God IS in Chinatown

The last chapter of God in Chinatown seems to tie the book together neatly with a small ribbon. Over the past few weeks, after reading individual stories of Fuzhounese, exploring various histories in relation to religion and several religious organizations, it was helpful to see the conclusive points of all this research brought out so clearly. The religious Fuzhounese share countless connections within their religious communities and develop an identity, are many times exploited, have stratified based on different waves of immigrants and keep transnational ties alive through international temples or things of that nature. Most importantly, I believe, the respective religious communities seem to be places where the Fuzhounese have found the answers to discovering themselves as people. What makes this book so phenomenal is that it captures the intricacies of the religious Fuzhounese; I say “intricacies” because Grant touches on both the positive and negative effects of coming to the U.S. and settling down with a religious organization. There isn’t such a simple, concise message of religion being a wonderful source of pure joy and happiness, like it is often perceived in relation to the hardships the immigrants have endured. This is also what I took away from this course in general: that religion, people and issues mustn’t be compartmentalized or simplified into one single entity. Everything is capable of being taken apart, just as the religious life of the Fuzhounese immigrants is.
Despite all and any intricacies, there is no doubt that belief in a higher power has helped so many of these immigrants muster the courage and stay strong in such a frightening, strange place. This is, in fact, undeniably what we have been studying all along: the immigrants’ relationship to God, with The Madonna… and Our Lady of Guadalupe, etc. It is fascinating that religions, although we may not think of them as such, are always morphing and becoming whatever the followers need them to be at the time. God is truly in Chinatown in the way that “Fuzhounese immigrants reconnect to social networks based on kinship, surname, village associations, religious affiliation, or even specific theological principles” (197), the fact that “Fuzhounese religious communities serve as sites for establishing alternative identities to the dominant hegemonic structures…” (204), the way that “Fuzhounese religious immigrants [are] determined, ingenious…actors in constructing transnational migration” (201) and the way “the religious community serves as a transitional place…touching both New York and China” (205).

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