Hidden meanings

January 27th, 2009

Chapter Four came back surprisingly quickly, since it sucked… Well, to be fair, the prose itself wasn’t all that bad, but it needs a good sit-down and comb-through before it’ll be up to snuff. The comments I got back on the first three pages of it (all my advisor would read, at first) smarted. I fully admit I have trouble taking criticism well when not expecting it. However, the comments were quite helpful; I’ll fully admit this, too. Another professor and I were talking about it, and the problem I had was apparently a “conceptual” issue: I didn’t know what the heck I was saying, when I was saying it, and where it all fit into the Big Picture. Chapter Four – the immigration history chapter – seems to be a sort of transition point in the larger narrative. Before it, I’ll have to talk about theories and concepts and abstracts, approached from a Canada-Quebec perspective in order to really draw out the distinctions that made Quebec national identity what it is today. After it, I’ll have to talk about the real people, their stories and lives and experience in Montreal during the last few decades. So with the immigration chapter I have to transition both a prose style (dry and boring technical stuff, dates and “important people”, to exciting vibrant lives with statistics thrown around for good measure) and a geographical orientation (Canada-Quebec to Montreal). I had no idea this part was so crucial to the narrative.

Honestly, I wasn’t going to pick Chapter Four to write over the break; I wanted to do something else that I can’t remember – probably the earlier sections so I could just get them over with. But I’m glad I did. Combing through all of my notes, jotting down some new ones, and getting a couple of “aha” moments helped me place the material into their appropriate chapters. It’s still shaky, but I think I have a better idea of when I’m going to reveal certain things in the narrative to make it interesting and follow-able.  And having done that, the Big Picture is more clear than before.  It seems that all the chapter really needs (aside from gap-filling) is re-organization.

There are two ways I can re-work the immigration chapter to make it flow/fit better.  (The first one is my advisor’s idea; the second is mine.)  1: Integrate the material that would go into this chapter into Chapter Two, where I explore the Quebec national identity and the conflicts that arise from nationalism.  Because immigration was part of the way the government of Quebec modernized and eventually “French-i-fied” the province, it makes sense that I could attach it to the end that chapter.  It would also provide a way for me to transition to a discussion of Haitian national identity.  Something like “Though the government saw immigrants as part of the improvement process, they might not have jumped on board as quickly as the nationalists would have liked.  Haitians, for example, had their own national history and identity.” The chapter on Haitian national identity would then transition into exploring Haitians’ experience in Montreal…  2: Split the immigration chapter into two sections, rather than disperse it.  The first half would talk about immigration policy and history from the dry-boring part, keeping the Quebec-Canada orientation.  The second half would transition to a Montreal orientation and develop the more personal tone, where I would talk about different immigrant experiences and end with the Haitian’s patterns of migration to Quebec.  This would transition well to the next chapters, which discuss the experience of Haitians in Montreal using culture and political participation as major examples to illustrate my points about their embeddedness in Quebec society.

This week, then, I really have to work on two things.  The first, of course, being the revision of this chapter.  The second is getting my sense of history (Quebec identity, Haitian identity) settled, and notes wrapped up to the best of my ability.  I won’t go so far as to say I’m ‘down to the wire’, but I certainly cannot dally about this semester.  The thesis really is due in a few months, whether or not I’m ready.  Five more chapters to go …

Grad apps are death

November 19th, 2008

My first final deadline for graduate school applications is the 1st of December – and my thesis chapter is not finished. Oops. After revising outlines and reviewing notes, I think I’ve managed to destroy several sections of the first copy. I have a much clearer idea of how I’m arguing certain points, especially when it comes to using statistical analyses, which should help make the paper sound more intelligent. Sifting through all the sources, rewriting notes and staring into space while pondering what I’ve just read are all critical to my “process” for writing this giant paper. Unlike Bones, I actually like time to sit and wonder about these subjective things. (Maybe if I were a real scientist, I would have a quicker reaction time to analysing data.) As far as my style edits went, I can’t tell if the prose has become more interesting. The sections will be reviewed by my advisor, and I’m sure she’ll leave some comments about it.

