- The Contributions and Constraints of Contemporary Immigration and Citizenship: Commemorating Canada’s 150 Years
Although neither selected as representative of the field of Canadian ethnic studies, nor comprehensive, the articles in this special issue of Canadian Ethnic Studies/Études ethniques au Canada, commemorating Canada’s 150 years, do provide a good sense of the contemporary state of ethnic studies in Canada. The articles consist of diverse perspectives, methodologies, substantive topics and disciplines, yet they also share common features and point to common directions. I will start from their diversity, representative of and continuing the historical diversity in the field of ethnic studies, then move on to their similarities and common directions which reflect broader scholarly, theoretical and policy preoccupations of the present time, and finally end with what I consider promising, more recent—though by no means new—perspectives and directions pushing the traditional boundaries of the field of ethnic studies. I will conclude this brief introduction with an overview of the articles in the volume.
First, in terms of the articles’ diversity as a group, they are interdisciplinary, spanning the fields of sociology, literary studies, history, and policy studies. They make use of a great range of social science and humanities methodologies, from discourse analysis to multilevel regression and from the analysis of legal texts to qualitative interviews. They also derive from a healthy range of perspectives and dimensions within their respective disciplines, ranging from feminist perspectives to historical and legal dimensions; from positivist approaches to interpretative, constructivist and Critical Theory ones.
In terms of the articles’ similarities which also shaped the title of this special issue, they consist first in a common emphasis on immigration and broadly defined citizenship issues and processes, as opposed to insular ethnic group issues, essentialized ethnic cultures and static ethno-cultural identities. Moreover, the articles are [End Page 1] about either contributions or constraints of immigration and citizenship, that is, they emphasize the dynamic interaction of diverse groups within Canadian society and with the Canadian state. An important similarity among these articles, in the midst of their said diversity, is the authors’ intent for intervention in order to make a difference, manifested in various degrees of explicitness. This intent to make a difference is expressed as recognition of a problem of exclusion, discrimination, omission, or gap, so that more inclusive and equitable policies and practices, at the appropriate level, can be put in place. The studies of this issue move beyond description to policy relevance, in the direction of expanding social justice in Canadian society for the 21st century. In so doing, while always mindful of the lessons from the dark periods in Canada’s 150 years, the present volume truly commemorates the country’s historical promise of freedom and justice to its immigrants and all Canadians.
More specifically, in this volume the articles by Fernando and Rinaldi, and Kaya are about ongoing—albeit in new forms—processes of exclusion, i.e., obstacles to citizenship for immigrants. The article by Tastsoglou and Dobrowolsky is about obstacles but also possibilities for enhancing a sense of belonging for immigrants; Branker’s study is about obstacles but also venues or possibilities for finding work, that is, economic integration or socio-economic citizenship for English-speaking Caribbean immigrants in Toronto. Yixi Lu and Li Zong’s article is about historical processes of discrimination against the Chinese out of major metropolitan centres, while Chira’s work is about obstacles to, and possibilities for international students, i.e., often prospective immigrants, also outside of major, immigrant-attracting Canadian metropolises. Finally, van Dijk’s article is about contributions of Dutch-Canadian writers to Canadian multi-cultural and polyphonic identity.
With respect to the more recent dimensions and directions, the latter consist in modernizing and expanding the field of ethnic studies outside of the historical settler societies, societies of immigration, immigrant-receiving societies, or nation-states in which ethnicities are created and ethnic identities are molded, to include the transnational level, in recognition of (i) the contemporary modality of migration as a dynamic transnational process and (ii) the role that the transnational field plays in identity negotiation, sense of belonging and citizenship. As a consequence...