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The political system of the Vancouver Chinese Community : associations and leadership in the early 1960’s Straaton, Karin Vivian

Abstract

This thesis is concerned with an investigation of the nature of voluntary associations and leadership in the Chinese community of Vancouver during the 1960's. The perspective adopted is one of viewing the Vancouver Chinese community within the general context of overseas Chinese social organization, that is, of examining the significance of voluntary associations and the system of leadership arising from these associations in terms of how they structured community relations internally and created ties with the wider society of which the community was part. An account of the effects of Canadian immigration policy on the nature of Chinese migration to British Columbia is given in order to provide a historical background to this investigation. The methodology employed is inter-disciplinary in nature and combines anthropological, historical, and sociological techniques. It consists of analyses of (1) previously collected interviews with prominent leaders and other members of the community; (2) historical materials pertaining to the British Columbia Chinese, including translations of Chinese newspapers and association periodicals; and (3) published materials pertaining to the Chinese in Southeast Asia and in other centers in North America. It was found that the Vancouver Chinese community, both in recent years and in earlier stages of its development, exhibited a proliferation of voluntary associations that created a network by virtue of interlocking directorships and memberships. This network of associations formed an indigenous political system that allowed the Chinese a significant degree of intra-community control. The important role that voluntary associations assumed in the Vancouver Chinese community is shown to be common to many overseas Chinese communities in which voluntary associations were also significant in the definition of leadership and in the part they played as de facto governments when other impinging external control was absent.

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