‘Dance’ of Chineseness: negotiating identities in London

PhD thesis

Lin, X. 2014. ‘Dance’ of Chineseness: negotiating identities in London. PhD thesis Middlesex University School of Law: Social Policy Research Centre
TypePhD thesis
Title‘Dance’ of Chineseness: negotiating identities in London
AuthorsLin, X.

Based on the experiences of Chinese in London, this research has sought to respond to debates about the construction of ethnic identity. It explores how a diverse sample of Chinese people living in London define their identity and the extent to which they construct a shared notion of ‘Chineseness’. In-depth interviews and a focus group were carried out to explore meaning and sensemaking of Chinese identity. Unlike most research on the Chinese in Britain which has studied subgroups of the Chinese, this project involved a diverse range of Chinese people with different backgrounds and experiences. A striking feature of the findings is that the Chinese individuals managed to simultaneously hold on to a sense of an ‘imagined community’ while at the same time accommodating multiple attachments to cultures and places. The experience of being Chinese in London is a complex interplay between the seemingly bright boundary of ‘community’ and the blurry boundaries of multiple identities. It is a dynamic negotiation of these identities in different ways in different contexts. It also involves multiple attachments to different scales of home, not just to the Chinese nation but also places across countries at national and local levels. Chinese identity is a performance of negotiating identities in relation not just to the non-Chinese, but also to other Chinese people. In this ‘dance’ of Chineseness, my own position as a recent migrant from China who speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese was crucial. I encountered shifting identifications by the participants in the course of the interviews, a process which may differ for researchers from other backgrounds. My supervisors, who are non-Chinese, also added important dimensions to the development of the study.

Research GroupSocial Policy Research Centre (SPRC)
Department nameSchool of Law: Social Policy Research Centre
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print05 Jun 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited05 Jun 2014
CompletedApr 2014
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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