Comprehensive Exams, 17-21 January 2011

Since 20 October 2010, I have been reading for comprehensive exams.

The PhD in Human Geography at the University of British Columbia requires three exams to be written in the second year of the PhD.  These three exams address three broad fields that will be addressed in the dissertation and that can serve as broad teaching areas for a future career in academia.

My exams are set for 17-21 January 2011.  I sit one exam for each of 17, 19, and 21 January.  These are written, take-home exams where I have to answer two questions about a broad field in human geography; the normal length of each answer is a 7-10 page literature review.  On the following week, I also sit a three-hour oral exam with my doctoral comprehensive exam committee.  Currently, my doctoral committee consists of: David Ley (UBC Geography), David Edgington (UBC Geography), Henry Yu (UBC History), and Claire Dwyer (University College London, Geography).

The rumour has gone around UBC that the Geography exams are among the most difficult in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  I cannot confirm the truth of this rumour, but what I can say is that it is simultaneously difficult and rewarding.  The aim of these exams is to give a broad understanding of the field and to invite interdisciplinary approaches to the subject matter (which only goes to show how interdisciplinary Geography is as a discipline!).

The three fields I will sit are as follows:

COMPREHENSIVE EXAM #1:
GEOGRAPHIES OF RELIGION, SECULARISM AND SOCIAL THEORY

  • “Old” and “New” Cultural Geographies of Religion (the “old” refers to the Berkeley school of cultural geography led by Carl Sauer, the “new” to Jim Duncan’s turn toward process in the politics of placemaking)
  • Theories of religion
  • Anthropological and sociological approaches to religion
  • Political constructions of secularity
  • Islam and the West: liberal, feminist, and ethnographic approaches
  • Religion and transnational migration
  • Congregational studies (i.e. R. Stephen Warner’s “new paradigm”)

Major thinkers I address in this list include a diverse range: Wilbur Zelinsky, David E. Sopher, Lily Kong, Reinhard Henkel, Peter E. Hopkins, David Ley, Claire Dwyer, Kevin Dunn, Banu Gokariksel, Philip Kelly, Paul Bramadat, R. Stephen Warner, Helen Rose Ebaugh, Janet Chafetz, Peggy Levitt, Steven Vertovec, Peter Berger, Harvey Cox, Emile Durkheim, Mircea Eliade, Clifford Geertz, William James, Rudolf Otto, Karl Marx, Rodney Stark, Max Weber, Talal Asad, Jose Casanova, Michel Foucault, Jurgen Habermas, Stanley Hauerwas, John Milbank, and Charles Taylor.

While religion is the major focus of the list, such a diversity of sources also enables a broader address of the following in future research and teaching:

  • social and cultural geography
  • intellectual histories of the social sciences
  • multiculturalism and migration studies

COMPREHENSIVE EXAM #2:
PACIFIC WORLDS IN MOTION: ASIAN MIGRATIONS AND GEOGRAPHIES OF MIGRATION AND ETHNICITY

  • Theories of international migration
  • The “mobilities” paradigm (John Urry)
  • Multicultural theory and policy
  • Labour migrations
  • Transnational migration studies
  • Second-generation issues
  • Asian American studies
  • Race theory and race studies
  • Asian Canadian studies
  • Pacific Rim studies

Major thinkers I address include: Stephen Castles, Mark J. Miller, Catherine Bretell, James Frank Hollifield, Nancy Foner, John Urry, Ghassan Hage, Robert Putnam, Brenda Yeoh, Katie Willis, Christian Joppke, David Ley, Nina Glick Schiller, Linda Basch, Christina Szanton Blanc, Elaine Ho, Peggy Levitt, Mary C. Waters, Aihwa Ong, Ien Ang, Laurence Ma, Carolyn Cartier, Ronald Takaki, Glenn Omatsu, Sucheng Chan, Lisa Lowe, Jack Tchen, Robert G. Lee, Henry Yu, Helen Zia, Kay Anderson, Dorothy Fujita-Rony, Madeline Hsu, Alexander Saxton, Judy Yung, Peter Ward, Patricia Roy, Charles A. Price, Eiichiro Azuma, Carlos Bulosan, Yen Le Espiritu, Vijay Prashad, Chris Lee, and Peter Li.

