CONF : Séminaire « La Chine contemporaine et ses diasporas : l’apport des sciences sociales » — Mardi 21 juin 2022, 14h-16h, EHESS, Paris et en ligne

Expe­riences of Cultural Hybri­dity Among Chinese Immi­grants and Cana­dian-Born Chinese in Montréal

Nous accueil­lions Jeanne Shea (asso­ciate professor of Anthro­po­logy and Asian Studies, Univer­sity of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA) et Jennifer Lai (Harris Post­doc­toral Fellow in Socio­logy, Health and Society and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Univer­sity of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA), pour une inter­ven­tion en anglais.


Insti­tu­tional poli­cies have a profound role in shaping feelings of belon­ging for resi­dents in a city, as well as in construc­ting people’s percep­tions of their iden­tity. In the early 1970s, Canada laun­ched an offi­cial policy of multi­cul­tu­ra­lism, promo­ting the ideal of the nation as a “cultural mosaic,” in which diffe­ring cultures live side by side, crea­ting a beau­tiful pattern of diver­sity, in contrast to the US’s assi­mi­la­tio­nist melting pot. At the same time, there arose a compe­ting agenda to insist upon the primacy of French language. First in 1974 and then in 1977, the Offi­cial Language Act and then Bill 101 made French the offi­cial language of the Province of Québec, inclu­ding its largest and most diverse city of Mont­réal. The coexis­tence of these poli­cies, one hono­ring the equal coexis­tence of different cultures, and the other insis­ting on French as the language of govern­ment, law, and every day public life, consti­tute a paradox in need of further research.

In this study, we draw upon ethno­gra­phic data to explore how this paradox mani­fested itself in the expe­riences of Chinese resi­dents living in Mont­réal. During the 2000s, the city of Mont­réal was working to build its repu­ta­tion as a “multi­cul­tural mosaic” that welcomed and cele­brated all cultures in order to attract new immi­grants to shore up its decrea­sing popu­la­tion. We draw from semi-struc­tured inter­views conducted from 2000 to 2003 with a sample of 35 first-gene­ra­tion Chinese immi­grants and Cana­dian-born Chinese. Their stories of their lives in Mont­réal reveal consi­de­rable tension between the multi­cul­tural mosaic ideal and the French language policy. Both immi­grants and Cana­dian-born Chinese described how Mont­réal simul­ta­neously welcomed them as Chinese people who could live in Mont­réal and prac­tice their culture, while also exer­ting pres­sure on them to assi­mi­late to local French culture. This contra­dic­tion engen­dered ambi­va­lence about their iden­ti­ties, at once valued for being Chinese and exhorted to act French. The parti­ci­pants described how being Chinese made them a toke­nized “other” within the broader Franco-Anglo poli­tics of the region. They described being lumped toge­ther racially and ethni­cally as second-class citi­zens who were expected to learn how to act French, while also being reminded that they were not, and perhaps could never truly be, French. In many ways, this sense of being margi­na­lized was stron­gest among the Cana­dian-born Chinese, perhaps because they expected more from their polity as native-born citizens.

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EHESS, 54 bd Raspail, 75006, Paris, France (Salle A23 en sous-sol)

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Email de contact — migrations.​asiatiques@​gmail.​com

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