Published by NYU Press
Chinese American Sociologist and Ethnographer
Paul Chan Pang Siu
Paul Chan Pang Siu was born in Guangzhou (Canton) near the coast of the South China Sea in 1906 to an affluent farming family. After their family wealth declined in the early decades of the 20th century, when Chan Pang Siu was a teenager, his father immigrated to “the Gold Mountain” to support the family. Envisioning a better education for his son, he sent him to an American-run middle school in Guangzhou, where he was given the Christian name Paul. In 1927, his father, now a laundry worker, brought Paul to the US to continue his education at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, for one year and then night school. With a scholarship, Siu studied sociology at the University of Chicago under Ernest Burgess and Louis Wirth. Afterwards, he worked as a social worker in Boston’s Chinatown during the 1940s and then taught sociology for 20 years in the Midwest. Dr. Siu retired as Chairperson and Professor of Sociology from the Detroit Institute of Technology in 1971.
Dr. Siu’s groundbreaking 1953 PhD dissertation in sociology from the University of Chicago was finally published months after his death. It is the only existing field study of Chinese laundry work and highlights a significant occupational niche in which Chinese immigrants found opportunities as early as the 1850s. This work challenges the stereotype of Chinese social deviance and addresses transnational connections, racial segregation, and labor discrimination as central to the experiences of the laundrymen from an emic perspective. Through participant observation and interviews, Siu’s work embodies the collective memory of the laundry workers for over a century based on more than 25 years of fieldwork and community engagement. Among his multilingual articles, his publications in both English and Chinese include:
The Chinese Laundryman: A Study in Social Isolation, edited by John Kuo Wei Tchen ( 1987)