While Pacific migrations and ethnicities are the major foci of the list, this list also enables me to address the following in future research and teaching:

  • Globalization theory
  • Citizenship in theory and practice
  • Global economics and geopolitics
  • Theories of social and cultural capital
  • Race and ethnic politics

COMPREHENSIVE EXAM #3
CITIES IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC: HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVES

  • Asian cities in global and regional contexts
  • Colonial and post-colonial cities
  • Global cities/world cities
  • Pacific Rim studies
  • Cities and the welfare state in post-colonial Asia
  • Cities and the neoliberal state in post-colonial Asia
  • Convergence/divergence theory (e.g. Terry McGee’s desakota model)
  • Garden cities and urban utopias
  • Sustainable cities
  • Rural-urban relations and migrations
  • Labour in Asian cities
  • Urban development in Asia

Major thinkers I address are: Terry McGee, David Edgington, W.B. Kim, Anthony King, Fucheng Lo, Peter Marcotullio, Karen Y.P. Lai, Saskia Sassen, Brenda Yeoh, Fulong Wu, S.O. Park, Ryan Bishop, Abidin Kusno, Laurence Ma, Kris Olds, Manuel Castells, H.W. Dick, P.J. Rimmer, Michael Douglass, G.L. Ooi, John Gugler, Jonathan Rigg, Andrew Sorenson, and Dean Forbes.

Though the list focuses on Asian cities in particular, broader areas for future writing and teaching include:

  • Comparative Asian, North American, and European cities
  • Migrant labour
  • Pacific and Pacific Rim studies
  • Urban sustainability
  • Theories of “orientalism”
  • Colonial and post-colonial studies
  • State politics: welfare and neoliberal models

So now…it’s back to reading!  The labour is rewarding, the knowledge both intellectually stimulating and relevant to the contemporary situation.

Gu Xiong, Swimming the River @ Richmond Art Gallery

I am participating as moderator at the Richmond Art Gallery for a panel discussion on Gu Xiong’s Waterscapes on 28 October 2010 at 7:30 PM.  Our panel discussion is titled Swimming the River.

Gu Xiong’s artistic work focuses on the hybrid identities that come from a migrant experience.  He is himself a migrant from Sichuan who sought political refuge in Canada after the Tiananmen incident in 1989.  He makes his home base at the University of British Columbia, and his work has been internationally displayed.

Tonight’s discussion features Gu Xiong himself discussing his work, Parm Grewal from Richmond Multicultural Concerns Society speaking about her work on migrant settlement and anti-racism, and Dr. Glenn Deer from UBC English speaking about migration and hybridity in literature.  I will also speak on my own work in the transnational Hongkonger Christian church as well as the collaborative project on No. 5 Road (the ‘Highway to Heaven’) in Richmond.  The question we address is: what happens when large numbers of people migrate around the world? a question particularly relevant to Richmond, British Columbia, with its 61% visible minority population as of the 2006 Canadian census and its famed 43% Chinese population that has propelled its image as a Chinese ethnoburb.

Admission is free.  The Gallery opens at 7 PM, and the event starts at 7:30 PM.

More information can be found at: http://www.richmondartgallery.org/xiong.php.  A poster for the event is also available at: http://www.richmondartgallery.org/pdfs/RAG-waterscapes-panel-discussion-flyer.pdf.

Making a Cantonese-Christian Family: Quotidian Habits of Language and Background in a Transnational Hongkonger Church (Population, Space, and Place)

My first article is finally out in press.

It is entitled ‘Making a Cantonese-Christian family: quotidian habits of language and background in a transnational Hongkonger church.’ It is part of a special issue of Population, Space, and Place: A Journal of Population Geography on Migration and Everyday Matters: Materiality and Sociality.  Edited by Elaine Ho (Leeds) and Madeleine Hatfield (Royal Holloway, University of London), this issue represents an approach to geographies of migration from the ground up.  We investigate everyday lives and quotidian geographies: how is space materially and socially created by people who have moved from one place to another?

My contribution tackles geographies of everyday life in both the religious dimension and the Hong Kong-Vancouver migration network.  This is based on my MA research, which took place in a transnational Hongkonger church in Metro Vancouver I have anonymised as St. Matthew’s Church.

