Translation, Migration, & Gender in the Americas, the Transatlantic, & the Transpacific
5-8 Jul 2017 Bordeaux (France)

Participants > Panelists > Chapman Mary

'Reincarnated in a New Type': Global Citizenship in Sui Sin Far's Oeuvre
Mary Chapman  1  
1 : University of British Columbia

Asian-North-American writer and journalist “Sui Sin Far” had multiple allegiances: She considered herself British, because of her English birthplace; Chinese, because of her mother's ethnicity; Canadian, because of her Montreal childhood; and American, because of her 15-year career as a writer and journalist in the US. Sui Sin Far's fiction, journalism, and travel writing repeatedly reflect on the ways in which narrow understandings of belonging--particularly those outlined in turn-of-the-century immigration legislation--were out of step with the more complex subject positions produced bycolonialism, imperialism, global trade, miscegenation, cultural exchange, mobility, and mass migration. My paper, “‘Reincarnated in a New Type': Global Citizenship in Sui Sin Far's Oeuvre,” discusses Sui Sin Far's efforts to represent more expansive understandings of citizenship produced by late-nineteenth-century migration. In particular, it will focus on “Born a Britisher” (1896), a pithy unsigned journalistic piece that I recently discovered in which Sui Sin Far contemplates the ethnically illegible figure of Yen Moy. Yen Moy is a Chinese-speaking Albino born in Australia, to British-citizen parents, and raised in China, whose language, skin colour, clothing, birthplace, and parents--not to mention features, religion, name, occupation, “temperament”, and “moral texture”--confound North American immigration officials intent on restricting the immigration of “Chinese”. Like the gender- and race-bending characters in Sui Sin Far's work, Yen Moy enjoys his freedom of mobility and self-invention at the same time that he experiences “doubt,” “fear,” “helplessness,” and isolation—the side effects of feeling global. 

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