CFP: Asia-Pacific Worlds in Motion V: Migration Beyond Borders

Call for Papers (Deadline February 8, 2013)
Asia-Pacific Worlds in Motion V: Migration Beyond Borders
May 30 and 31, St. John’s College, University of British Columbia

We invite graduate students and early-career scholars to participate in a conversation about migration beyond borders. Recent scholarship in the interdisciplinary area of migration studies has begun to critically examine the significance of the border as a construct that separates territorial formations. The border is not just a line on a map; it is an ever-shifting political idea negotiated and practised in myriad ways. In this era of global mobility it is no longer geographically specifiable, but is implicated in a vast array of spaces and power relations in which citizens and bodies are controlled and made. In the Asia-Pacific, where some territorial divisions appear to stretch the breadth of the ocean and others are sensed but not demarcated, the border simultaneously has real, lived dimensions and is increasingly insignificant. But in an age of security discourses and supra-national political-economic partnerships, human experiences created by borders are as salient as ever.

For this conference, we solicit papers that consider migrant experiences and the migration phenomenon both in relation to borders and beyond them.  Our geographical focus is the greater Asia-Pacific, including intercontinental, transnational and regional dynamics, with an emphasis on relationships between Asia and the Americas. Themes include migration policy, human security, social justice, and the political dimensions of migration and migrant experiences.  We are also interested in papers that deal explicitly with methodology in migration research.

In the interest of a wide-reaching conversation, we welcome papers on the following related topics:
– Migration, borders and boundaries
– Geopolitics of migration
– Temporary migration
– Forced migration
– Diasporic communities
– Migration policy and politics
– Social justice and migration
– Asian migration and migrant experiences
– Second generation and later generation migrants
– Migration and religion
– Family, children and youth migration
– Migrants in the city
– Other topics related to migration beyond borders in the Asia-Pacific

Asia-Pacific Worlds in Motion is an international interdisciplinary conference. The 2013 meeting will be held in St. John’s College at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver on May 30th and 31st, 2013. It will be the fifth in a series of meetings that are jointly organized by and alternately convened at UBC and the National University of Singapore (NUS). The conference website is under construction and can be found at http://kristofk.com/apwim.

Prospective participants are invited to submit an abstract of up to 300 words by February 8th, 2013 to Lachlan Barber and Kara Shin at apwim2013@gmail.com. Accommodation and meals for the duration of the conference will be provided for those travelling to Vancouver, but participants are responsible for covering all other travel costs.

For more information, please contact the conference organizers at apwim2013@gmail.com.

The conference is jointly presented by:
St John’s College, University of British Columbia
Metropolis B.C., University of British Columbia
Migration Cluster & Division of Research and Graduate Studies, Faculty of
Arts and Sciences, National University of Singapore

Vancouver Sun: Census: Mandarin, Cantonese top immigrant tongues in Metro Vancouver (Kelly Sinoski)

Jun Xiao, who immigrated to Canada from Nanjing, China in 2011, speaks Mandarin at home with his wife Dan, 19-month-old child Michael, and mother-in-law Aiping at their suite in East Vancouver.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen , Vancouver Sun
(Source: Vancouver Sun: http://www.vancouversun.com/Census+Mandarin+Cantonese+immigrant+tongues+Metro+Vancouver/7442441/story.html)

I was quoted in today’s Vancouver Sun on census data that indicates a high concentration of Cantonese and Mandarin being spoken in the Metro Vancouver area. The online version was published yesterday. You’ll find the article in today’s paper on p. A4.

Kelly Sinoski’s article is part of a series she’s doing on emerging census data.  As Henry Yu (UBC History) her, many of the sites where these languages are spoken are in Chinese churches.  Sinoski followed-up with an interview with me on Tuesday morning and then printed this yesterday.  I told her about Chinese churches as extended family sites, as I had written about in my 2011 Population, Space, and Place article on “Making a Cantonese-Christian family.”  She included arguably the funniest quote that I received during my MA research for the article:

Justin Tse, a UBC grad student who is studying the phenomenon, said the church often provides newcomers with a sense of family and connectedness. One of his research subjects, for instance, told him that he often attends church, but usually falls asleep during the sermon and wakes up when it’s over.

“It’s a lot like going to your dad’s house,” he said. “There’s a strong sort of familial feeling.”

You’ll find the exact transcript quote on p. 761 of the academic article.  Thanks, Kelly, for the quote–it was fun chatting! And thanks, Henry, for making the connection!