This paper looks at how St. Matthew’s Church became and is continually reinforced as a transnational Hongkonger church.  For the examination of everyday lives, I use the work of Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life as an heuristic, differentiating between strategies in which ordinary citizens consciously plot political resistance and tactics in which people unconsciously and unreflectively use everyday habits to prop up their lifeworlds.  As I suggest in the paper, most of what goes into making a Cantonese-Christian family are everyday habits (de Certeau’s tactics) that are often subtle, unconscious, seemingly insignificant, and unreflected upon, but which turn out to be politically constructive at the end of the day. By advancing the geography of religion, I also am working within the boundaries of new cultural geography in which James Duncan famously showed in The City as Text that geographical landscapes, networks, and spaces don’t just exist superorganically in some abstract space above us, but are in fact constructed politically over time.

Here’s the abstract:

Studies of the Hong Kong-Vancouver transnational migration network seldom pay close attention to religion in the everyday lives of Hongkonger migrants. Based on 9 months of ethnographic fieldwork at St. Matthew’s Church, a Hong Kong church in Metro Vancouver, this paper examines the tacit assumptions and taken-for-granted quotidian practices through which a Hongkonger church is made. I argue that St. Matthew’s Church has been constructed as a Hong Kong Cantonese-Christian family space through the everyday use of language and invocations of a common educational background. This argument extends the literature on Hongkonger migration to Metro Vancouver by grounding it in a religious site whose intersections with Hong Kong migration to Vancouver consolidates the church as a religious mission with a specifically Hongkonger migration narrative. This consolidation is problematised as I show that contestations in church life by migrants from the People’s Republic of China over language and asymmetrical educational backgrounds both reinforce and challenge the church as a Hongkonger congregation. Through an examination of these everyday interactions at St. Matthew’s Church, this paper advances the geography of religion as I demonstrate that specific geographical narratives and networks shape quotidian practices in religious sites.

The paper is available on Wiley-Blackwell’s Early View.  Inquiries regarding the paper can be directed to: jkhtse@interchange.ubc.ca or tse.justo@gmail.com.

AAG 2011: Traveling Faith

Call for papers
AAG Annual Meeting: Seattle, April 2011:
Religion and Transnationalism/ Travelling faith: exploring the intersections of religion and migration

Session organizers: Betsy Olson (University of Edinburgh), Claire Dwyer (University College London) and Justin Tse (University of British Columbia)

This session provides an opportunity to explore the diverse intersections between religion and migration, and the geographies that are produced from this intersection. Within this session we hope to explore the ways in which religious practices and faith identities, practices, and organizations travel with migrants and shape their experiences of transnational lives, or how new religious engagements may be produced through the migration experience. We are also interested in how faith travels and the ways in which religious organisations and institutions are incorporated into or shape migration trajectories and flows.

The session seeks to build upon an ongoing conversation about the new geographies of religion in everyday and exceptional experiences of mobility.  Papers might address intersections of religion with other social and cultural processes in migrant lives; purposeful faith-based migration for proselytization or religious freedom; the technologies and networks of travelling faith; or the role of religion in leaving and arriving ‘home’.  Please email abstracts of 150-200 words to Betsy Olson (elizabeth.olson@ed.ac.uk) by 13 October.

Further information about the conference can be found on the AAG website:
http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting/call_for_papers

APARRI 2010: McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL (5-7 Aug 2010)

I have returned from Singapore and Hong Kong, and I am leaving tonight for CHICAGO!

The conference is part of a movement called the Asian Pacific American Religions Research Initiative.  Started originally by religious studies academics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the movement was taken on by the PANA (Pacific and Asian North American) Institute at the Pacific School of Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.  This year, the conference has moved to Chicago and is organized by the Centre for Asian American Ministries at McCormick Theological Seminary.  Some of the major publications from the movement include New Spiritual Homes: Religions and Asian Americans (1999, ed. David Y. Yoo), Religions in Asian America: Building Faith Communities (2002, ed. Pyong Gap Min and Jung Ha Kim), and Revealing the Sacred in Asian and Pacific America (2003, ed. Jane Naomi Iwamura and Paul Spickard).  The conversation every year is a very interesting dialogue among theologians, academics in other disciplines (like me!), and religious leaders.

