Twice upon a time: Chinese identity claimed--not merely inherited
Belden, Elionne Walker
Tyler, Stephen A.; Marcus, George E.
Doctor of Philosophy
A study of first generation Chinese youth and their parents who have immigrated to Houston, Texas reveals that identity for this group (Chinese youth in particular) emerges from the opposition of the submissive connection to the authority of networks, and the dominant American (United States) individualism which promotes private self-interest and, hence, tends to sever communal relations. Identity is thus a consideration of opposition/contingency and same/different. An examination of identity requires recognizing that cultural inheritance impacts one's determination and ability to function within the given world. For the Chinese in this study, "ghosts" of their past remind and connect them to their cultural inheritance; they take with them what they remember leaving behind. Yet, whereas an established history and sanguinal traditions are advantageous to perpetuate facts and myths, an evolving culture which is creating new identities with and within each new generation is unfolding beyond, even in spite of, the established Chinese traditions. Furthermore, the Chinese in this study group lack the amphibolic, unstable footing characteristic of liminars who straddle two cultures, producing in themselves hybrid positioning, generating for themselves ambivalence and alienating identification. Rather than assimilate to the Western milieu, the Chinese accommodate themselves and live as a paracommunity with the dominant culture of their host city. Chinese parents' most apodictic means of countering Western influence on their children is with Chinese language schools, having the youth participate in Chinese community events, encouraging the younger Chinese to develop a network of Chinese friends, and insisting that the youth retain the Chinese values they have exemplified for them at home. By applying linguistic considerations, particularly functionalism, to create meaning, clearly there is space within the appetite for dialectics of immigration to this country (and others) and the cultural processes which ensue to resist lumping all diasporic people as liminars and hybrids.
Cultural anthropology; Sociology; Ethnic studies; Social structure