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Imagining Canada : tracing the cultural logics of migration amongst PRC immigrants in Vancouver Teo, Sin Yih

Abstract

This thesis examines the cultural logics of migration amongst recent skilled immigrants from the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Greater Vancouver, British Columbia. Challenging the economistic view of scholars who subscribe to the dominating imperative of capital, it emphasizes instead the social and cultural embeddedness of migration decisions. Integral to this analysis is the role of the imagination in migration. Personal geographies further determine whether the idea for migration takes root in the imagination, and is eventually translated into action. Two key questions guide my enquiry. Firstly, why migrate? Secondly, why migrate to Canada, and Vancouver? A central concern is the kind of resources relied upon as sources of knowledge before the immigrants arrive: how important are social networks and cultural discourses in shaping their knowledge of life in Canada? Another concern is to uncover the migrants' lived realities after their arrival. Do the migrants' experiences in Canada match their expectations prior to migration? How likely are they to remain? Conversely, are there indications of return migration, or migration elsewhere? In terms of methodology, I conducted 3 focus groups and 36 in-depth household interviews with 78 recent PRC immigrants. I also performed textual analysis of the Chinese media, the Internet, and other sources. My research indicates that there is a cultural logic to migration, which reproduces and is reproduced by discursive practices located in the home community and the community of fellow migrants overseas. Key to this cultural logic is the significance of the imagination, where migration is tied to a particular representation of reality such that potential migrants view it as a route for success, regardless of the actual reality. Upon their arrival in Canada, experience is the overarching factor in influencing migrants' responses to Canada. Having parted from their original lives in China, some decide to remain in Canada while others raise the possibility of returning to China. In crossing from China to Canada, different worlds of imagination and reality are traversed, with a premium placed on the perspective of experience in the New World of Canada.

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