This year, the conference theme is: Bridging Yesterday and Tomorrow: Memory and Generational Change in Pacific and Asian America.  As the call for papers has it:

Plenaries feature a discussion on memory, the role of personal faith in academia, and an intergenerational panel.  Plenary Speakers include Anju Bhargava (Member of President Obama’s Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships), Bandana Purkayastha (Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Connecticut), Peter Cha (Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Soong-Chan Rah (Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary), Roy Sano (Bishop, the United Methodist Church), and Mai-Anh Tran (Assistant Professor of Christian Education, Eden Theological Seminary). Concurrent sessions will showcase research-in-progress, and structured mentoring sessions will be available for students and junior faculty members.

I am presenting a paper entitled The Silent Exodus in a Trans-Pacific Migration Context: The Challenges of Youth in a Hongkonger Church in Canada.  It will be similar to the paper earlier this year I gave at the Association of American Geographers’ Annual Meeting in Washington DC.  It will focus more on Generational Change, the session I have been slotted in for 7 Aug at 8:30 AM (early!!!).  Here is my abstract:

Students of ethnic religious congregations in North America have often noted the phenomenon of “the silent exodus” (Carjaval, 1994), a quiet departure of the young people from ethnic religious congregations that has resulted in both diminishing numbers within ethnic congregations and the emergence of second-generation ethnic churches. The often-cited reason for this exodus is language: while the ethnic church tends to operate in an ethnic tongue, the second generation that has been educated in North America prefers English as a lingua franca. But the case of St. Matthew’s Church—the Hongkonger congregation in Metro Vancouver at which I conducted nine months of ethnographic research—has contributed nuance to this view in two ways. First, while the departure of English-speaking youth has been an ongoing concern to members of the church, I also note members of the second generation who have decided to learn Cantonese as a way of preserving their contribution to Canadian multiculturalism. Second, I demonstrate that trans-Pacific migrations also affect generational dynamics in the transnational Hongkonger church: 1) the second generation that knows Cantonese may migrate back to Hong Kong for work and become too geographically distant to attend the migrant church and 2) a ‘second wave’ of migrants from the People’s Republic of China currently takes up more attention in the Hongkonger church than issues of youth and generational transmission. This paper contributes to the study of generations in migrant religious congregations by placing their spiritual needs in the context of in a specific transnational geography of religion that problematizes the dominant view that young people pose the dominant challenge to the ethnic religious congregation in North America.

I’d love to see you there if you’re at APARRI! I can also make my paper available if you’d like a copy.

Chicago, here we come!!!!!

Winter/Spring 2010: Update on Ph.D. Happenings

The Winter 2010 term has drawn to a close, so much so that it’s a shame to call it the Winter Term all the way into late April!  The Spring 2010 term is just beginning.  It is time for an update.

I have taken two directed readings courses this term.  The first was with Henry Yu (UBC History) on Asian Americans in Global Context.  The course began with the classic texts of the Asian American movement: Sucheng Chan’s Asian Americans: An Interpretive History and Ron Takaki’s Strangers from a Distant Shore: A History of Asian Americans.  The course focused on an intellectual history of the Asian American/ethnic studies political movement.  It then branched out into the historical periods in which an Asian identity in American, Canadian, and Australian contexts were formed: in the labour migrations in the classical capitalist economies of the nineteenth-century, the political context of Cold War constructions of “Good Asians” and “Bad Asians,” and in the contemporary setting where Asians are regarded as the “model minority.”  We also explored issues such as gender, sexuality, and religion.  The final product of this course is a course syllabus that we design for undergraduates to introduce the issues of ethnic studies and Asian Americans.  My syllabus begins with an exploration of personal positionality, enters the issues by framing a narrative of the Asian American experience, and then tinkers with that narrative by exploring Asian bodies in colonial and post-colonial spaces.

