Memories of a Future Home: Diasporic Citizenship of Chinese in Panama

Memories of a Future Home: Diasporic Citizenship of Chinese in Panama

Memories of a Future Home: Diasporic Citizenship of Chinese in Panama

Memories of a Future Home: Diasporic Citizenship of Chinese in Panama

Synopsis

While the history of Asian migration to Latin America is well documented, we know little about the contemporary experience of diasporic Asians in this part of the world. Memories of a Future Home offers an intimate look at how diasporic Chinese in Panama construct a home and create a sense of belonging as they inhabit the interstices of several cultural-national formations- Panama, their nation of residence; China/Taiwan, their ethnic homeland; and the United States, the colonial force.

Juxtaposing the concepts of diaspora and citizenship, this book offers an innovative framework to help us understand how diasporic subjects engage the politics of cultural and political belonging in a transnational context. It does so by examining the interaction between continually shifting geopolitical dynamics, as well as the maneuvers undertaken by diasporic people to negotiate and transform those conditions. In essence, this book explores the contingent citizenship experienced by diasporic Chinese and their efforts to imagine and construct "home" in diaspora.

Excerpt

My family’s history of dispersal since the mid nineteenth century to different parts of the world—including Australia, Nicaragua, Singapore, Britain, Spain, and the United States—both inspires and informs my engagement with questions of belonging in diaspora. My father’s connection to Nicaragua, in particular, has always intrigued me. I grew up listening to all kinds of fantastic tales involving witchcraft and sorcery, love spells and magic potions, tales laced with nostalgia and anticipated returns, tales told with such passion and realism that I could never be sure of their truth-value. In 1989, I set off in search of my father’s homeland, my father’s Nicaragua. When I found it, however, it was not the same Nicaragua I had imagined. The bustling communities of Chinese that my father so often described were nowhere to be found. Years of civil war, political unrest, and economic instability had driven the majority of Nicaraguan Chinese to seek a home elsewhere in the Americas. Nonetheless, traces of their passage remained: tarnished signs reading “Restaurante Chu Wah,” “Tienda Lau,” and “Hospedaje Kong Fat” hung over small storefronts in different towns throughout the country. In seeing and not seeing what my father had impressed upon my memory through years of storytelling, I became that much more intrigued about how diasporic Chinese create “home” and experience belonging (and nonbelonging) in this part of the world. When and why did they come? What were the political, social, and cultural circumstances in which they lived? And finally, why did they leave? Although I ultimately decided not to conduct my research in Nicaragua, these questions stayed with me and motivated my exploration into the politics of diasporic belonging for Chinese in Latin America.

While the general idea for this book project grew out of a longstanding interest, the current debates about globalization and its effects on . . .

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