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Reinvented racism...reinventing racism?: interpreting immigration and reception in Richmond, BC Rose, John Stanley


Since the liberalization of Canadian immigration policy in the late-1960s, a significant development has been the increase in the ethnic and racial diversity of Canada's population. Indeed, the visible minority status of many immigrants to Canada has powerfully shaped interpretations of social and physical change. In the context of substantial Asian immigration to Greater Vancouver, a number of commentators have argued that critical responses to change on the part of long-term Caucasian residents represent a 'reinvented', and often subtly expressed, racism. It is the contention of this author, however, that such conclusions are compromised by an uncritical assumption of what constitutes racism and a diminished empirical focus on sensationalized media accounts. Working from this premise, this thesis attempts to examine in greater depth two categories poorly examined in these accounts: racism and the long-term resident. It traces the emergence of the category of race, the analytical and political imperatives which gave rise to a shift in focus from race to racism, and how—under the rubric of social constructionism-—theories on racism have been deployed to understand contemporary social relations in Greater Vancouver. A critique of this literature provides the springboard for further analysis of long-term resident responses to change. Extended interviews conducted with fifty-four long-term residents of Richmond, BC—a Vancouver suburb that has received considerable numbers of Chinese immigrants over the past twelve years—strongly suggest that our understanding of social and physical change at the community level cannot be reduced to one dimension. Moreover, the complexity of these responses also demands that the analytical and political import of evaluative terms like racism be prised open and subjected to scrutiny and open debate. Perhaps most importantly, the diversity of long-term Richmond residents' responses cautions against the production of racialized stereotypes in immigration research, and points to the need to provide more nuanced and contextualized interpretations of immigration and its impact on society.

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