Homo Religiosus? Religion and Immigrant Subjectivities (co-authored with David Ley), in Religion and Place: landscape, politics, piety (eds. Peter Hopkins, Lily Kong, and Elizabeth Olson)

I just received my copy of Religion and Place: landscape, politics, piety put out by Springer and set for a 2013 release date.  It’s edited by my friends, Peter Hopkins (Newcastle University, Geography), Lily Kong (National University of Singapore, Geography), and Betsy Olson (University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, Geography), and it’s got a great line-up of geographers of religion contributing in its various chapters, including Banu Gokariksel, Anna Secor, Sarah Moser, Nimrod Luz, Lynn Staeheli, Caroline Nagel, Barbara Bompani, Giselle Vincett, David Conradson, and Julian Holloway.

My supervisor, David Ley (University of British Columbia, Geography), and I co-authored a chapter entitled Homo religiosus? Religion and immigrant subjectivities” based on Ley’s 2010 lecture for the Association of American Geographers’ Geography of Religions and Belief Systems annual lecture series.  I contributed a great deal of citations to make the chapter relevant to theology and religious studies (fields that Lily Kong [2010] has been pushing us to get involved in) as well as some empirical material on Chinese Canadian evangelicals, especially from my 2011 article on a Cantonese Christian congregation published in Population, Space, and Place.  Our chapter suggests that while there has been a great deal of interest in the relationship between religion and migration, little has been done from within the theological frameworks of religious migrant practitioners themselves. We attempt a thought-experiment with transnational Chinese migrants to Vancouver who attend Christian churches to examine their religious practices from an explicitly theological perspective.

One of the innovative elements of this book is its explicit openness to doing social science of religion from within theological frameworks, as can also be seen from Julian Holloway’s chapter.  To me, this raises questions about how human geographers do religious studies similarly and differently from their social science counterparts in sociology and anthropology.  The editors and the contributors are very excited about the release of this book, as it signals a growing interest within human geography in religion and the growing significance of various approaches to religious studies in the social sciences more generally.

Guest Lecture: Asia-Pacific Transnationalisms and Urban Geography

Tonight I am giving a guest lecture on Asia-Pacific transnational migrations and urban geography in a course on urban geography (Geography 350) at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver taught by my friend, Nicholas Lynch. I’ll be discussing transnational urbanisms, the feminization of migrant labour, Chinese transnationalisms and alternate Asian modernities, and the desire for global cities in the Asia-Pacific.  Of course, I have a plug on religion, migration, and the city toward the end as well.

I’m hoping to be able to do a few more guest lectures so as to have some talks prepared for when I get to teach a full-on course in topics such as urban geography, migration studies, and ethnic studies.

Radio Canada International: Highway to Heaven

ImageI was recently interviewed, along with multicultural activist Balwant Sanghera, by Lorn Curry at Radio Canada International. We spoke about No. 5 Road in Richmond, dubbed the “Highway to Heaven.”

You can hear the piece here. As you’ll hear, I implicitly sneaked in a few fun insights from scholars associated with The Immanent Frame.

I think Lorn did an excellent job putting this together, and I am very happy with the overall final product, although if I were to be just a little bit nit-picky, I found it interesting that he referred to the “rituals at the evangelical Christian churches.” But overall, it’s great. Thanks, Lorn!

Association of American Geographers + GORABS 2012: New York

I was unable to make this year’s Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in New York on 24-28 February 2012, but that didn’t stop our ‘Highway to Heaven’ team from coming out with a co-authored paper.  Claire Dwyer (University College, London) and I co-wrote a paper entitled ‘Planning for religious worship: the creation of the ‘Assembly District’ in Richmond, Vancouver.’ Claire presented this for the team in a paper session entitled ‘Religion, Society and Space: An Institutional Perspective‘ organized by Karen Morin (Bucknell University) and Lily Kong (National University of Singapore).

Here was our abstract:

In the multicultural suburb of Richmond, Vancouver the clustering of religious buildings along the Number 5 Road highway which marks the eastern boundary of the city has earned the colloquialism ‘Highway to Heaven’. However the agglomeration of more than twenty religious buildings including mosques, churches, religious schools, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh temples within 3 kilometres is not accidental but the product of an unusual city planning designation which unites ‘Assembly Use’ with a long term plan to safeguard agricultural land and prevent urban sprawl. This paper examines the evolution of this planning policy and its role in the creation of a distinctive transnational suburban religious landscape. It explores how Richmond’s diaspora faith communities negotiate their relationships with the state and other civic institutions, such as Richmond Food Security, focusing particularly on their obligations to maintain the agricultural potential of the land. The paper also examines other intersections with civic institutions particularly, Richmond Tourism, in response to initiatives to market Number 5 Road as a tourist destination. As such the paper contributes to the wider issues raised by this session about the relationships between religion and space in the context of the state and civic institutions.

