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War and the crystallization of a double identity : Vancouver’s Chinese community, 1937-1947 Chan, Shelly

Abstract

From feeling neither entirely "Chinese" nor "Canadian," Vancouver's Chinese weathered the hard times of racism and economic depression and found themselves embracing a new identity that was both "Chinese" and "Canadian" during the deeply intense period of Japan's invasion of China and later the Second World War. This paper argues that Vancouver's Chinatown was a transnational community whose existence and vitality were not only predicated upon the strength of its internal organizations but also upon its trans-Pacific linkages and movements. It also argues that wartime social and cultural changes led to the first creation of "Chinese Canadians," a double identity that had been born long before the official introduction of Canada's multicultural policy. The two generations of immigrants and Canadian-borns also became welded together during the war, actively supporting China's and Canada's war effort. Finally, this essay closes by highlighting the "double-edged" blessing of a double identity under the effects of local and global historical processes, which were mirrored in the wartime stigmatization of Japanese Canadians, the destruction of the Sing Kew Theatre and the postwar dwindling of trans-Pacific ties with the onset of the Cold War and Maoist socialism in China. '

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