Saturday, March 27, 2004


Love me.
If not, hate and fear me.
Both are power.

Just don't ignore me like a fly on the wall.
Now that, I cannot handle.

Friday, March 26, 2004

For Glen, Sociology 100, and myself

I am Chinese. This simple statement of self-identification and affirmation carries with it a great reservoir of meaning and sentiment. The nation of China boasts the world�s largest population alongside its rich historical and cultural background, leading to a great deal of nationalistic pride among members of the Chinese community. However such a claim is fast losing its original meaning. With the ever-increasing Chinese Diaspora in virtually every major continent, to stake a claim on �being Chinese� no longer indicates a close familial tie to The Middle Kingdom or a fluency in the language. Perhaps what we see here with the Chinese Diaspora is evidence of another fluid social construct of an individual�s Identity in that the sentiment behind being Chinese �varies from place to place, molded by the local circumstances in different parts of the world where people of Chinese ancestry have settled and constructed new ways of living� (Ang, 225).

The Chinese Diaspora no doubt has expended the notion of �being Chinese� by proving that �Chineseness is not a category with a fixed content � be it racial, cultural or geographical � but operates as an open and indeterminate signifier whose meanings are constantly renegotiated and rearticulated in different sections of the Chinese Diaspora� (Ang, 225). It is true then that there are �many different Chinese Identities, not one� (Ang 225). What then does �being Chinese� in Canada mean for the locally born Chinese-Canadian? I propose that the Chinese identity in North America is fast becoming self-centered and individualized in the face of globalization and capitalization. I will look at evidence such as the transfer of Ethnic Identity to prove this.

Ethnic identity is established though cultural sharing. By socially transmitting practices ideas and beliefs, an identity is forged for the individual (Brym and Lie, 68). However the emergence of the Diaspora would entail Chinese settling in new environments, with new communities and ultimately creating new identities. A second generation Chinese-Canadian would then have the weighty task of negotiating his transmitted ethnic identity with the predominantly white European community that he is faced with daily. This greatly affects the notion of �being Chinese�. In The Intergenerational transfer of Ethnic Identity in Canada at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century, Kalbach notes that with the emergence of the Diaspora, a great fissure is created between one�s ethnic ancestry and ethnic identity in that they need not be one and the same. With majority of the Chinese Diaspora in Canada consisting of second or third generation immigrants, the intergenerational transfer of Ethnic Identity still holds strong. Observing the trend of this phenomenon would lend one greater insight to these issues of identity. As Kalbach records, there are four variables provided by the 2001 Census of Canada (by Canadian Heritage) that clue us in on the identity of the Chinese Diaspora in Canada today, namely Ethnic Origin, Marriage type, Mother Tongue and Home Language. I will examine each for these fours variables in view of their relationship with the Chinese Identity.

Ethnic Origin:
Kalbach�s research has shown that �higher levels of ethnic-connectedness tend to be associated with single ethnic origin responses� It is interesting to note that within Canada, �the least ethnic mixing is reported for the Chinese� This is consistent with recent intermarriage research�. I would venture to conclude that such findings point to a very obvious distinction between Orientals and Caucasians, be it cultural or physical. This distinction, regardless of its origin contributes to shaping the identity of the Chinese.

Marriage Type
The above findings however do not mean that there is absolutely no ethnic mixing within the Chinese Diaspora. In fact, there is an obvious upward trend in the percentages of exogamy across generations. In Vancouver, 3.4% of the first generation of Chinese men married women of a different ethnic origin. The percentage increased to 28.4% for the second generation and to 57.1% for the third generation. In absolute terms, it seems that the Chinese Identity is fast becoming inconsequential as the generations progress. However in comparison to the other migrant groups in Canada (mostly of European descent) the percentage of exogamy is relatively smaller (Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census. Department of Canadian Heritage Special Tabulations).

Mother Tongue and Home Language
Although recorded separately, I find it more effective to tackle these variables pertaining to language as a whole. By observing the distribution of ethnic languages spoken most often at home by generation, Kalbach�s findings report a �continuous ethnic language loss from the 1st to the 3rd generation� [in] each of the CMAs (Census Metropolitan Area)�. For example, in Vancouver, it was reported that 90.9% of first generation migrants above 15 years of age spoke their ethnic language at home. By the second generation, only 7.7% of the population adopted their ethnic language as their home language and by the third generation the numbers dwindled to 0.7%. (Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census. Department of Canadian Heritage Special Tabulations). These findings point to a loss in ethnic identity from generation to generation. Language, I would argue, carries with it its own culture. Hence a loss in the use and understanding of the Chinese Language would indirectly point to a loss of the Chinese culture and ultimately, the Chinese Identity in the conventional, nationalistic sense.

From the findings above, there is no doubt that the Chinese identity changes from generation to generation. The increased percentages of exogamy and decreased use of the Chinese tongue as the home language suggests a gradual assimilation and integration into the prevalent Canadian culture, which stands very much apart from the traditional Chinese culture. What does this mean for the individual? Perhaps a new culture forged though negotiations between one�s distant ethnic homeland and one�s current cultural context. Chinese-Canadian author Sky Lee suggests this in her novel Disappearing Moon Caf�:

�There�s an expression that pertains to Beatrice:
You can take a girl out of Chinatown,
But you can�t take Chinatown out of the girl.�

�the old chinamen added their two-cents worth by sneering at the Canadian- born: �not quite three, not quite four, nowhere��
(Lee, 164).

Here we see the situation of these second-generation Chinese migrants in this fictional realm set in 1968 Vancouver Chinatown. Some of these sentiments however are still relevant today as expressed by a nineteen-year-old Canadian-born-Chinese who once said that she was �kind of always in the middle. Too white-washed to be considered "Asian", but Chinese enough not to be considered white�. Another such youth spoke of having �diluted Chinese blood�.

