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Beyond Pandas: History Vs. Popular Imagination of Chinatowns

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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

578 Carrall Street

Carrall St. Entrance

Vancouver, BC V6B 5K2

Canada

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From gambling dens, tunnels, and pandas, to “exotic” foods, there has been a long history of Chinatowns being misunderstood and misrepresented. The popular imagination of Chinatowns is based on large urban centres (e.g. in Victoria and Vancouver). However, settlements of Chinese have dotted the landscape for as long as BC has been a province. They differed in size, appearance, and significance/purpose.

This is unlike media depictions, with an emphasis on a locale veiled in “mystique” and/or the back drop to an action crime thriller. Stereotypes, often negative, abound of the people and place, which continue to populate the imagination of visitors to Chinatowns. It’s a one-dimensional perspective.

What are Chinatowns but the safe spaces where early Chinese lived, worked, and created community? They are places of social complexity that continue to evolve and to be ‘home.’ That sheen of the exotic past has become a desirable address; its history is being monetized. Whose voices get heard, and what are the stories being told?

In conversation with Professor Imogene Lim from Vancouver Island University, we will discuss the impacts of this evolving history, and explore ways to develop meaningful cultural programming and experiences as the City of Vancouver and the Province of BC commit to a UNESCO nomination.

Let’s change the way we talk about Chinatowns across the province and beyond.


About the speaker:

A descendant of Cumberland and Vancouver’s Chinatowns, Dr. Lim is an anthropologist (BA Hons, Simon Fraser University; AM & PhD, Brown University) at Vancouver Island University, teaching in the Department of Anthropology and the Global Studies Program. She was Chair of Anthropology from 2006-09 and 2012-15. For the past two decades she has focused her research interests on Vancouver Island—primarily, ethnicity in Canada and Asian Canadian history, including food and culture. In its inaugural year, 2018, Dr. Lim was awarded the VIU President’s Award for Community Engagement (Community-Engaged Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity Award). From 2015-17, she was a co-researcher on a SSHRC project, Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island. Her community contributions include appointments to the board of BC Studies, Laurier Institution, Ormsby Literary Society, the Coal Creek Historic Park Advisory Committee (Cumberland, Vancouver Island), the Nanaimo Local Immigration Partnership Council, BC Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council (2014-18), Premier’s Chinese Canadian Community Advisory Committee, and Working Group-BC Chinese Canadian Museum, as well as, being a founding member and former Board Director of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC.

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Date and Time

Location

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

578 Carrall Street

Carrall St. Entrance

Vancouver, BC V6B 5K2

Canada

View Map

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