York professor edits new collection focusing on Chinese Canadian identities


York University Assistant Professor Jessica Tsui-yan Li (Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) contributed to Chinese Canadian studies in her recently published edited volume The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Identities (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019).

Jessica Tsui-yan Li

Focusing on the geopolitical and economic circumstances that have prompted migration from Hong Kong and mainland China to Canada, this book examines the Chinese Canadian community as a simultaneously transcultural, transnational, and domestic social and cultural formation.

York contributors include Li, Professor Lily Cho (English), Professor Lucia Lo (geography), Professor Guida Man and graduate student Elena Chou (sociology).

“I am very delighted to see the publication of this book, thanks to the great support of my fabulous colleagues,” said Li. “This research volume engages the leading scholars of the field of Chinese Canadian studies and organizes our scholarship into a sustained and influential dialogue. I will continue to contribute positively to a vigorous research agenda that will reflect well on York University.”

Taking an innovative interdisciplinary approach to the ways in which Chinese Canadians adapt to and construct the Canadian multicultural mosaic, the book explores various patterns of Chinese cultural interchanges in Canada and how they intertwine with the community’s sense of disengagement and belonging.

Essays in this volume argue that Chinese Canadians, a population that has produced significant cultural imprints on Canadian society, have constantly redefined their identities as manifested in social science, literary and historical spheres. These perpetual negotiations reflect social and cultural ideologies and practices and demonstrate Chinese Canadians’ recreations of their self-perception, self-expression and self-projection in relation to others. Contextualized within larger debates on multicultural society and specific Chinese Canadian cultural experiences, this book considers diverse cultural presentations of literary expression, the “model minority” and the influence of gender and profession on success and failure, the gendered dynamics of migration and the growth of transnational (“astronaut”) families in the 1980s, and inter-ethnic boundary crossing.

“This book provides a composite view of Chinese Canadian identities, characterized by performativity, fluidity and diversity, transcending many cultural and national boundaries,” said Li. “Chinese Canadians negotiate their transcultural identities historically, socially and culturally, and thus resulting in continuous multidimensional cultural exchanges, from institutional racism to the gradual adaptation and co-construction of a culturally diverse Canadian society.”

The book is the product of an earlier workshop on cultural translation and Chinese Canadian studies organized by Li and hosted by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). The workshop included senior scholars, emerging academics, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as community and business leaders whose work leads them to focus on cross-cultural encounters, movements across borders, processes of displacement and historical change.

The collection was published with support from YCAR and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, as well as the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council.