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.

Schema: Just Another Chinese Christian?

I recently had the privilege to contribute to Schema Magazine’s “But Where Are You Really From?” series. The series asks writers to write a real answer to a question series that’s posed to persons of various ethnic backgrounds in North America.

Q: Where are you from?

A: _______

Q: Oh, but where are you really from?

They don’t mention it, but this question series was made apparent in academia through the work of cultural studies scholar Ien Ang in a discussion of multiculturalism in On Not Speaking Chinese.

My answer was titled “Just Another Chinese Christian?”  In many ways, this is a popular positionality piece for the research I’ve been conducting for my doctorate.  In the piece, I deal with my upbringing in Northern California, the diversity of religious communities of which I’ve been a part, and the multiple understandings of Chineseness at play in my life.

The photo credit goes to my uncle in Hong Kong, Yung Wai Leung. Thanks, Goo Jeung!

Enjoy, and if you feel so called, contribute your own answer to Schema Magazine! The editors there, particularly Beth Hong and Sadiya Ansari, who both helped so much with the fine-tuning, are awesome!

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: Metro Vancouver

Since mid-April, I have been conducting research on Cantonese evangelicals, their conceptions of civil society, and their social and political engagement in Metro Vancouver.  I hope to wrap up this first round of research by 2 June.  I plan to be flying to San Francisco on 3 June and returning mid-July.

A few things that are especially on my mind as I conduct this Vancouver field work over the next few weeks:

  • The upcoming Canadian federal election (2 May)
  • The recent Edgewater Casino hearings
  • Print and video media reports on Chinese Christians
  • Chinese Christian youth/young adult ministries and revival networks
  • Relationships between Christian parachurch organizations/networks and churches
  • Anything else about Cantonese evangelicals in Vancouver being socially and politically engaged (or not–and why not?)
As I’ve said previously, much of this project depends on semi-structured interviews, focus groups, ethnographic field work, and texutal/media analysis.  Feel free to contact me at jkhtse@interchange.ubc.ca for more information!

Human Ethics Clearance

GREAT NEWS: my application to UBC’s Office of Research Services ethics committee has been approved!

This is one of the interesting things about doing research in North America.  Because of a long history of research with questionable ethics (largely within psychology), many North American universities have decided to screen any research involving human subjects.  This ranges from anything including simple interviews and surveys to more complicated things like deception to get information (which I do NOT engage in).  There’s a science version too for lab subjects and animal safety (which I also don’t do).  All of this gets put under an umbrella at UBC called the Behavioural Research Ethics Board.  I applied for clearance in human subjects.

My application was actually very simple because there weren’t too many ethical risks in my project to begin with.  My project is very simply talking to people in interviews and focus groups, observing people at churches and organizations, and stuff like that.  The key thing about this kind of research is that everything has to be up front, i.e. I have to let people know when I’m taping what they’re saying, I have to let them know that I’m a PhD Candidate doing research, and all the rest of that.  As a very simple formality and also a common courtesy, people that I tape also have to sign consent forms that say that they give “free, informed, and voluntary consent” and that they know what the project is about.  For the record, I use a digital voice recorder that records in mp3s made in Korea that I got from this tech shop in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong that just plugs into the USB port with a wire on my laptop.  I use the recordings as another note-taking device so that I don’t have to scribble down verbatim what everybody says, and I transcribe the interviews and make sure nobody besides me and the person being interviewed hears the interviews or looks at the transcriptions (confidentiality MATTERS!).  I always leave the recorder on the table out in the open, and I never tape secretly.  It’s really just about being forthright that I am an academic researcher interested in Cantonese evangelicals.  That’s not very hard to do, especially because I like the project so much!

The whole process only took about two weeks.  I was put under the category of minimal risk and assigned for expedited review.  This means that really, the project doesn’t have too many ethical risks.  The key thing is just to be honest that I’m doing research.  I think that’s what any decent person would do.

But yes, this means I’m cleared by UBC to do research.  Vancouver, San Francisco, and Hong Kong, here we come!