The second course was with David Ley (UBC Geography) on Geographies of Religion, Secularism, and Social Theory.  The course was designed around my writing of a paper that would explore, critique, and provide new entry points into the geography of religion.  The paper has evolved into an exploration of two ways the geography of religion has been done: first, through the Berkeley school of cultural geography’s emphasis on the imprint of religion on the cultural landscape and second, through the new cultural geography’s critique of the Berkeley school and re-emphasis on the practices that make sacred spaces sacred.  I also engage thinkers on secularity such as John Milbank, Charles Taylor, and Talal Asad and introduce the notion of a grounded theology to guide ethnographic work on geographies of religion and their intersections with fields that don’t look sacred at first glance.

These two courses are leading into what looks to be a very busy (but productive!) spring and summer 2010.  I have just finished a very successful conference presentation and paper presentation in Washington DC and ten days of intensive field work on the Highway to Heaven (see my previous post) and will be finishing these papers that I’ve just mentioned.  My spring review with my committee for my first year of the Ph.D. will be in mid-May.  I have taken three courses thus far: 1) cities in the Asia-Pacific region, 2) the politics of Asian America and Asian Canada, and 3) geographies of religion, secularism, and social theory.  I plan for these three courses to form the basis of the three comprehensive fields I will be examined in for my comprehensive exams in Fall 2010.  These exams will develop professional competence in these fields that will be useful for future teaching and research.

What to look out for in the Spring 2010 term:

  • A field course with Henry Yu on cultural spaces in two post-colonial cities: Singapore and Vancouver (10 May-18 June).  I am a group leader for several undergraduates doing field research.  My group will likely work on religion and the city.
  • Pacific Worlds in Motion III: Mobile Identities: a graduate student conference on Pacific migrations (2-5 June)
  • A reconnaissance trip to Hong Kong where I plan to do some grounded preliminary research on evangelical social and political activism in Hong Kong.  There will be more on this in forthcoming posts; if you would like to see me in Hong Kong, we can make arrangements! (19 June to 13 July)
  • A forthcoming paper in Population, Space, and Place based on my MA work on a transnational Hongkonger church in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia.

This academic vocation is indeed busy but very rewarding, both intellectually and personally.  I am thankful for a Ph.D. program with so much rigour that is contributing not only to my academic formation but my personal growth.  I welcome dialogue on any of the issues I’ve raised in this post (and in previous posts): I am always looking for ways to sharpen these ideas in community, whether academic or not!

“Highway to Heaven?” New suburban religious landscapes and immigrant integration (Metropolis BC)

In 2010-2011, Professor David Ley (University of British Columbia), Dr. Claire Dwyer (University College, University of London), and I will be conducting a study of No. 5 Road in Richmond, British Columbia.  The road is better known as the “Highway to Heaven” because it features multiple religious buildings on the road between Blundell Road and Steveston Highway .  Examples of these institutions include five Chinese Christian churches, two Christian schools, two mosques (one Shia, one Sunni) with Muslim schools, a gurdwara, three Buddhist institutions, two Hindu centres, a Jewish day school, one Korean Christian church plant, and three older English-speaking Canadian churches.  Other religious institutions are slated to join the road in due time as well.

We are interested in how religious landscapes like the “Highway to Heaven” emerge in suburbs like Richmond and how these religious institutions are part of the migrant experience in metropolitan areas like Vancouver.  In particular, we have three foci.  First, we are interested at an urban planning level in how suburban planners plan for these religious landscapes.  Second, we want to explore how these religious institutions help immigrants to Canada integrate into society and how people at these churches experience this help in their everyday lives.  Third, we want to understand how residents in Richmond understand the role of No. 5 Road in how they practice being multicultural Canadians.  What this means at a very broad level is that we are interested in how No. 5 Road intersects with the everyday lives of people in Richmond, and we are very happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk with us!

This project is funded by Metropolis BC (http://riim.metropolis.net), a provincial division of the larger Metropolis Project (http://canada.metropolis.net) that examines how migration is changing the face of Canadian cities.  It is NOT my Ph.D. dissertation research, although the presence of Chinese churches (three of which are Cantonese-speaking and Hongkonger-based) means that this research is not too far afield in what I have been interested in for my MA research on a Hongkonger Christian church in Richmond and my upcoming Ph.D. research on evangelical Christianity in Hong Kong.  It is a collaborative project between David Ley, Claire Dwyer, and myself: the teamwork and discussion has been phenomenal as we have been able to openly talk through issues in geographies of religion and migration.  A link to the University College London announcement of this project is here: http://www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/about-the-department/news/highways-to-heaven.

