The politics of survival: A social history of the Chinese in New Zealand (1982)
AuthorsSedgwick, Charles P.show all
This work is first and foremost intended to be a reasonably comprehensive social history of the Chinese community which attempts to treat the subject from the perspective of the Chinese community. This has been, at least in part, accomplished by extensive attention to the development of organisational structures within the community. A considerable body of literature on overseas Chinese communities has focused on the matrix of associational activity which is an aspect of the overseas community. This was important, as Willmott noted in 1969 for it facilitated the beginning of attempts through sociological analysis to produce generalisations about overseas Chinese communities which could form the basis of future comparative work (Willmott, 1969:282). This present study is intended to be complementary to and an extension of that work building specifically on the analyses provided by Freedman (1967), Crissman (1967), Willmott (1969) and Wickberg (1979). The particular aim is to trace the changes and persistence in the associational structure of the New Zealand Chinese community by locating its history within the complex milieu which persistently confronted its development. Through this it is possible to indicate how the organisational structure of the community, acting as a variable, is capable of innovation, fragmentation and collective action depending on the particular situations that influence its existence. This analysis takes Crissman's model of the segmentary structure which he derives from synchronic analysis and applies it in a diachronic fashion. The results of this confirm that while the derivation of the segmentary structure may be traced to historic urban adaptations in China, its development through time in the overseas community is a reflection of changing contexts. It is argued here that not only does interaction within and external to the Chinese, create the necessity for persistence and change in the segmentary structure, but that the structure itself provides the most efficacious means through which the Chinese community governs itself as well as articulating its needs and mediating external demands. Consequently, the segmentary structure constitutes, as part of the culture of an overseas Chinese community, what Cohen refers to as a 'universe(s) of ... formally non-political formations and activities that are politicized in the course of social action' (Cohen, 1974:xvi), - in brief a case of political ethnicity. This social history maintains that the New Zealand Chinese community through the emergence of political ethnicity exemplified by the change and persistence in the segmentary structure of the community has ensured its survival and integrity.