Glen Peterson

Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Constructing Chinese Asianism : intellectual writings on East Asian regionalism (1896-1924) (2014)

Until recent decades, historians of modern East Asia generally considered Asianism to be an imperialistic ideology of militant Japan. Although the term and its concept were certainly used in this way, especially in the 1930s and 1940s, earlier proponents of Asianism looked upon it as a very real strategy of uniting Asian nations to defend against Western imperialism. This study investigates Chinese intellectuals’ discussions of Asianism from just before the reforms of 1898 to Sun Yat-sen’s famous speech on Asianism in 1924, considering calls for regionalism in their intellectual and historical contexts. Utilizing both published and unpublished sources, I first show that there were many Chinese debates on Asianism, before exposing the convoluted relationship between regional and national identities at this crucial point in the construction of the Chinese nation. In the early twentieth century, Chinese intellectuals struggled to define both their nation and their region through a variety of relationships which posited the imperialist West as “other.” Naturally, in the construction of these political and cultural identities, intellectuals’ writings on nation, race and civilization created overlaps which are still evident in understandings of Asia and China today.

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The great exodus : sojourn, nostalgia, return, and identity formation of Chinese mainlanders in Taiwan, 1940s-2000s (2012)

In the late 1940s and the early 1950s, the world witnessed a massive wave of political migrants out of mainland China in the wake of the Nationalist debacle and the Chinese Communist victory. Approximately 900,000 to 1 million people followed Chiang Kai-shek’s regime across the sea to Taiwan. Most were low-ranking Nationalist soldiers and civil servants. There were also refugees from different walks of life, ordinary people drawn into the vortex of the Chinese civil war and ended up in Taiwan by sheer historical chance. The legacy of the great exodus continues to have important implications for Sino-American relations, as well as Taiwan’s deepening democracy and quest for national identity nowadays. Nonetheless, the crux of the story remains poorly understood because of the ways in which the history of the Chinese civil war and the history of post-war Taiwan are framed in the existing literature.The civil war migrants and their descendants are referred to as “mainlanders” or waishengren in Taiwan. This dissertation examines the civil war migrants (or first generation waishengren) from the moment they left mainland China to their eventual return decades later. The research focuses on the transformation of the migrants’ mentalités—from “reluctant sojourners” in the 1950s to “cultural nostalgia” from the 1960s to the 1980s, and to “narrating the exodus” from the late 1980s and the early 1990s onwards. The study demonstrates the importance of the great exodus in shaping the lives and the worldviews of waishengren and the development of state-society relations and communal relations in post-war Taiwan. It also offers ways to rethink existing frameworks in the study of Chinese migration, and contributes to the project of theorizing diaspora. More importantly, using waishengren as an example, the dissertation argues that identity formation is a convoluted historical process engendered by people moving diachronically through time and physically through geographic localities. The mainlander identity is a product of a particular historical trajectory and actual lived experiences. The articulation of these experiences was mediated by the politics of remembrance and collective memory in response to changing sociopolitical contexts and shifting power relations.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Migration, religious conversion, and transnational activism : a Vancouver Chinese church's quest to change China (2018)

Exile or migration, and religious conversion, are two powerful impetuses for people disillusioned with existing regimes to improve their predicament and find new sources of meaning and purpose. Whereas both the study of overseas Chinese, as well as religion in modern China, have flourished since China's era of reform and opening— alongside growing religions practice and reinvigorated transnational networks— scholarship in both fields has paid insufficient attention to transnational Chinese communities drawn along religious lines, and their potency to mobilize for activist causes in China. This thesis draws attention to the confluence of migration, religious conversion, and transnational activism to “change China” among a generation of intellectuals who exited China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. Taking as case study a Vancouver Chinese church which grew commensurate with mainland Chinese migrations to Vancouver since the early 1990s, this thesis argues that that conversion to Christianity among members of this congregation enacted a change in self-identify from “migrant” to “self-exile,” a transformation embodied by its activist-turned-pastor. However, despite their remaining abroad and eschewing complicity with an unjust Communist regime in China, they remain intimately concerned with Chinese politics and seek to enact change in China through performative solidarity with “persecuted” Christian groups in China.

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