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Transnational faith : a Hong Kong church in Richmond, British Columbia Tse, Justin Kin-Hung

Abstract

This thesis examines the geographical imaginations of transnational Hongkonger Christians who are parishioners of a Chinese church known in this thesis as St. Matthew’s Church, in the Chinese ethnoburb, Richmond, British Columbia, in Metro Vancouver. Seeking to complement current arguments that immigrant religious congregations in North America serve as spaces of social services and identity formation, this study contextualizes St. Matthew’s Church at four scales in an effort to understand its geographical positioning at the personal, congregational, metropolitan, and transnational Hong Kong-Vancouver levels. The research question this thesis asks is: what global and local sites constitute the geographical imaginations of the parishioners who attend St. Matthew’s Church in Metro Vancouver? This research was conducted over 9 months between April and December 2008 at St. Matthew’s Church; its methodology included participant observation at religious services as well as 38 semi-structured interviews with 40 people. Based on this research, this thesis argues that transnational Hongkonger Christians at St. Matthew’s Church see Christian spaces as spaces of peace, an imagination developed in Hong Kong through British colonialism, Christian schools, and religious family practices. The mission of such Hongkonger Christians is to bring a territoriality of sacred peace through social conservatism to their trans-Pacific Hong Kong-Vancouver lifeworlds. Such a territoriality is challenged, however, by their own children growing up in a multicultural English-speaking Canadian society as well as by mainland Chinese migrants who are geopolitically different from Hongkongers. This thesis demonstrates that the Hongkonger imagined political and cultural geography is intertwined with its religious geography and that such a geography of religion pushes scholars of transnational Hongkongers and of sacred territorialities to understand the intersections between sacred space and political territory.

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