- Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture, and: Contemporary Chinese America: Immigration, Ethnicity, and Community Transformation, and: Chinese Community Leadership: Case Study of Victoria in Canada
The study of the Chinese migrant communities has always been a multidisciplinary enterprise that engages a broad range of the humanities and social sciences. The two single-author books under review are the works of a sociologist and a geographer, respectively. The other book, an anthology of research-based essays, is furnished by a team of scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including history, American studies, anthropology, ethnic studies, and women and gender studies. While these works do not cohere to any particular theme, together they showcase the fruitful intellectual labor grounded in solid research, informed by critical concepts and theories, and presented with clarity. Moreover, some three generations of scholars are represented in these recent publications: senior scholars who embarked on serious research on Chinese migration in North America in the late 1960s and 1970s, and whose contributions have helped lay the foundation of this field; a second cohort emerging in the late 1980s and 1990s, whose scholarly work has been instrumental in opening up unexplored areas for inquiry and who, in the process, have earned recognition for their individual accomplishments and for the field at large; and last but not least, a third generation that has been adding their first research monographs to an exciting list of new scholarship since the beginning of this century.
The collection of essays in Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan and Madeline Hsu, is an excellent example of a collaboration that involves authors across generations. Chan, a leading authority in Asian American studies, has an outstanding record of partnership with colleagues, many under her wing, to present cutting-edge research. Almost two decades ago, the highly acclaimed collection she edited titled Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Communities in America, 1882–1943 (Philadelphia: Temple University [End Page 166] Press, 1994) was a trailblazer that invited readers to scrutinize the records of the exclusion era. Subsequently, Chan and her colleagues completed a trilogy on this period with two more volumes of essays: Claiming America: Constructing Chinese American Identities during the Exclusion Era, coedited with Scott K. Wong (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998), and Chinese American Transnationalism: The Flow of People, Resources, and Ideas between China and America during the Exclusion Era (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005).
This latest anthology, Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture, transcends the time frame of the exclusion period with chapters ranging from the late nineteenth to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Championing the current practice in cultural history, the authors reject the notion of culture as a seemingly uniform, unifying, and even timeless category made of inheritable items. Instead, they each “investigate the manner in which Chinese Americans have engaged in the politics of race and culture by deploying their ‘culture’ — their representations and self-representations — to their own advantage, seizing the higher ground from their historic detractors who used ‘Chinese culture’ against them and placed them into an inferior and racialized slot in the host society” (Chan and Hsu, p. xiii). The emphasis is placed on the agency of Chinese Americans, as individuals, as men and women, as families, as entrepreneurs, as journalists, as people with strong (leftist) political views, as young adolescents born and/ or raised in the...