I’m resentful of graduate school applications at the moment, because they are rushing me. And they cost so much. Sheesh.

By the way, there are spies everywhere, many of them with red hair…

I can’t say I’ve made much progress on anything other than editing the draft. I need to delve deeper into the various databases and search engines to see if I can find a nice book or two that will help illustrate the general immigration trends in Quebec from the early twentieth century to present. I need to be able to contextualize Haitian immigration and talk about why certain immigration policies or certain reactions would have been important in the history of immigrant relations there. However, no-one seems to have written a general immigration history about Quebec, and the Canadian ones seem geared toward women, youth/second-gen, or policy matters rather than just description. It feels like the more I write, the more sources and facts I want to check up. The researching never stops! I wish time could stop so I would be able to get through all the articles and books I need to read…

Short and sweet this week: 1) Revise chapter for grad apps [[Sent for edits…  We’ll see how that goes.]] ; 2) Find some immigration books/chapters/articles [[Check! Now to read them…]]; and 3) keep on trucking. Hopefully I will get comments back for the chapter, and otherwise won’t soil the beauty of a Real Vacation (to grandmother’s house we go…)

Highs and lows

November 12th, 2008

This week’s been rather topsy-turvy. I’ve reached the Panic Stage in my senior year which entails much worrying about life after graduation. All my future plans rest on being accepted to one specific PhD program way out in Vancouver, with the minor hope of being awarded an NSF Graduate Fellowship. I have doubts, however, that I’ll be accepted to UBC, and struggle to keep my chin up. I’ve given up on believing I can win an NSF fellowship based on what responses I’ve had from other scholarship programs (zilch). But what I really need to think about is a Plan B: work. I’m not afraid of a real job, I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to find one that will give me a living wage. But I can’t let fear weigh me down. So, as I sit on the couch waiting for a (splurge) pot-roast to cook up, I am going to reflect on what I’ve done this week right and wrong.

First, I did manage pretty well on outlining. In spite of my distaste for the task I gave myself, it worked out. I stole the thesis outline from last week’s class and stretched out the sections. I also typed up a chronology putting Quebec politics and immigration policy, and Haitian politics and immigration all mixed together. I have two little books – well, one’s actually small; the other’s only for excerpts – to skim through to understand what other kinds of immigrants came when. I know that white Europeans, especially Italians and Jews (Ashkenazie first until the Sephardim came in the latter half of the 20th c.), were the bulk of early in-migration; then came West Indians and Africans; and then came Asians and Arabs. What I need is a citation and someone to tell me exactly which order and in what numbers this happened. It’s difficult to find census data on the migration patterns for all of the 1900s listed by country of origin.

I was presented the opportunity last week to show my maps and research at a little on-campus conference in honour of the GIS Centre’s opening in Swem. There was a major snafu on Monday when I thought I’d lost my flash drive. It contains all of my data and maps, and I hadn’t backed it up (stupidly). I spent a good part of the day bothering the nice secretaries of the Morton Departments to see if someone had dropped it off. No luck. But, for no reason really, it was suggested I look in Jones with the IT department. Success! So, I’ve re-done my maps to be more uniform and thrown together a brief powerpoint that can get made into a poster. Next week, I’ll have to talk to Stu again to a) see what he wants me to do with the “residuals” and see which ones he wants to use; and b) talk about the ppt that I’ve worked up. For the residuals, I know that what we want to show is the standard error between a predicted value and the actual value for correlations between the strength of a “no” vote in 1995 and the proportion of the population that is immigrant, or English-speaking, or the average per capita income. There are just too many choices from SPSS for a novice to make a sure choice.

This presentation, now that I have my data again, took a little edge off the (expected) rejection from the ASEN conference I’d applied to. It’s a pretty popular thing; I’m an undergraduate. There was no chance.

