semitism took root i n Germany, were Jewish people c l a s s i f i e d as a d i s t i n c t (and inferior) "race" i n Canada. Previously, the outsider d e f i n i t i o n of Jewish people had corresponded closely to that people's national s e l f - i d e n t i t y based i n r e l i g i o u s d i s t i n c t i v e n e s s . 3 2 Likewise, the c l a s s i f i c a t i o n "Indian" cannot be thought of as a term pertaining to some constant b i o l o g i c a l referent. In pre-contact times, members of the Cree, Ojibway and Iroquois categorized themselves and were categorized by other indigenous groupings as Cree, Ojibway and Iroquois. Only to Europeans did "they" a l l look and behave a l i k e and as a consequence, the r a c i a l l y defined category "Indian" was coined. 3 3 The capriciousness of r a c i a l categorizing can also be seen when one s h i f t s from one society to another. Worsley notes that Kashmiri Brahmins, who think of themselves as "white" i n contrast to dark-skinned South Indians, are shocked to f i n d themselves c l a s s i f i e d as "black" or "coloured" i n B r i t a i n . 3 4 The same surprise exists, Worsely claims, on the part of Nigerian aristocrats and Muslim hadjis. Further, i t i s l i k e l y that an individual c l a s s i f i e d as "black" i n the United States would be c l a s s i f i e d as "white" i n B r a z i l because the systems of c l a s s i f i c a t i o n and c r i t e r i a used are not consistent from one society to another. 3^ In New Guinea what passes i n our experience for a "white" person i s considered "red" by some " t r i b e s . " 3 6 For that matter, one may 11 ask, who ever saw a white white person, not to mention a yellow one? A growing l i t e r a t u r e on the conceptualization of eth n i c i t y and ancestral culture would also suggest these s o c i a l categorizations are problematic as well. There i s by now a convincing c r i t i q u e of a t r a d i t i o n of u n c r i t i c a l c u l t u r a l r e l a t i v i s m i n North American ethnic studies where et h n i c i t y was largely accepted as an innate property of culture-bearing groups.37 According to the more recent argument (advanced i n anthropology nearly twenty years ago), ethnic groups are not conceptualized as ca r r i e r s of a homogeneous culture but are defined organizationally and subjectively by internal rules of exclusion and inclusion around symbols of actual or perceived common descent such as language, c u l t u r a l practices, religion.38 Cultural differences have an indisputable subjective and objective r e a l i t y i n t h i s s o c i a l view of ethn i c i t y - they may even take on a primordial significance for some people i n some s o c i a l conditions - but ancestral culture i s not mystified as an inventory of elements to which people are unambiguously bound. I t i s not fixed, a t a v i s t i c or "superorganic,"39 as i f an external system of "Chineseness," for example, i s imbibed across generation and context by a person of Chinese o r i g i n i n Hong Kong, a t h i r d generation Chinese-origin resident of Malaysia, a Chinese i n mainland China, a Chinese-origin immigrant to South A f r i c a , and a fourth generation Chinese-origin c i t i z e n of Vancouver. I t may be the case that for some such residents i n Canada, a Chinese heritage i s a cardinal idiom of s e l f - i d e n t i t y , but equally for others, i t may not.^® I t may also be the case that for some residents of Chinese o r i g i n i n Canada, t h e i r s e l f - d e f i n i t i o n s of ethnic i d e n t i t y may correspond to the i d e n t i t y ascribed by others, but again, t h i s i s not necessarily so and cannot be assumed. Self (emic) and other (etic) d e f i n i t i o n s must be 12 a n a l y t i c a l l y distinguished because both tend to s h i f t with changing so c i a l conditions and each i s based on a different process. As Banton argues, the c l a s s i f i c a t i o n from without i s predicated on exclusive processes, whereas the identity defined from within i s based subjectively on inclusive processes.^ 1 The point i s that for the purposes of soc i a l science, ethnic group a f f i l i a t i o n cannot be assumed a p r i o r i from ethnic or r a c i a l categories as i s often the case i n folk l i f e , where taken for granted r a c i a l and c u l t u r a l differences are often conflated i n the national type or essence - "Chinese" or "Asian" or "Oriental." For Cohen, t h i s presents an epistemological dilemma for anthropologists, a "unit problem" where "the named ethnic e n t i t i e s we accept, often unthinkingly, as basic givens i n the l i t e r a t u r e are often a r b i t r a r i l y or, even worse, inaccurately imposed." 4 2 i n geography, Jackson states a s i m i l a r dilemma i n his comment (after Padillo) that, " i t i s only from the standpoint of American society that Puerto Ricans form a group, defined as either a r a c i a l group, an ethnic group, or a c u l t u r a l group."