If you’re interested in knowing more about this project, you can approach me by email at jkhtse@interchange.ubc.ca or Claire Dwyer at claire.dwyer@ucl.ac.uk.

Association of American Geographers 2010: Washington DC

I am presenting a paper at the upcoming Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Washington, DC from 14-18 April 2010 in the Woodley Park-Zoo District.  The paper is titled “Silent Exodus or Second Wave? The Challenges of Youth and PRC Trans-Pacific Migrations in a Hongkonger Church.”  It will be presented at the second session on Young People, Faith, and Place (1404) on Wednesday, 14 April, at 12:40 PM in Embassy (Marriot Lobby Level).  The abstract is here:

Students of ethnic religious congregations in North America have often noted the phenomenon of “the silent exodus” (Carjaval, 1994), a quiet departure of the young people from ethnic religious congregations that has resulted in both diminishing numbers within ethnic congregations and the emergence of second-generation ethnic churches.  The often-cited reason for this exodus is language: while the ethnic church tends to operate in an ethnic tongue, the second generation that has been educated in North America prefers English as a lingua franca.  But the case of St. Matthew’s Church—the Hongkonger congregation in Metro Vancouver at which I conducted nine months of ethnographic research—has contested this view.  While the departure of English-speaking youth has been an ongoing concern to members of the church, a second wave of Chinese immigrants from the People’s Republic of China has dominated congregational identity politics.  As a result, language issues (Mandarin, Cantonese, or English) as well as geopolitical issues and transnational networks between Hong Kong and Vancouver have been foregrounded in congregational life.  This paper contributes to the study of young religious people by placing their spiritual needs in the context of in a specific transnational geography of religion that problematizes the dominant view that young people pose the dominant challenge to the ethnic religious congregation in North America.

I have now decided that the paper will include much less on the geopolitics of the situation and focus much more on issues of language, particularly Cantonese and English.  But the spirit of the abstract is still the same with foci on: 1) a review and complement of the literature on the second generation in North American immigrant congregations, 2) the context of the geography of migration between Hong Kong and Metro Vancouver, and 3) empirical demonstration from 1-1.5 hour-long semi-structured interviews with 14 young people in their 20s and 30s among my sample of 40 from St. Matthew’s Church in Metro Vancouver in 2008.  A conference paper will be available upon request next week.

In addition, I will be part of a panel discussion on Insider/Outsider Issues and Experiences in the Geography of Religion (2416).  This will take place at 12:40 PM on Thursday, 15 April, in Park Tower 8216 (Marriott Lobby Level).  I will be discussing my insider positionality as a second-generation ministry intern at the Hongkonger congregation that I studied in 2008 and elaborate on being both an insider as a second-generation Chinese Christian minister within the church and an outsider as an Asian American Christian who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area who was relatively new to the Chinese Canadian Christian church that had strong ties with Hong Kong when I began both studying and working there.  I will also touch on resolving these positionality issues through what Ley and Duncan (1993) via Gadamer’s Truth and Method have termed geographical hermeneutics. The panel discussion will be chaired by Daniel Olson (Brandon University) and will include Caroline Faria and Michael Ferber as the other panelists.

Professor David Ley (my supervisor at the University of British Columbia) is also giving the annual Geography of Religion and Belief Systems lecture.  This will take place at 10 AM on Thursday, 15 April, in Park Tower 8216 (Marriott Lobby Level).  The talk is titled: “Homo religiosus? Religion and immigrant subjectivities.”  His talk will have three parts:

First, it will review the re-working of the religious (and secular) face of North American cities in light of contemporary immigration. Second, it will argue that the epistemology and methodology of positivist social science needs considerable re-working to engage the worlds of belief, faith and practice in contemporary religion. Third, using Chinese and Korean case studies in Vancouver, I will bring the first two themes together and consider immigrant churches as places of refuge, transnational memory, hope, and social capital formation in engaging the turbulent and all-consuming experience of immigration.

If you are in DC, I’d love to see you there!

