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!