Latest CCIF-funded projects focus on gender, urbanization and identity in the Greater China Region, the diaspora in Canada

Projects focusing on gender, urbanization and identity in the Greater China Region and in the diaspora in Canada received funding earlier this year from the Canada-China Initiative Fund at the York Centre for Asian Research. 

Founded in 2019, the Canada-China Initiatives Fund (CCIF) was created to support scholarly exchanges and research on modern (i.e. post-1911) and contemporary People’s Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, their global reach, their linkages with Canada, or the experiences of the diaspora communities.  It was created thanks to the generous support of the Asian Business and Management Program at York University. This is the second group of recipients.

Xin Liu (Cinema and Media Arts) || Every year, schools of salmon find their way back to the banks of the rivers where they were born so that they can relaunch their life cycles. In the end, the salmon that survive mate and then perish. While the end result is a sure death, the salmon are driven by an insurmountable instinct to return home against the strongest of currents.

Through the symbolic parallelism of the salmon run, Upstream is Xin Liu’s 20-minute docufiction film that will explore the identity struggle of Chinese Permanent Residents in Canada and their immutable yearnings to return home. This film is a component of his Master’s of Film Production programme.

In juxtaposition to the cyclic and inevitable journey of the salmon sun, Liu plans to follow a Chinese Permanent Resident of Canada who sets out on a journey to relocate back to his hometown in the PRC’s industrial northeast. Liu’s film will consider several questions: Will his subject’s longings survive the fateful ending of the salmon run, against the severe reality of the Chinese Rust Belt and the deeply impaired industrial economy of the region? Living a decent, albeit imperfect life in Canada, why do so many Permanent Residents from the PRC find it so difficult to settle down in their new home; why do the salmon ever want to leave the promised land in the ocean? Along the upstreams of returning, what will they experience and perceive as the notion of home in this globalized reality?

Cary Wu (Sociology) || Not only has the PRC experienced the world’s most rapid urbanization over the last several decades, but it’s large-scale urban transformation is also shaping the forms and fabrics of urbanization in other parts of the world. In this research project, Professor Wu is investigating how Canadian cities are being shaped and transformed by the large-scale movement of Chinese immigrants and by China’s growing economic power and political influences.

Theoretically, this research will adopt a scenic approach that will focus on the variability of the process and analyze the dimensions, patterns, forms, and meanings of how a street or a nation or the world is urbanized. Different cities present different scenes that incorporate and join elements of time, place, characteristics of people, activities like concerts, the built environment and values. Seeing places as scenes provides a way to analyze diverse cities with a common unit of analysis–scenes. This approach generates a scenic urbanization, updating past efforts to capture the core meanings of urbanity.

Empirically, we will collect demographic and amenities data (e.g., restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls, parks, and activities) to generate common scenes that are deeply rooted in China’s influences across major Canadian cities including Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, and Montreal. We will then map out these common scenes and explore how they have and continue to shape social life in Canada.

This research project will offer an opportunity to build long-term collaborative relationships by bringing together urban scholars from Canada and the Chinese Academy of Social Science, and elsewhere in the PRC, for a workshop tentatively scheduled for November 2020.

Linda Peake (Social Science, City Institute) || Professor Peake, who is also the Principal Investigator of the SSHRC Partnership grant project—Urbanization, gender, and the global south: a transformative knowledge network (GenUrb)— has received funding towards a two-day workshop on Women and Urbanization in China at York. The invited speakers from the PRC and North America will engage in discussions on rapid urbanization in contemporary China, the impact of the Sustainable Development Goals on women and cities, and the ways in which working women in Chinese cities are negotiating everyday life within and across new urban geographies of inequality. She anticipates that this workshop will lead to a theme issue of an international peer-reviewed journal and the creation of a new urban network.

Christopher Vogel (History) || As organizer of the third biannual conference of the China Academic Network, Christopher, a doctoral candidate in History, received funds to support this event at York, which will bring together graduate students, early career researchers and established scholars working on gender in the modern greater China region of the PRC and Taiwan. Building on previous biannual conferences—2017 at SOAS and 2019 at Université libre de Bruxelles—the theme of 2021 conference will be ‘Making Gender in China’. The conference will focus on materiality studies by exploring both how gender is being enacted, and how it is negotiated in the process of making things (a poem, a cookbook, a translation, a sword, a piece of furniture, noodles,  an online protest, a piece of legislation)… and ultimately, of China (broadly construed) itself. This theme draws on the latest trends in scholarship on Chinese Gender Studies. Through its focus on materiality, this conference will promote an inter-disciplinary approach to the problems of gender and materiality, and will operate at the forefront of research on gender in China.

The CCIF is open to all faculty and students at York University. The next deadline for applications is Wednesday, 22 July 2020. For more information about the CCIF, please visit: