Adam Yuet Chau: The Indonesian Chinese in Indonesia, China and Hong Kong: Serial Migration and Cultural Identity


Wednesday, March 22, 2019, 11:00-12:00


Trainee Centre, Vodární 6


This talk is on the lives and cultural identities of the Indonesian Chinese, particularly the few hundred thousand among them (mostly youth) who returned to China between 1950s and 1970s, worked and formed families there, but eventually left China in the 1980s, mostly for the then British colonial Hong Kong. I will examine the impact of multiple/serial migrations on the Indonesian Chinese’s consciousness and cultural identity. Questions I will address include: What factors contributed to the Indonesian Chinese’s return migration to China and their subsequent emigration from China? How did their sojourn in China affect their Indonesian Chinese identity? How did the socio-political changes taking place in Indonesia during their absence shape their orientation towards Indonesia and China? How did they maintain or modify or abandon their Indonesian Chinese cultural habits (e.g. foodways and language) over time, as they were socialized into a Communist as well as pan-Chinese identity? To what extent is Indonesian Chinese identity still important to those who are living in Hong Kong or other places around the world but not in Indonesia or China? In what ways do they form Indonesian Chinese diasporic communities? Studies on diasporas have long based their work on the metaphor of the homeland (e.g. Isreal, Africa, China) and dispersions from the homeland to other lands. The case of the Indonesian Chinese who left Indonesia and then China presents an example of large-scale dispersion not from the (originary) homeland but from an adoptive country (and repeatedly doing so).


Dr Adam Yuet CHAU is University Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Modern China in the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. He is the author of Miraculous Response: Doing Popular Religion in Contemporary China (Stanford University Press 2006), Religion in China: Ties That Bind (Polity 2019), and editor of Religion in Contemporary China: Revitalization and Innovation (Routledge 2011). He has also published numerous articles in journals and edited volumes. He is interested in developing better ways of conceptualizing Chinese religious culture. One of his out-reach ambitions is to stop people from asking the question “How many religions are there in China?” He is currently working on book projects investigating spirit mediumism in rural China; the formation of the “religion sphere” (zongjiaojie) in China; and the idiom of hosting and forms of powerful writing (“text acts”) in Chinese political and religious culture.