CALL FOR PAPERS: Pacific Worlds in Motion III: Mobile Identities

***MANY THANKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE SUBMITTED FOR THE DECEMBER DEADLINE ALREADY.  WE ARE ANNOUNCING A DEADLINE EXTENSION FOR ABSTRACT SUBMISSIONS TO: 22 JANUARY 2010.***

Pacific Worlds in Motion: Mobile Identities
An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference on Asian Migrations
St. John’s College
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
June 2-5, 2010

We invite graduate students with an interest in trans-Pacific migration to attend and present a paper at a conference in Vancouver in June 2010. The conference focuses on the construction and maintenance of identities in the Pacific region from political, economic, and socio-cultural perspectives. Recent literature on nation-states, transnational networks, economic integration, and late capitalist logics of governmentality in the Pacific region have identified phenomena that are said to include rapid urbanization, the emergence of nationalisms, technological advances, increases in the speed of information, and the formation of transnational networks through migration and media. How has the emergence of such Pacific worlds in motion affected the construction, maintenance, and imagination of identities in the Pacific region? Have identities also become mobile in trans-Pacific worlds in motion? What kinds of political, economic, and social identities have emerged from such mobility, and how are they to be discussed? This four-day conference will include two days of papers and a day trip to Richmond, BC, a Chinese ethnoburb south of Vancouver that will serve as a local site to ground discussion on Pacific mobile identities. Our hope is to begin and continue a discussion on these Pacific identities in motion from a variety of perspectives as we seek to understand more fully our present experience of Pacific worlds in motion.

Some of the major issues that will be examined within the context of a Pacific world include:
• Racial identities
• Multicultural societies
• Gendered identities
• Globalization
• Community formations, inclusions, and exclusions
• Urban planning
• Identity formation in visual and performing arts
• Communications media
• Neoliberal governance
• Labour politics
• Political formations
• Religious movements and networks
• Transnational spaces

Pacific Worlds in Motion is sponsored by one of the University of British Columbia’s graduate residential colleges (St. John’s College). It aims to bring together graduate students and early career researchers from all disciplines pursuing research on Pacific Migrations. Preference will be given to those who have chosen topics that explicitly deal with questions and issues specifically pertaining to the issue of Pacific identities in motion. We hope that this conference will begin mentoring relationships among senior scholars, early career researchers, and graduate students.

Confirmed Plenary Speakers:
Lily Kong
, Professor of Geography, Vice President and Director of the Asian Research Institute at the National University of Singapore
Robbie Goh, Associate Professor of English Literature, Head of the Department, National University of Singapore

Abstract Submission Guideline
• One page abstract of your paper (max. 250 words)
• CV that includes email, telephone, and institutional affiliation
• Audiovisual needs

Submission Deadline: Friday, 22 January 2010

Conference E-mail: pwim3.mobileidentities@gmail.com

Fall 2009: Notes on the Start of a Ph.D.

The Fall 2009 term has drawn to a close.  I have finished both my course work on cities in the Asia-Pacific at the Institute of Asian Research with Dr. Abidin Kusno as well as my teaching assistant duties for the UBC-Ritsumeikan Exchange’s Introduction to Canadian Studies.  It is time to take a breath and recharge…

And yet I am thinking…

What happens when you start your Ph.D. is that suddenly, you are talking to so many people who seem to be interested in your research that inevitably, your research begins to be shaped by these conversations.  This is a good thing.  It is collegiality at its best.  And that is what is causing me to think heavily on certain things this holiday season, which include:

  • Why religion matters in a time/space we assume to be secular (an interesting book I have picked up as an “in” this holiday break is John Milbank’s Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason).
  • The role of colonial segregation in post-colonial cities in shaping ideas about race and religion
  • Class consciousness in post-colonial Asian cities and transnational Asian networks
  • The politics of calling ourselves Asian Americans and Asian Canadians: what does it mean to belong to America/Canada? does it mean that we’ve cut ourselves off from Asia?
  • The development of local elites in colonial cities and the new middle class in post-colonial Asian cities and transnational networks

Of course, all this thinking doesn’t mean I haven’t had time to rest; after all, thinking is best done when my mind comes to a place of almost-shut-down, and then the brain starts to kick in a bunch of random thoughts that (if I have the willpower) I get into my red field notebook.

What this means, of course, is that academic work is to a large extent contemplative work.