Interpreting the Chinese Diaspora: Identity, Socialisation, and Resilience According to Pierre Bourdieu, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Interpreting the Chinese Diaspora

Identity, Socialisation, and Resilience According to Pierre Bourdieu, 1st Edition

By Guanglun Michael Mu, Bonnie Pang


166 pages

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pub: 2019-03-19
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Globalisation and migration have created a vibrant yet dysphoric world fraught with different, and sometimes competing, practices and discourses. The emergent properties of the modern world inevitably complicate the being, doing, and thinking of Chinese diasporic populations living in predominantly white, English-speaking societies. This raises questions of what 'Chineseness' is. The gradual transfer of power from the West to the East shuffles the relative cultural weights within these societies. How do the global power shifts and local cultural vibrancies come to shape the social dispositions and positions of the Chinese diaspora, and how does the Chinese diaspora respond to these changes? How does primary pedagogic work through family upbringing and secondary pedagogic work through educational socialisation complicate, obfuscate, and enrich Chineseness?

Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology on relative and relational sociocultural positions, Mu and Pang assess how historical, contemporary, and ongoing changes across social spaces of family, school, and community come to shape the intergenerational educational, cultural, and social reproduction of Chinese diasporic populations. The two authors engage in an in-depth analysis of the identity work, educational socialisation, and resilience building of young Chinese Australians and Chinese Canadians in the ever-changing lived world. The authors look particularly at the tensions and dynamics around the participants’ life and educational choices; the meaning making out of their Chinese bodies in relation to gender, race, and language; and the sociological process of resilience that enculturates them into a system of dispositions and positions required to bounce back from structural constraints.


‘What binds us together and what walls us apart across borders, generations and geographies? In an era of increasingly shrill nationalism and geopolitical conflict, understanding diasporic community, identity and position is more crucial than ever. This new volume is a major sociological contribution to our understanding of 'overseas' Chinese communities.’ - Allan Luke, Emeritus Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

‘This is a highly ambitious book, aiming to develop a critical sociology of Chinese diaspora by applying, for the first time, Bourdieu’s influential reflexive sociology to understanding the social experiences and practices of diasporic Chinese communities in the West. Drawing on a wealth of empirical research – both quantitative and qualitative – among young Chinese in Canada and Australia, the book places these young people’s identity work, educational trajectories, and resilience building in response to structural societal constraints (such as racism) in a broad sociological framework which transcends macro perspectives on diaspora and micro perspectives on the formation of Chinese subjectivities through Bourdieu’s conceptual apparatus of capital, field and habitus. In this way the book develops pertinent new insights into the contradictory meanings and experiences shared by many among Chinese diasporic subjects, such as ‘looking Chinese but not speaking Chinese’, the entrapments of inhabiting gendered and racialized bodies, family pressure in schooling, and their responses to racist stereotypes of Chineseness.’ - Ien Ang, Distinguished Professor, Western Sydney University, Australia

‘The bold collaboration of two exciting scholars provides convincing evidence of the relevance of Bourdieu to an emerging area of study on diasporic Chinese youth. Mu and Pang draw on diverse studies in Australia and Canada to enrich our understanding of family, community, and resilience in the Chinese diaspora. Their important book makes a significant contribution to wider debates on identity, legitimate knowledge, and transnationalism in the fields of education and applied linguistics.’ - Bonny Norton (FRSC), Professor & Distinguished University Scholar, University of British Columbia, Canada

‘Drawing on the work of Bourdieu and his notions of field, habitus and capital, this book provides a theoretically informed and empirically rich examination of Chinese diasporic youth in Australia and Canada. With a particular focus on educational contexts, Mu and Pang shed new light on questions of racialisation, identification and resilience demonstrating the heterogeneity of the Chinese diaspora and the importance of countering the cultural essentialism that often colours their popular representation. With the rise of China and the continuing spread of Chinese diasporas, this book makes an important contribution towards understanding these phenomena especially in relation to the experiences of young people proving a valuable text for the sociologies of youth, health and education.’ - Megan Watkins, Professor, Western Sydney University, Australia

Table of Contents


1. Chapter One: Approaching Chinese diaspora and Pierre Bourdieu

2. Chapter Two: Looking Chinese and learning Chinese as a Heritage Language: Habitus realisation within racialised social fields

3. Chapter Three: Young Chinese girls’ aspirations in sport: Gendered practices within Chinese families

4. Chapter Four: Understanding the public pedagogies on Chinese gendered and racialised bodies

5. Chapter Five: Reconciling the different logic of practice between Chinese students and parents in a transnational era

6. Chapter Six: Coming into a cultural inheritance: Building resilience through primary socialisation

7. Chapter Seven: Resilience to racial discrimination within the field of secondary socialisation: The role of school staff support

8. Chapter Eight: Does Chineseness equate with mathematics competence? Resilience to racialised stereotype

9. Chapter Nine: Recapitulating Chinese diaspora and sociologising diasporic self


About the Authors

Guanglun Michael Mu is Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. His work in this book was supported by the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellowship at Queensland University of Technology and the Australian Research Council grant DE180100107 (Resilience, Culture, and Class: A Sociological Study of Australian Students).

Bonnie Pang is Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom (2019–2020), Senior Lecturer and a school-based member of the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, Australia.

About the Series

Routledge Studies on Asia in the World

Routledge Studies on Asia in the World will be an authoritative source of knowledge on Asia studying a variety of cultural, economic, environmental, legal, political, religious, security and social questions, addressed from an Asian perspective. We aim to foster a deeper understanding of the domestic and regional complexities which accompany the dynamic shifts in the global economic, political and security landscape towards Asia and their repercussions for the world at large. We’re looking for scholars and practitioners – Asian and Western alike – from various social science disciplines and fields to engage in testing existing models which explain such dramatic transformation and to formulate new theories that can accommodate the specific political, cultural and developmental context of Asia’s diverse societies. We welcome both monographs and collective volumes which explore the new roles, rights and responsibilities of Asian nations in shaping today’s interconnected and globalized world in their own right.

We are particularly interested in books that demonstrate interdisciplinary and holistic thinking; rigorous and creative research; cross-fertilization of Western and Asian thought; and/or a grass-roots approach.

While we are open to any exciting ideas for edited, single or co-authored work, we are currently inviting book proposals which address the following areas:

    • Global Governance in Asia
    • Dispute Resolution in Asia
    • Asia and International Peacekeeping
    • Human Rights in Asia
    • SustainableDevelopment Goals in Asia
    • Religion in Asia

If you have an idea for a new book in Routledge Studies on Asia in the World, please send a written proposal to the Editor in Chief:

Matthias Vanhullebusch

Series Editors:

Dr. Matthias Vanhullebusch – Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Prof. Dr. Ji Weidong– Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Editorial Board:

Prof. Dr. Vinod K. Aggarwal – University of California, Berkeley

Prof. Dr. Jing Men – College of Europe

Prof. Dr. Yaqing Qin– China Foreign Affairs University

Prof. Dr. Javaid Rehman – Brunel University

Prof. Dr. Gurharpal Singh – School of Oriental and African Studies

Prof. Dr. R. Sudarshan – Jindal Global University

Prof. Dr. Nira Wickramasinghe – Leiden University

Prof. Dr. Lanxin Xiang – Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Prof. Dr. Simon Young – Hong Kong University 

Professor Danny Quah - National University of Singapore


Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / Asian American Studies