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.