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The Arteries of Chinese Transnational Communities: A Study of the Teochew (Chaozhou) Remittance House Networks, 1911-1949

Liyuan CHEN (National University of Singapore)
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Guided by recent theoretical formulations of transnationalism, this paper considers the societies comprised by overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and their hometowns in South China during the Republican era as an organic whole embodying multiple interactions. Chinese remittance house networks were the primary arteries connecting communities. By studying the formation and characteristics of the remittance house networks in the Teochew (Chaozhou) community, this paper explores the mechanisms of interaction among the Chinese transnational communities scattered in Southeast Asia and South China. Based upon a wide range of primary data as well as field research in South China and Southeast Asia, this paper first provides a survey of the remittance house networks that were embedded in the Chinese socio-economic structure. Then, by investigating the connections of various remittance houses across the South China Sea, I argue that the transnational remittance house networks were linked by multiple levels of sub-networks. Finally, I analyze how family networks, partnership and geo-consanguineous connections were incorporated into the formation and operation of the transnational remittance house networks. It is hoped that this paper will contribute to the understanding of the inner workings of overseas Chinese business networks and the complex ties between Sontheast Asian Chinese and their hometowns.

Journal of History and Anthropology