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UBC Theses and Dissertations

On Chineseness and the identities of Vancouver's Chinese youth with implications for education Lee, Peter


This qualitative study examines the creation of Vancouver’s Chinese youth identities using a cultural studies framework. This thesis moves the thinking about Vancouver’s Chinese youth beyond that of mere victims of racism and views them instead as active desiring agents with interests, ambitions and the power to decide for themselves how to identify. This study also avoids any essentializing assumptions about Chinesesness and illustrates the multiple constructions of Chineseness by Chinese youth. By investigating more complex identifications, the boundaries of what constitutes the category “Vancouver’s Chinese youth” become blurred and a challenge is made to any commonsense notions about Chineseness, Canadianness, and cultural identity generally. In such a way, this study helps to fill a significant gap in the literature on Vancouver’s Chinese youth identities, a literature that focuses primarily on stereotypes, race-relations, and quantitative socio-psychological work. A discourse analysis is performed on two “texts”: a historical novel, The Jade Peony, and a contemporary incident involving the release of controversial Internet video clips by a social club on the University of British Columbia campus. They are analyzed for their representations of Chinese youth identifications using the discourse theory of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, the work of cultural studies thinkers such as Stuart Hall and Ien Ang and their poststructuralist notions of cultural identity, and the work of queer theorists of colour such as Patrick Johnson and José Esteban Muñoz. The study will show the usefulness of the concept of hybridity and the limitations of the diasporic paradigm that places homeland as “centre.” Chineseness then becomes an open signifier whose meaning is continuously struggled over and dependent on the context of discussion. The study also makes a connection between the complexities of Chinese Canadian identity and debates in antiracism education by showing how antiracism must work with the ambivalences that come from ruptures within Chinese communities. Incidents of conflict within Chinese communities show how antiracism can move beyond a minority/majority or Chinese/White paradigm and consider more productive notions of power and how minorities are capable of social hatreds themselves.

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