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Author

Ani Chénier

Date of Award

10-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Anthropology

Supervisor

Aubrey Cannon

Language

English

Abstract

This thesis examines in early Chinese-Canadians mortuary material culture in Vancouver and Victoria during the period dating from the early 20th century until the liberalization of immigration laws in the 1960s, in order to explore changing conceptions of community identity.

Data was collected during fieldwork in Vancouver's Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver, and in Victoria's Ross Bay and Harling Point cemeteries. This was supplemented by archival information from death and burial records. Burial place, marker style, epitaph text, and commemoration rates were documented, as a means of studying patterns of change and variability in the community identities commemorated through mortuary material culture.

Three main patterns were identified. One was of interpersonal variability, as distinct commemorative strategies were present at any time. One involved the foregrounding of commonalities among Chinese-Canadians, while the other allowed for a greater range of identities to be commemorated. The second pattern was one change, involving the gradual transformation of the standard commemorative practices engaged in by the majority group. The last pattern was one of differences in how the first two patterns developed in each city.

These patterns may be employed in the exploration of how early Chinese-Canadian identities varied and developed over time. Both local and translocal factors informed commemorative individual decisions, resulting in the development and change of commemorative traditions. Because of similarities with the dynamics of social change in a transnational context, it is believed that the study of Overseas Chinese cemeteries commemorative traditions may help to elucidate the factors involved in broader social transformations.

McMaster University Library

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