What else? What else? Well, I missed a meeting with my advisor today because I forgot to confirm it earlier. (Time was a strange beast in my world over the weekend, thanks to Sudafed.) She headed out of state for a while, instead. I’m not too bothered by that for a couple reasons. Foremost, I was not in a good mindset to meet about the thesis today. But also, this gives me more time and leeway to work on the thesis as I like it. I’m doing the outline and the immigration chapter at her suggestion. However, what I need to do now is return to my political participation chapter so it can be relatively polished by the end of the month. I think I’d like to go through it with my notes and refreshed memory and be as ruthless as possible. It’s difficult to do that with your own work, though. With my revised outline I should be able to keep focus on what the chapter is supposed to argue, which should help.

I understand that I’ve jumped ahead of myself on this project. The (mistaken) deadline for a writing sample in early November drove me to pass all the normal conventions of good writing – making sure I knew what I was saying, above all. Lesson learned, and with pushing from my advisor I think I’ve managed to go back and amend things fairly well. It’s hard to balance the contradictions in what different articles and books assume are facts. However, as long as I can manage to remember that I’m writing as an historian (who happens to use some political science methodology), I think I can accommodate this. Another reason the outline is good (if annoying).

So, things on the plate this week (aside from pot roast): 1) skim the immigration books to fill out the story; 2) transcribe one or two more interviews; 3) begin tearing apart Chapter Six; and 4) see what Stu wants me to do. With patience, panic will pass – it just might take a while, since I have to start filling out the applications!

Now, it starts.

October 15th, 2008

So, I made a decent amount of progress on last week’s goals even though I can’t cross them out as completed.  First, I discovered that I could draw out a lot of interview data from handwritten notes, isolating less than four hours of recordings to listen to rather than eight.  There’s a long car ride this weekend that I can spend doing the rest.  Good.  And I spent two hours with Stu last Friday learning how to use the GIS program to get maps made.  I plan to spend a couple hours tomorrow before class in the computer lab playing with that.  He says that the hard part is done, since most of the data I need is already in.  I know how to put more in, should I need it (I probably will).  Good good.  I’ve isolated a few chunks of primary research that I want to hit in the chapter I’m working on, but haven’t had the time yet to actually draw conclusions from it.  And, in spite of having a lot of research done, I have only a vague idea at this moment of what secondary research I will use to back up my ideas.  But no worries.  Likely that vagueness is just because I don’t have the research list in front of my face.

At this point, I know that (in spite of what some people said in interviews) immigrants had a definite impact on the last Quebec referendum on independence.  I am curious to know how strong that correlation is.  [[The answer is .725/-.725 for the influence of immigrant population on the Non/Oui votes.  Ridiculously correlated!  As for Haitians, not so much… .081/-.081.]]  Lucky me, we’re doing statistics tomorrow in class! [[Check that off the list.]]  Also, I know that Haitians from the earlier waves of migration had a more pleasant experience and a generally more positive view of their integration into society.  Later waves were less impressed, due in part to racism, recession, and issues of Quebec national identity that caused Quebeckers to lash out.  Part of this divide in how Haitians perceive their time in Montreal is due to the type of job and language skills that they arrived with.  Regardless, it seems that Haitians are able to participate politically and many choose to do so.  There are a number of  “activists”, a decent group of government workers, and still another set of actual political representatives for a variety of parties and at every level of government (local, provincial, federal, and suprafederal*).  It will be interesting to see how I force myself to draw a distinct, solid conclusion from the data.  I have an idea, but I can’t phrase it yet.  Oh well, I have a week…

So, goals: 1) make maps [[I think this is mostly done, for now, but I can’t bring myself to cross it off the list]]; 2) code interviews [[Pretty much done!  Enough to know what I’m talking about]]; 3) brush up on bios of political candidates/reps; 4) review primary sources; 5) write chapter six!

*Btw:  I made up the word suprafederal to designate Michaelle Jean; she’s the Governor-General, an appointed representative of all of Canada with no formal place in the legislative, judicial or active executive body.  Historically, her position is to mediate relations between the Crown and the Colony (I think).  Now, …  I’ll have to look that up.

Umm… oops?

