Recreating a Taste of Home in Canada: A Radical Interpretive Inquiry into Toronto’s Intergenerational Chinese Food Sharing Networks
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In multicultural Toronto, there is a large and increasing Chinese population. However, only very limited recent sociological research has been conducted on the lived experiences of Chinese immigrants and the children of Chinese immigrants. For many Chinese, one way to cope with the problem of displacement and a sense of homelessness, said to be endemic to the modern life-world, is to recreate the appearance of the order of home in their food sharing activities. My dissertation explores the meanings of “home” from the lived experiences of intergenerational Chinese in Toronto, focusing on Chinese food as an important cultural heritage and everyday practice. By adopting the radical interpretive perspective, which requires the intertwining of theory and methods, I use the theoretical framework combining a relational theoretical perspective (given the cultural significance of guanxi, meaning relationship, for the Chinese), the sociology of the meal, and social construction of reality, as well as a multi-method approach consisting of a unique combination of social network analysis, phenomenology, and reflexive analysis. Through social network analysis, I explore the composition, content, and structure of Chinese food sharing networks across different ages and generations, and through phenomenology and reflexive analysis, I study what these patterns mean both for the participants and for the meaning of culture. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from in-depth interviews with 21 participants in Toronto, who provided information on 209 people. These interviews were conducted in the participants’ first languages, Chinese and English. The research findings show that younger first generation immigrants and second generation immigrants (children of immigrants) have more culturally diverse Chinese food sharing networks than older immigrants, although they all included family and friends in their networks, a lot of whom provided emotional support (87.31%) and practical information (81.73%) but less financial support (25.38%). By exploring the life-worlds of participants, I found that the problem of the first generation immigrants is the loss of home since their taken-for-granted cultural patterns from their countries of origin are often seen as inadequate in the host country. The older immigrants may be able to hold on to their “home world” more by interacting mostly with family, but the younger immigrants are more eager to integrate with Canadian society. In comparison, the problem of the second generation is the divided home because they frequently suffer from negotiating between different and sometimes conflicting cultural patterns. Born and raised in Canada, they take the pluralization of life-worlds for granted and thus come across as more cosmopolitan. For both generations, the meaning of home is essentially a feeling of comfort. There are several interrelated themes under the overall theme of comfort, representing different relations to Chinese food, including nostalgia, familiarity, habit, affective support, and being yourself. I also discuss other possible meanings of home beyond comfort, specifically, celebration and hosting. By critically inquiring into the assumptions of knowledge, I formulate the deep structure of motive to reveal possibilities such as double enjoyment and reversing the host-guest relationship based on participants’ confidence in Chinese food as an intangible cultural heritage containing a taste that reflects values such as artistry, health, variety, authenticity, and playfulness. Overall, radical interpretive inquiry works with and within language to reveal findings about the experience that resonate with more universal themes and possibilities implicated in the relation of home to food, as seen through the prism of Chinese in Canada. The knowledge and insights created by this research not only give voices to the Chinese research participants but also serve as a first step in starting a conversation among recent and long-time immigrants, native-born Canadians, interdisciplinary researchers, policy makers and service providers to improve cross-cultural understanding in our diverse Canadian society.
Cite this version of the work
Celia Huang (2020). Recreating a Taste of Home in Canada: A Radical Interpretive Inquiry into Toronto’s Intergenerational Chinese Food Sharing Networks. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15837