Asia-Pacific Worlds in Motion V: Migration Beyond Borders (St. John’s College, UBC)

I am currently at a graduate student conference called Asia-Pacific Worlds in Motion V: Migration Beyond Borders at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) St. John’s College. This is a conference co-organized by graduate students at UBC and the National University of Singapore started by my friend and colleague Mark Lawrence Santiago in 2008.  I was a co-organizer of its third iteration (Mobile Identities) in 2010, also at St. John’s College, and I play a marginal alumnus role on this year’s committee, though I’ve been appointed the point person on site for the conference (although the credit for organizing really goes to largely to the co-chairs, Lachlan Barber and Kara Shin).

I presented in a panel this afternoon on Migrant Families and Youth, along with my fellow co-panelists from UBC’s Educational Studies program, Yao Xiao and Ee-Seul Yoon, as well as our discussant, education and family scholar Dr. Mona Gleason. Yao presented on ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: educational narratives of migrant families in urban China,’ and Ee-Seul spoke on ‘Border anxiety in migrant youths’ phenomenology of secondary school choice in Vancouver.’ My presentation was titled Re-working Family Values: ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ approaches to family and religion in Hong Kong. Here’s the abstract:

In its contemporary usage, the term ‘family values’ has come to evoke strong feelings, usually along the lines of sexuality.  The term has usually been employed by religious groups, and those who dub themselves ‘pro-family values’ might argue that the term encompasses more than sexuality and should translate more broadly into public policies that encourage more healthy family psychology, thus discouraging gambling, drug abuse, and pornography while encouraging best parental practices.  In this paper, I will explore a neglected dimension of ‘family values’ by examining Protestant and Catholic approaches to the ‘right of abode’ in Hong Kong.  A key policy issue under contestation in Hong Kong is the rights of those entering Hong Kong to reside there, especially with regards to temporary foreign domestic workers and pregnant women from the People’s Republic of China entering Hong Kong to give birth.  The Protestant and Catholic approaches to this migration issue are strikingly different.  While evangelical Protestant leaders have concentrated on the sexual and psychological dimensions of family values, they view these migrations as undocumented, and thus illegal.  However, a coalition of Catholics and progressive Protestants who are said to be more liberal on sexual issues approach the issue precisely as one of family values, for to deny the right of abode would divide families.  I draw on 43 key informant interviews with both Protestant and Catholic leaders, in Hong Kong, 5 focus groups with Protestant Christians, and documentary evidence to triangulate the oral data.  This paper thus introduces the term ‘family values’ into a discussion of transnational families and migration policy and argues that ideologies of family must be more carefully examined in Asia-Pacific migration studies, as they have direct relevance to migration policy.

As a panel, we are very grateful to Mona for responding about the ways each of our papers explored how families constitute the nation-state by making the personal political, with the state and families themselves constructing all sorts of borders to conceptualize the family.

We also had a fantastic keynote talk this morning from my friend and co-author Dr. Johanna Waters on ‘Education Beyond Borders? some implications of contemporary educational migrations,’ in which she examined the stories of failure emerging from international education as well as its domestication through extension campuses in post-colonial sites. Tomorrow morning, Dr. Eric Thompson will speak on ‘Singapore perspectives on migration research: a review.

This conference is always an excellent space for conversation because of the interdisciplinarity of the participants, and what I have experienced so far has been very productive. I’m very excited about the next two days.

Advertisements

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

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.

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!

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