The overall point of the session was:

The purpose of this session is to consider new directions in the geography of religion by focusing on the scale of the civic institution in understanding relationships and connections between people and their religious beliefs and practices. State and civic organizations such as schools, hospitals, the courts, prisons, businesses, government agencies, NGOs, museums, and the military, among others, are sites through which religious norms and practices are mediated, regulated, represented, facilitated, and contested. This session builds upon a substantial body of scholarly work on religion, identity, and space, going beyond it by offering new insights into the important role that state, civic, and social institutions and organizations play in contemporary religious life, in various regional locations. Papers explore different types of institutional spaces and the various ways in which they facilitate, control and otherwise mediate religious beliefs and practices.

Congratulations also to Murat Es (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) for winning the David E. Sopher New Scholar Award with the Geography of Religions and Belief Systems Specialty Group (GORABS) this year for his paper entitled ‘Western Mosques between Universalism and Particularism.’  Here was his abstract:

Mosques carry special importance for the localization of Islam in the West. Monumental mosque projects initiated by Western Muslims often make the headlines, the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ project in New York and the DITIB’s Central Mosque in Cologne being two recent examples. Reactions of anxiety over the transformative effects of architecturally distinct mosque structures and their congregations on the cityscapes in Western countries link the image of mosques to radicalization and fundamentalism. This paper aims to go beyond the image of mosques as sites of absolute alterity and unbridgeable Otherness within-yet outside-the West to underscore the everyday uses and contested roles of mosques in the politics of belonging in the West. Based on multi-sited ethnographic research in the Netherlands and Turkey, I look at the transnational practices of Turkish-Dutch communities and the struggles over national belonging and citizenship in the Netherlands. I discuss the everyday production and multiple and intersected articulations of Muslimness, Europeanness, Dutchness and Turkishness through public rituals, education, entertainment and socialization at mosques. In so doing, I show the interrelations between the Turkish and Dutch religious fields and shed light on the universalist and particularist articulations of Islam to cosmopolitan and ethno-national belonging(s).

Finally, our GORABS Annual Lecture this year was delivered by Ceri Peach (Oxford), who spoke on ‘Islam and the Art of Mosque construction in Western Europe‘:

Since the 1950s, there has been a dramatic growth in the Muslim population of the countries of Western Europe from almost negligible to about 13 millions in the early 2000s. Immigration came first in the north—Britain, France, Germany, Benelux—and then progressively into the south to countries which had previously supplied immigrants to the north. With the demographic change has come the growth of Islamic places of worship and important impacts on the European cultural landscape an impact which has not always been well received. In an early paper Peach and Gale (Geographical Review 2003, 93:4) tracked the growth of mosques in Britain, analyzing the difficulties that they faced in gaining planning permission to construct building with differed from the local vernaculars. We traced a three stage evolution of British attitudes over time: (1) Denial; you can’t have it if it looks like a mosque (2), Hiding: you can have it as long as it is somewhere where people can’t see it. (3) Celebration: you can have it and it can have dome and minarets, and it can be in a prominent position. The present paper seeks to establish whether the three stages relate not only to change over time in Britain but to the stance of different countries with regard to mosques as one moves south through Western Europe. Are the Spanish in denial?

For more information about sessions sponsored by GORABS, see the newsletter that I put together as secretary for the group.

Asia-Pacific Worlds in Motion IV: Fluidities and Fixities, Feb 2012

I was recently at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) 2012 conference, Asia-Pacific Worlds in Motion IV: Fluidities and Fixities.  This is a conference jointly organized by UBC and NUS students working in migration studies.

There was a stellar lineup of keynote speakers, which include Adrian Bailey (Hong Kong Baptist University/Leeds University), Elspeth Graham (University of St. Andrews), Rhacel Salazar Parreñas (University of Southern California), and Dan Hiebert (UBC).

