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Archaeology of Asian Transnationalism

Douglas E. Ross

Publication Year: 2013

In the early twentieth century, an industrial salmon cannery thrived along the Fraser River in British Columbia. Chinese factory workers lived in an adjoining bunkhouse, and Japanese fishermen lived with their families in a nearby camp. Today the complex is nearly gone and the site overgrown with vegetation, but artifacts from these immigrant communities linger just beneath the surface.

In this groundbreaking comparative archaeological study of Asian immigrants in North America, Douglas Ross excavates the Ewen Cannery to explore how its immigrant workers formed a new cultural identity in the face of dramatic displacement. Ross demonstrates how some homeland practices persisted while others changed in response to new contextual factors, reflecting the complexity of migrant experiences. Instead of treating ethnicity as a bounded, stable category, Ross shows that ethnic identity is shaped and transformed as cultural traditions from home and host societies come together in the context of local choices, structural constraints, and consumer society.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

List of Tables

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pp. xi-13

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pp. xiii-xviii

In 1896, Jinsaburo Oikawa, a Japanese entrepreneur from what is now the village of Towa-cho in Miyagi Prefecture, set sail for Vancouver, Canada (Nitta 1998). At 42, he temporarily left his wife and two children behind to follow up on a potentially lucrative lead in the burgeoning Fraser River...

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pp. 1-7

Historical geographer Cole Harris, in an attempt to characterize the nature of British Columbia’s immigrant-dominated society after the mid-1880s, argues that change is an inevitable concomitant to migration and that such change derives from incomplete retention of indigenous beliefs...

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1. Theorizing the Asian Migrant Experience

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pp. 8-28

As a first step in developing a model of diasporic consumerism and identification, this chapter introduces and critically examines existing approaches to overseas Asian migration and industrial labor, drawn from the historical and archaeological literature. The goals are to identify valuable...

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2. Diaspora and Transnationalism

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pp. 29-61

Diaspora and transnationalism are much-debated concepts in the social sciences and humanities, and there is a large volume of literature addressing their intellectual pedigree and how they should be properly defined and conceptualized. Rather than tracing this history in depth, my objective...

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3. Don and Lion Islands: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives

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pp. 62-97

Don and Lion Islands, site of the Ewen Cannery and its associated infrastructure, are located along the south (or main) arm of the Fraser River in Richmond, British Columbia. Salmon canneries were the earliest factories in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, and dominated...

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4. Chinese and Japanese Migration in Context

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pp. 98-133

In his 1986 dissertation on Chinese miners in New Zealand, Ritchie (1986: 652) remarked on the absence of information regarding the degree to which Chinese adopted European goods prior to emigration; yet subsequent archaeological research has done little to address this knowledge...

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5. Archaeological Evidence from Don Island

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pp. 134-155

Building on discussions from previous chapters, in the final three chapters I draw together archaeological, archival, and contextual information to create a picture of how diasporic movements and transnational connections between home and host countries shaped everyday lives, identities,...

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6. Archaeological Evidence from Lion Island

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pp. 156-176

Unlike Japanese sites, Chinese labor camps in North America and elsewhere have produced considerable archaeological data. Although much of it comes from limited surface survey and testing, often resulting in small samples and equally limited interpretation, such data provide a valuable...

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7. Asian Migrants as Transnational Consumers

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pp. 177-197

This final chapter brings together the various threads and lines of thought developed throughout the book on the nature of overseas Asian migration, and offers some specific and more general interpretations of the everyday lives of Chinese and Japanese cannery workers on Don and Lion...

Appendix 1. Table of Small Finds from Don Island

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pp. 198-200

Appendix 2. Table of Small Finds from Lion Island

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pp. 201-203


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pp. 205-206


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pp. 207-231


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pp. 233-245

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048451
E-ISBN-10: 0813048451
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813044583

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 15 b/w photos, 12 tables, 29 line art
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 860711051
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Archaeology of Asian Transnationalism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • British Columbia -- Antiquities.
  • British Columbia -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • Japan -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • China -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • British Columbia -- Race relations.
  • Ethnoarchaeology -- British Columbia.
  • Immigrants -- British Columbia -- History.
  • Social archaeology -- British Columbia.
  • Japanese -- British Columbia -- History.
  • Chinese -- British Columbia -- History.
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