Diaspora′s Homeland

Modern China in the Age of Global Migration

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 5 illustrations Published: March 2018

Author: Shelly Chan

Asian Studies > East Asia, History > Asian History, Sociology > Migration Studies

In Diaspora’s Homeland Shelly Chan provides a broad historical study of how the mass migration of more than twenty million Chinese overseas influenced China’s politics, economics, and culture. Chan develops the concept of “diaspora moments”—a series of recurring disjunctions in which migrant temporalities come into tension with local, national, and global ones—to map the multiple historical geographies in which the Chinese homeland and diaspora emerge. Chan describes several distinct moments, including the lifting of the Qing emigration ban in 1893, intellectual debates in the 1920s and 1930s about whether Chinese emigration constituted colonization and whether Confucianism should be the basis for a modern Chinese identity, as well as the intersection of gender, returns, and Communist campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s. Adopting a transnational frame, Chan narrates Chinese history through a reconceptualization of diaspora to show how mass migration helped establish China as a nation-state within a global system.


“This cutting-edge book will inspire future studies of transnational history. Highly recommended.” — G. Li, Choice

"Building on approaches from postcolonial, literary, and cultural studies to criticize the nation-state and linear time, the book is really multiple books in one. At its heart lies the reconceptualization of diaspora . . . Diaspora’s Homeland sets out to raise new questions by bringing together three separate fields and in this, it certainly succeeds. . . . The book is based on meticulous research, including a wealth of multi-archival primary sources. In sum, the book not only offers a sweeping birds-eye view of modern Chinese history from a new perspective, but it also provides solid in-depth research on some less explored topics." — Els van Dongen, Journal of Social History

"In this elegantly wrought and eloquently argued book, Chan revisits a familiar story—the emigration of an estimated twenty million Chinese in the century from 1840 to 1940—with fresh eyes, making the argument that the idea of China as a homeland and its emigrants as a diaspora were mutually constitutive. . . . Chan’s provocative framing of 'diaspora time' forces us also to rethink national time." — Denise Y. Ho, Journal of Asian Studies

"Shelly Chan proposes an inspired, new approach to the study of migration and diasporas in her recent book. Rather than asking what impact migrants had on their overseas communities, she sets out to examine how mass emigration changed China. . . . Smart analysis and lucid prose pepper the book. Chan brilliantly demonstrates how rethinking diaspora studies has the potential to cut across the fields of modern Chinese history, overseas Chinese studies, and Asian American studies, which have too often remained only distant relations. Her work joins the best examples of recent transnational scholarship destined to have a major impact on reconfiguring these fields." — Michelle T. King, Canadian Journal of History

"Diaspora's Homeland is a thoroughly enjoyable read . . . written in a crisp, clear, and entertaining way, free of jargon and convoluted expressions. . . . Geography undergraduates will find this book helpful for understanding how historical geography is constitutive of our transnational present, while its analytical method, conceptual claims, and empirical details will engage and stimulate postgraduates and scholars." — Kean Fan Lim, Journal of Historical Geography

"With its innovative conceptualization, meticulous research and insightful narratives, Diaspora’s Homeland is a must-read for those who are interested in the study of both Chinese and global diasporas. It is also an excellent textbook for China-related graduate courses in the disciplines of history, political science and international studies." — Sheng Ding, The China Quarterly

"The book’s greatest strength is its temporal and spatial vision. Shelly Chan castes aside traditional watersheds, offering instead unexpected juxtapositions and a unique chronology. . . . Chan masterfully rewrites the history of China and the overseas Chinese experience, contributing what will no doubt be the theoretically inspiring and highly cited concepts of diaspora time and diaspora moments." — Phillip B. Guingona, Postcolonial Text

"Diaspora’s Homeland makes its greatest contribution in arguing for a migration history that is unbounded by standard periodizations and national boundaries, opening a conversation that other scholars can consider and engage."  — Meredith Oyen, American Historical Review

"Shelly Chan’s memorable work will be required reading for scholars of modern Chinese history and historians of the Chinese diaspora, and will have great appeal beyond these broad fields. Written in a clear and accessible way, it also would be a book well suited for advanced undergraduate history and Asian-American studies courses." — Fredy González, Journal of Chinese Studies

"Diaspora’s Homeland is a groundbreaking study that will surely establish Chan as one of the leading specialists in the field. Her interdisciplinary approach and broad theoretical contribution make the book a critical reference for scholars in various disciplines. The light that it sheds on contemporary issues about China’s rise renders it useful for policy makers and the general public alike." — Lisong Liu, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Chan's book makes an important contribution to the study of overseas Chinese and modern China and would be appropriate for courses on Chinese migration." — Lisa Tran, Pacific Historical Review

“Chinese mass migration’s impact on countries around the globe has been studied extensively. Research on the same migration processes’ impact on China, on the other hand, is scarce. Diaspora’s Homeland tackles this gap by focusing on the relationship between Chinese migrants and their ancestral homeland…. Presenting high-quality historical research, the book is definitely a must-read for scholars interested in new perspectives on modern Chinese (migration) history, as well as for those who want to learn more about transnational flows of ideas and capital fostered by a century of migration.” — Helen Hess, ASIEN

"A major work that shows how an intelligently reconceived concept of 'Chinese diaspora' can open up new understandings of China in world history—especially how modern China is in many ways a product of the mutually constitutive relations between the invented homeland and its diasporic populations. Based upon superb research and an imaginative engagement with a broad range of theoretical and secondary works, this is cutting edge scholarship on global population movements and their effects." — Takashi Fujitani, author of Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II

"Shelly Chan's scholarship is superior in every imaginable way; her deft hand at bringing together the seldom connected fields of diaspora studies, modern Chinese history, and Asian American studies is a major contribution. I read this book straight through—I couldn't put it down." — James Hevia author of The Imperial Security State: British Colonial Knowledge and Empire-Building in Asia


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Shelly Chan is Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Table of Contents Back to Top
A Note on Romanization  ix
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction  1
1. A Great Convergence  17
2. Colonists of the South Seas  48
3. Confucius from Afar  75
4. The Women Who Stayed Behind  107
5. Homecomings  146
Conclusion and Epilogue  185
Notes  197
Bibliography  233
Index  261
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Shortlist for the 2019 International Convention of Asia Scholars Humanities Book Prize

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7054-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7042-0
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