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Brokering Belonging: Chinese in Canada's Exclusion Era, 1885-1945 [Paperback]

Lisa Rose Mar
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Paperback, Oct. 23 2010 --  
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Book Description

Oct. 23 2010

Brokering Belonging traces several generations of Chinese 'brokers,' the ethnic leaders who acted as intermediaries between the Chinese and Anglo worlds of Canada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Before the Second World War, many Chinese-Canadians were illegal immigrants, and most could not vote. Brokers therefore played an informal but necessary role as representatives of their community to the larger society.

Brokering Belonging explores how brokerage allowed Chinese Canadians to wield considerable political influence during a period of anti-Asian sentiment and exclusion, leading scholars of immigration to characterize all Asians as a diligent, patient 'model minority'. Drawing on new Chinese language evidence, Lisa Rose Mar's investigation of dramatic power struggles shows how Chinese immigrants became significant players in race relations and had an impact on policies that affected all Canadians and Americans.


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'Lisa Mar has written a history from neither above nor below, but from the middle. Her account of Chinese Canadian immigrant brokers during the exclusion era shows an active world of politics taking place 'off stage,' in patronage deals made in the back rooms of political parties, law offices, and in the Chinese-language press. This is a fascinating study that changes the way we think about Chinese immigrant communities and the ways in which power operates.' (Mae M. Ngai, Columbia University)

'Lisa Mar's work uncovers the complex political and social life in Vancouver's Chinese community to a depth that goes beyond earlier scholarship. Mar's ability to follow the lives of the 'brokers' who could operate both in Chinese and English language worlds-tracing their ability to translate and represent each side to the other and to take advantage of their advantageous position as go-betweens-gives us insights into the complicated world of political deal-making and betrayal that almost no other scholar has been able to achieve.' (Henry Yu, author of Thinking Orientals: Migration, Contact, and Exoticism in Modern America)

'Brokering Belonging reinscribes general scholarship concerning ethnicity and immigration with the adventures of politically adroit, transnational yet highly acculturated Chinese Canadian 'brokers' who successfully strategized for greater access and rights on behalf of an otherwise legally and ideologically marginal minority population. Despite the inherent contradictions between their roles as advocates, interpreters, and influence peddlers, Mar persuasively argues that brokers made it possible for even small immigrant groups to sink roots into hostile soil.' (Madeline Y. Hsu, University of Texas at Austin)

‘This is a groundbreaking book in Chinese Canadian History and in the history of global Chinese diaspora. It challenges conventional perceptions of Chinese relations with the mainstream society in Canada… sheds new light on the transnational connections of community leaders in Canadian Chinatowns.’ (Zhongping Chen)

’The role of brokers is brilliantly demonstrated in her groundbreaking account of immigration under the head tax regulations of the early twentieth  century.’ (Timothy J. Stanley)

About the Author

Lisa Rose Mar is an associate professor in the Department of History and the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland, College Park.


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Format:Paperback
Excellent work on British Columbia Chinese history using the Chinese Times as one of the primary and previously underused sources of information. It provides a new framework to the study of Chinese history in Canada that utilizes an integrated perspective with regard to the evolution of the history. While focusing primarily on the post 1900 era, the model for analysis - political and economic structure within the Chinese diaspora - points directly to the movers and shakers within the community and their roles within the larger Canadian society as the method of structuring the history. This is unique to the study of Chinese history in Canada and will be applicable to further expansion of our knowledge.
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