UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Prestige, power, and the Chinese Erickson, Bonnie H.


The extensive literature in the active field of community power studies suffers from a lack of comparative work in areas other than middle-sized North American cities, while the literature on overseas Chinese communities lacks sophisticated methods of study and precise results. This thesis is an attempt to augment the literature in both areas by applying community power study techniques to the overseas Chinese community in Vancouver. An interview schedule was constructed and interviews were conducted with thirty-five leading Chinese who held at least one office in a Chinese association. Information obtained included the personal background of leaders, their opinions on leaders and associations, and their reports on various recent issues in the Chinese community. Responses concerning the influence of leaders, the influence of associations, and the basis of leadership were taken as components of ideology. Unfortunately, these components showed little relationship to each other or to the two variables with which they were expected to be associated: the generation and number of offices of the evaluator. Nominations of generally influential leaders were related to nominations of leaders in the particular areas of welfare, representation of the community, the Chinese language schools, and business. Frequently nominated general influentials were also often named as particularly well-informed about community affairs. There was also a relationship between general nominations and offices held, although the correlation was less than had been expected. The general nominations were slightly biased because second generation leaders were over-represented in the sample, made more general nominations than first generation subjects, and more often nominated leaders of their own generation. Fifty-five men were named as general influentials; twenty-five of these were nominated by at least two men of one generation. Ten were classed as first generation leaders and fifteen as second generation leaders. The two top groups of influentials were distinct in age, occupation, number of offices, and prominence in school activities. Both groups were distinguished from the thirty lesser leaders in the frequency of their nominations in the particular areas of influence, except for business influence. The first generation leaders were also distinguished by a greater number of offices. General nominations of associations were also related to nominations in the specific areas of welfare, schools, and representation, as well as to the total general nominations received by the association officers and to the number of joint-officer links with other associations. First and second generation respondents made much the same associational nominations aside from the greater second generation tendency to nominate associations prominent in welfare. Association nominations were also related to the "distance" between the respondent and the association: his own associations and associations directly linked to them were disproportionately named. Four main issues were isolated. The number of leaders named for an issue was less than that for a specific issue area, in turn less than the number of general leaders named. Leaders overlapped little from issue to issue. Almost all issue leaders were also named as general leaders. Associations were rarely mentioned as influential in the issues; their activities seem to be confined to their own members as a rule. General influence was found to be a useful variable for both associations and leaders. It was closely related to more specific influence and to strategic location on communication channels formed by executive overlaps. Broadly, the thesis indicates that it is useful and feasible to approach Chinese communities with the techniques and findings developed for North American towns.

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