The above sentiments of being neither white nor Asian perhaps spring from a very narrow definition of Chineseness. One that is culturalist, embodying a �feeling of connectedness with the fate of China as a Nation, a patriotism associated with a sense of fulfillment, a sense of being the bearers of a cultural heritage handed down from their ancestors, of being essentially separate from non-Chinese� (Ang, 238). This definition does not allow for many 2nd+ generation to be called Chinese but this does not negate the fact that many such individuals still identity themselves with this ethnic group. In fact, for many, being Chinese is a label that has been imposed on them �in a context of coexistence and copresence with others, others who were different from him� Chineseness then is fundamentally relational and externally defined.� Hence, springs forth another, broader definition of �being Chinese�: one that pertains to being �members of the Chinese race� (Ang, 238), i.e. having yellow skin, dark-brown hair and almond-shaped eyes. It is in the biology that �distinction, discrimination, and identification� takes place, leading to �more or less passionate modes of self-identification� (Ang, 239).

What is the outcome of such modes of self-identification? Being racially Chinese but culturally otherwise, how has the Diaspora identified itself? No doubt the sentiment of being racially Chinese is still a factor in any individual�s self-conception; it is to what extent has this been a factor? that remains to be answered. By analysis of research done across first and second generation migrants, It can be proven that the difference in identity does not lie in the �evaluations of ethnic origins and the importance of culture-specific behavior and knowledge�, but rather it is within the degree importance of such cultural knowledge within one�s self-concept. In a study done on Ethnic Identity and its relation to personal Self-esteem, it has been found that the relationship between Collective Self-esteem (measure of pride in one�s ethnic group) and Personal Self-esteem was strong for first generation Chinese migrants but almost inconsequential to the second generation. Further more, the foreign born sample exhibited a strong relationship between one�s involvement in his ethnic group and one�s self-esteem while this, once again, was unrelated to the Canadian born sample.

The correlation between one�s personal and collective self-esteem ultimately depends on the level of the individual�s allocentricism. The first generation migrants displayed a stronger identification with group-related concepts than the Canadian born sample which is reflective of the Collectivist Chinese culture. Such a culture, as stated in the above mentioned study emphasizes on �the importance of the in-group and the preservation of the group harmony and loyalty�. This sentiment is also subtly expressed in Lee�s novel when she states: �To see one woman disintegrate is tragic, but to watch an entire house fall � that has the makings of a great Chinese Tragedy� (Lee, 179).

How then does the Diaspora relate to this? They are in essence �distinct versions of modern, transnational, intercultural experience� (Ang, 233), being forced into such a category by their distinct physical features yet rejected by their �purer� counterparts. Perhaps then, with such conflicting expectations, they take it upon themselves to define who they are, and what being a Chinese means within their specific social contexts. As Ang states in her writing: �If I am inescapably Chinese by descent, I am only sometimes Chinese by consent� (Ang, 242). �Being Chinese� (with distinct biological traits) is a self-declared fact. But with idiocentric individuals, it is only a fragment of their identification, a piece of their self-conception that they are aware of but do not necessarily emphasize on. In fact, in today�s multi-cultural, post-modern world, �there is no necessary advantage in a Chinese Identification� (Ang, 242). Such an attitude clearly displays the individualistic ego-centered mentality of the Diaspora today. That Chineseness is a beautifully fluid concept. It can be tailor-made to suit one�s liking, ease and needs. Hence we see the transformation of the Chinese identity has indeed taken it a long way, from allocentric to idiocentric, collectivistic to individualistic. It is a malleable and resilient �constructed cultural space� (Ang, 228) that survives changes in world-wide ideologies and paradigms.

By Hannah Lim
Research Paper for Sociology 100 -001

Thursday, March 25, 2004

My Idol: Social Power.

I have to learn to let go. Really, in essence, I hold on to nothing, and render myself incapable of grasping on.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


"Now look here lady, I've done enough professional theatre to know how it works. You, on the other hand, obviously haven't. Ha. You can't even differentiate your character from yourself. Either that, or you're just a very bad actor."

and then... stillness

"I didn't bother, you know how children argue and you just ignore them on grounds that they don't know better? It's kinda like that. Anyway, I would've done the same thing had it been 3 years ago, I was a bitchy, immature brat then."

Press on... stillness

Bless and release.

I can't tell if it's acceptance or weariness.


'However I knew deep inside me that the way I was handling my life was doomed to failure; I was scared of the enormous disgust that I felt because I was leading such a sterile, unnatural existance, and to counter this I began to defend [my] way of life here, as a means of instilling into my mind what it ought to be thinking.'

Hanan al-Shaykh :: Women of Sand and Myrrh

Holy Crap!!

Monday, March 22, 2004

I forgot my face today. I start seeing past things, disconnecting, not really being there. My flesh fades and loses it's golden glow. I looked at my legs today. Strangers. Pale and unfamilar.

I am pale and unfamilar. Not a bad thing, just not a comfortable thing.
I have to learn that beauty isn't necessarily attractive.
It definately does not lie within the peripheral shell of what, but who.

Help me see,
Them and me.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

"I made my mind up back in Chelsea
When I go I'm going like Elsie."


Let's not talk about my life.
I want myself back. My idenitity. My persona. Me.

I need... no.
"If you kiss me
If we touch
Warning's Fair
I don't care very much"


Oh yes, the problem with christianity is if it becomes a culture. So now, it's transferable from generation to generation. But as all cultures go, they change. From generation, to generation