University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > History and Economics Seminar > The patriarchy of diaspora: Race fantasy and gender blindness in Chen Da’s studies of the Nanyang Chinese in Southeast Asia

The patriarchy of diaspora: Race fantasy and gender blindness in Chen Da’s studies of the Nanyang Chinese in Southeast Asia

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This paper critically appraises the earliest sociological investigations of Nanyang Chinese communities by Republican sociologist Chen Da (1892-1975). By exploring Chen’s corpus of work and highlighting systemic blindspots of race and gender, it reveals the normative rather than empirical quality of his sociological elaboration of the huaqiao. Tracing the genesis of his research, and his travels through Southeast Asia, it shows how, at each stage, Chen’s investigations, academic networks, connections he made with his local informants, and even his collaborations with his principal translator, offered an understanding of the world beyond a patriarchal, patriotic Chinese diaspora that he declined to explore fully. The paper thus offers an intimate window into the historically contingent conceptual work that went into constructing the Chinese ‘diaspora’, and highlights the need to exercise caution in making ahistorical use of social science studies of overseas Chinese.

This talk is part of the History and Economics Seminar series.

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