September 19th, 2008

So after my interviews and literature review, I was under the distinct impression that ethnicity did not play a major role in voting patterns, especially in the case of Haitians.  There was a lot of backlash from the community when Jacques Parizeau, then leader of Quebec and  the Parti Québécois, stated infamously that it was “money and the ethnic vote” that lost Quebec its independence.  But now, with my initial data sets compiled regarding 1) general election voting results; 2) referendum voting results; and 3) ethnic composition by voting district, I have to revise my beliefs.

I think, now, that immigrants indeed affected the yes: no ratio in a district in the 1995 referendum on Quebec’s independence.  Whether or not Haitians are complicit in this has yet to be determined.  The data are not clear enough for an initial glance to suffice: voting results are not broken down specifically by one’s ethnicity.  I’m still not sure how to tackle this murkiness.  I have a meeting on Tuesday afternoon with Stu Hamilton [[Thanks, Matt!]] to talk about map-making using my data sets.  Hopefully this will help me organize my thoughts.

Again with the Thursdays!

September 18th, 2008

Last time I met with my advisor I got assigned the revision of my thesis, as in the revision of the major claim to be supported in the up-to-100-pages of the eventual paper thesis. For this I had to read two articles. The first, the Rouse article, takes my topic from a comparative perspective, since it focuses on Mexican immigrants in the US. Rouse wrote of a “bifocality” that guides these migrants’ decisions, effectively placing them between two worlds, Mexico and the US. [[Btw, Between Two Worlds is the anthology in which Rouse’s article is found. Go figure!]] In a similar fashion I have found that Haitians in Montreal are placed between two worlds, Haiti and Canada. Rouse argues that migration should not be considered as “principally … a circular process in which people remain oriented to the places from which they have come” (1991: 251) since this ignores their presence in, contribution to and integration into the place to which they have gone. In describing the Mexican workers, he also says that “their proximity has produced neither homogenization nor synthesis” but rather a “maintenance of two quite distinct ways of life” (1991: 254). The same can be said for Haitians in Montreal, with some modification.

The second article, a chapter in the latest Migration Theory edition by Brettell and Hollifield, outlines somewhat the historiography of immigration history for those who concentrate on the U.S. Hasia R. Diner points out something I hadn’t thought of before: for immigrants of the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, “back home” is a lot closer than for immigrants of China, Europe and Africa (2008: 39). Thus the circular route of Rouse is a lot smaller, and Mexican (or Haitian) immigrants are more able to co-exist between their two homes than are Chinese or Jewish immigrants. I think this has much more merit, in my study, for the Haitians living in Miami than for those living in Montreal, or even in New York City. Climatological differences, for one thing, emphasize the fact that Montreal’s Haitians are definitely not “home” anymore. The geographical barrier of the United States presents a second major challenge to ease of return, if not in real terms then in perceptions.

So what is my thesis, now? Same as before. Haitians in Montreal represent a new kind of Quebecker. The old models of transnationalism are not sufficient to describe their place in Quebec culture and society, since they imply that Haitians are more concerned with returning to Haiti than with settling and integrating into their new home.

After having read the article by Diner in Migration Theory, I realize that my ultimate goal is to do just what hasn’t been done in immigration history thus far: model it. Diner writes that “Concern for the particular has far outweighed the interest in creating typologies, categories or models” in immigration history, in spite of frequent reference to the benefits that such typification would provide for future study and teaching. What I want to do is examine a cross-cultural set of data on immigrants in nationalism to see if there are patterns of integration that help or harm the full acceptance of an immigrant group into their new society. I guess there’s a place for me after all.

This week’s goals: 1) Get through Georges Woke Up Laughing (Schiller and Fouron, 2001) to have at least one “comparative” thing to discuss in my thesis paper. 2) Compile data on the number of Haitians in each voting district for the early 1990s, 2001 and 2006, so I can be prepared to bring Prof. Hamilton the numbers I want to use for making a map – meeting on Tuesday afternoon. [[Done! I hope to find data from the 1991 census, but I have ’96,’01, and ’06 data.]] 3) Send Cindy a revised thesis statement and notes about supporting arguments for Wednesday’s meeting [[Done!]]. I guess this week is ambitious, but only because I know I’ll be sitting at work doing “football parking” outside Blow Hall for five hours, more or less alone. I can definitely bring a book for that.