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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"China round the corner" : Vancouver’s Chinatown and the Chinese community in a changing "multicultural" society Nakamura, Mayumi


This thesis conceptualizes Vancouver's Chinatown as a museum aimed at the white population groups in the context of multicultural Canadian society. The purpose of this research is to suggest that a dichotomization between whites and Chinese resulting from colonialism is reproduced through the policy of multiculturalism. Explicit visualization for the purpose of "preservation" made Chinese culture a subordinate and exploitable object that served as a source of entertainment for whites. The Chinese in Canada, who had greatly suffered from racial discrimination in the past, are now regarded as an important ethnic and cultural group that enriches Canadian society under the policy of multiculturalism. However, it remains to be seen whether they and their culture have truly earned equal status to that of white culture. The City of Vancouver conducted beautification schemes on Chinatown from the late 1960s to the 1980s. As a result, Chinatown became a cultural site where Chinese culture is represented with a strong emphasis on visual aspects. Preservation of Chinatown as a cultural entity consequently made it an artificial space that does not reflect the reality of the current, diversified Chinese community. Therefore, people of Chinese origin today cannot identify themselves with Chinatown. Chinatown was forced to remain distinctive from the rest of the City, and its distinctiveness was measured in comparison to white culture. This implies an unbridgeable distance between the white and Chinese. In this research, archives regarding the beautification of Chinatown were examined to study what modifications were added and what aspects of Chinese culture were emphasized to create an imaginary space of Chinese culture for whites. Most of the materials studied for this research were published by the City of Vancouver. They were employed to reflect images of "authentic" Chinese culture shared by whites. These sources were also useful to reveal how multiculturalism further promoted the dichotomization between whites and Chinese by keeping the Chinese and their culture distinctive.

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