I was part of a paper session on Transnational Identities and Subjectivities, chaired by Tracey Skelton (NUS) and responded to by Rhacel Parrenas.  I presented a paper entitled ‘A Minority Challenging Multiculturalism: The Social Conservatism of Cantonese-speaking Evangelical Christians in Metro Vancouver.’  Here’s the abstract:

Studies of transnationality in the Asia-Pacific region have recently focused on migration through a given social field over the lifecourse, some nodes centred on education, others on work (Waters 2002; Ley and Kobayashi 2005; Preston et al 2006; Waters 2006; Ley 2010; Lin 2011). While such approaches rightly highlight these migrants’ ties to their places of origin, they seldom explore their commitments to their new destination nation-states. Using qualitative data collected from 40 key informant interviews and four focus groups in Metro Vancouver, this paper demonstrates that one particular, influential migrant group in Vancouver—migrants from Hong Kong who are of evangelical Christian faith—are in fact more committed to Canada than Hong Kong. However, their involvement in Canadian civil society, far from celebrating Canada’s multicultural policy, has sought to challenge multiculturalism on the grounds that their rights of religious freedoms and parental choices in their children’s education have been overshadowed by agendas concerning gender and sexuality. Such political voices have included journalistic postings in English- and Chinese-language media in Vancouver, activist organisations, and the success of Cantonese-speaking evangelical Christian candidates for the Conservative Party in federal elections. Given such a wide range of political participation, I argue that the social conservatism of Hongkonger evangelicals, while contextualised by a transnational social field, signifies an attempted integration into Canadian civil society by challenging the state’s multicultural policy. This paper advances discussions of fixities and fluidities in Asia-Pacific migrations by outlining the development of a socio-political agenda by transnational migrants for their destination countries, not only their places of origin.

For more information about the conference, please see the Asia-Pacific Worlds in Motion website. We hope to have the fifth installment at UBC Vancouver.

PhD Field Work: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Greetings from Hong Kong!  I have been here since 22 February and will be here until April 17 doing field work for my PhD on Cantonese-speaking Christians, their conceptions of civil society, and their concrete networks and political practices.

During this time, I will be interested in any leads on the following:

  • How various churches and denominational bodies see their role in civil society
  • Christian involvement (both Protestant and Catholic) in the Chief Executive elections
  • Christian activism around “moral” issues, such as homosexuality and gambling
  • Christian work in poverty, both in areas of charity and social justice
  • Christians in post-80s movements
  • Christian discourse around democracy
  • Christian activism for and against the right to abode for migrant workers and China mothers
  • Christian work in education

I am interested in speaking with pastors, Christian organization leaders, and politicians.  I am also interested in gathering focus groups from the Christian laity.  If you would like to speak with me, or know of any people with whom I should speak, please contact me at jkhtse@interchange.ubc.ca.

Asian Religions Aren’t That Exotic (Ricepaper 16.4)

The latest issue of Ricepaper Magazine 16.4 has just come out, and I’m happy to announce that I have a feature article.  The issue is titled Poetry and Philosophy and includes articles, fiction, and poetry written by Jenny Uechi, Terry Watada, Siyuan Liu, Renee Sarojini Sarkilar, Nancy Kang, Kim Yong-Hi, Yasuko Thanh, and a profile on Valerie Sing Turner done by Loretta Seto.  It looks great.

My article is titled “Asian Religions Aren’t That Exotic.”  You’ll have to read the article in its entirety, but if you ever wondered how Asian Canadian films The People I’ve Slept With and Eve and the Firehorse, stats from the Canadian census on immigration to Vancouver, the ‘Highway to Heaven’ on Richmond’s No. 5 Road, and the controversy in the Vancouver Sun over Chinese Christians and cultural practices during this year’s Chinese New Year all go together, you’re in for a treat.  I take on all these themes with a twist, that really, Asian religions aren’t that exotic, and that because of this, creative artists should feel free to treat Asian religions in Canada as simply part of the everyday lives of Asian Canadians.

Enjoy!

PhD Field Work: San Francisco Bay Area II

I am returning to the San Francisco Bay Area for field research from 16 November to 20 December.

During this time, I am hoping to do the following:

  • Finish key informant interviews at Chinese Christian organizations and churches that I didn’t get to in the first round this summer
  • Conduct focus groups with Cantonese-speaking evangelicals on their feedback on what’s going on in civil society and politics
  • Amass an archive of media(print and audio-visual) reports, city planning documents, and church records to help with my project
If you have any leads or would like to be involved, please contact me at jkhtse@interchange.ubc.ca.  I will be staying on the East Bay as a home base but will be able to commute throughout the Bay Area.