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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Experiences of inter-"racial" married couples in a multicultural society Yee, Lili Anne


This thesis offers a window into the lives of married inter-racial couples in the Lower Mainland area. I argue that the processes of racialization, that is, the process of the social construction of race, is reflected in the experiences of inter-racial couples. In addition, I argue that inter-racial relationships represent a test of the acceptance attitudes of a multicultural society. In a multicultural society that promotes itself as accepting other cultures into a Canadian "mosaic", an inter-racial marriage represents a model of inclusion. Two distinct cultures have joined and exist as one, thus reflecting the ideology of cultural pluralism. Compared with many other nation-states, Canada is widely distinguished for its "acceptance" of cultural differences and social equality as part of our collective vision (Fleras, 1989). Does this acceptance picture reflect reality for those individuals involved in an inter-racial marriage? I highlight two central issues in this thesis. The first issue explores the theoretical aspect of race as a social construction and the practices of this racialization process through the lives of inter-racial couples. The second issue examines the degree of acceptance, tolerance or intolerance toward inter-racial couples in a "multicultural" society. Using Vancouver as a geographical setting, I examine these two issues by interviewing Chinese-Canadian/European-Canadian married couples. I investigate, through their eyes, the process of racialization through analysis of their experiences, and how these experiences demonstrate commitment (or lack of commitment) to multiculturalism as an ideology and social reality. I present data from interviews with couples to understand 1) What are the experiences of an inter-racial couple living in a multicultural society? 2) How is race socially constructed in Vancouver in 1995? 3) Are the experiences of married Chinese-Canadian/European-Canadian couples reflective of a culturally pluralistic society? I draw from relevant literature on "race" and Multiculturalism in Canada, and from previous sociological studies on inter-racial relationships. I suggest that the experiences of inter-racial (Chinese/European) married couples will show the powerful impact of the processes of racialization and reflect the resistance and biases that result from a society which promotes acceptance and yet practices, at best, a form of tolerance. This suggests that surface appearances of cultural inclusion hide realities of non-acceptance and exclusionary practices. Although the subjects interviewed in this thesis do not represent all inter-racial couples, the thesis offers a Canadian perspective which complements existing literature in this area.

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