"His Paper Family Knew Their Place": Diasporic Space in Wayson Choy's All That Matters

Alena Chercover


Contrary to the notion that mobility is implicit in diaspora, this essay contends that mobility post-migration, that is, the movement of individual bodies in hostland diasporic populations, often becomes severely restricted. As a case in point, I examine the diasporic space of Vancouver's Chinatown in Wayson Choy's novel All that Matters (2004). I argue that while movement may be an inevitable precondition of diaspora, mobility, hindered by ethnic, gender, and class borders, remains largely illusory in Chinese diaspora space. In the second half of this essay I ask where, if at all, resistance can be located; is movement perpetually restricted in the diaspora space of Choy's Chinatown, or is there a possibility for individual agency? To answer this question, I propose that our focus must shift from the study of bodies in the diaspora to the role that things play in the diaspora. In particular, paper plays a pivotal role in Choy's novel and deserves close attention for the ways it is bound up with questions of mobility and immobility. I suggest that in order to locate mobility and resistance in the Chinese diaspora, we must first challenge the ontological borders between animate and inanimate, body and thing, human and paper.


Chinese diaspora; mobility; gender; race; Canada

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