'Spiritual Pursuits' in Singing: Identity Making of the Chinese Education Diaspora

by Ya Liu

Institution: University of Minnesota
Year: 2015
Keywords: Chinese education diaspora; chorus; community; identity
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2087850
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/11299/175693


Since the last century, a striking impact that globalization has had on education is the increasing exodus of students and scholars from the global south to the global north to study and stay, which is termed as “education diasporas” in this study. From the 1980s onward, the overstayed Chinese students and scholars overseas have grown into the largest and most fast-growing education diasporas globally. However, the facts and logics of their diasporic daily practices remain vague in the existing scholarship. Compelled by an ethnographer’s curiosity about how the diasporic Chinese make sense of their daily practices, particularly in the public sphere, and how that indicates their sense of being and belonging, I selected a Chinese chorus (“CC” for acronym) in the United States as a case to exemplify the post-1980s Chinese education diaspora. Around three-years’ deep “hanging out” in the field, along with a number of interviews and documents collected from the informants, enabled me to reveal their identity making centering on “spiritual pursuits” that the education diaspora featured. I went back and forth between the emic and the etic perspectives in presenting the study, in the form of a tapestry interweaving the insiders’ narratives: “something is missing”, “dragging”, “circles”, “renqing”, “stage”, “dilemmas”, “community”, “solidarity”, “re-charging”, “re-rooting”, “home”. The overarching theme of “spiritual pursuits” indicates the peculiarity of the education-motivated and well-educated diasporic population in the fast-changing transnational contexts. The logics of their diasporic self-making, as was discovered in the study, encompassed an identity loss due to uprootedness, and imperative needs for self-making by means of social interactions, collective endeavors, and “spiritual pursuits”. In CC’s case, people were brought together by the stage, the music, the interconnectedness, the memories of home, and the eagerness to “unite”, which were constantly and contestedly negotiated in-between the past and the present, “here” and “there”.