^3 I f "race," ethnicity and ancestral culture are conceptualized as problematic, some research questions on the "Chinese" i n B r i t i s h Columbia are suggested that engage the study of folk definitions with the more transcendent domain of public ideology. For one, i t becomes important to uncover the s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l process by which r a c i a l categories are themselves constructed, i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d and transmitted over time. The interest turns to the broader s o c i a l l y constructed r a c i a l frame of reference out of which the categories are defined and public attitudes shaped. As suggested above, " r a c i a l " categories i n themselves possess no a n a l y t i c a l u t i l i t y , having no more r e a l i t y than eye or hair 13 colour. Following from t h i s , one of the tasks of the socia l science of race relations i s to trace the so c i a l process by which the idiom of race i s employed and re-employed i n certain c u l t u r a l and h i s t o r i c a l contexts to designate arbitrary categories of insiders and outsiders. Banton suggests as much i n his statement: "Though much has been said about the e v i l s associated with r a c i a l c l a s s i f i c a t i o n , there has been l i t t l e systematic study of the process." 4 4 I t i s the intention of th i s thesis to invoke that mandate and to trace the evolution of the race d e f i n i t i o n process i n one setting with reference to the " r a c i a l " category "Chinese." The study of the so c i a l construction of r a c i a l categories would not i n i t s e l f be so important but for the fact that i t represents at once the story of the relationship between power, discourse and the c o l l e c t i v e representations of dominant h i s t o r i c a l groups. Racial categories have been systematically used i n the service of exclusion and domination since the r i s e to power of a superordinate European category from the end of the sixteenth and certa i n l y by the nineteenth century. In that sense r a c i a l c l a s s i f i c a t i o n has been no "innocent" c u l t u r a l process but also a h i s t o r i c a l and a p o l i t i c a l operation i n the broad sense of being d i v i s i v e and exclusive. Its study must therefore have as a point of departure the context of "we" and "they" d i s t i n c t i o n s that were based i n the consolidation and legitimation of power by a hegemonic white European "we" category over various categories of r a c i a l l y defined others. In t h i s act of arbitrary category l e g i s l a t i o n , governments have had a c r i t i c a l bearing i t w i l l be argued, not least because of th e i r considerable "power of def i n i t i o n , " to use the valuable phrase of Western. 4 5 14 But not only i s i t important to investigate how particular signs have been wielded by powerful i n s t i t u t i o n s to construct a system of r a c i a l c l a s s i f i c a t i o n , i t i s also important to give attention to the physical manifestation of t h i s process. Racial ideology does not operate simply i n the minds of h i s t o r i c a l actors but i s made "real" or concrete through practices that have material effects at the l o c a l level. I t i s i n space that r a c i a l ideology becomes cemented and i t i s through place, as I w i l l show i n the example of "Chinatown," that i t i s given a local referent, granted a body of meaning, structured, j u s t i f i e d , and reproduced. As symbolic in t e r a c t i o n i s t s would i n s i s t , a place i s not given i n the material objects of the external world but i s , i n part constructed s o c i a l l y , out of the meaning that i s conferred upon some a r b i t r a r i l y defined l o c a l i t y . I t can be argued, then, that space and place do not play an incidental part i n the process of r a c i a l categorization but are i n t e g r a l l y part of i t s making and unfolding. This i s not because of any i n t r i n s i c properties of space and place; t h e i r structuring r o l e cannot be asserted on l o g i c a l grounds, but rather must be demonstrated through diachronic analysis. As Abrams has argued, the analysis of the structuring of s o c i a l l i f e must be "situated i n process, i n time," 4 6 but i t must also be located, as many human geographers have asserted, i n the medium of space and place. Before t h i s argument i s developed however, some indication of the l i t e r a t u r e i n s o c i a l and c u l t u r a l geography that has guided my concern with "Chinatown" w i l l be provided. Conceptua1izations of Landscape i n Cultural and Social Geography The insight that our human landscapes hold clues to the values and a c t i v i t i e s of t h e i r authors, has provided the substance for a long 15 t r a d i t i o n of landscape interpretation i n human geography. Since Carl Sauer's dictum i n 1925 that the land be seen "with the eyes of i t s former occupants, from the standpoint of t h e i r needs and
UBC Theses and Dissertations
"East" as "West" : place, state and the institutionalization of myth in Vancouver's Chinatown, 1880-1980 Anderson, Kay 1986
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