Chineseness across Borders

Renegotiating Chinese Identities in China and the United States

Chineseness across Borders

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 21 b&w photos, 1 map Published: March 2004

Author: Andrea Louie

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian American Studies, Asian Studies > East Asia

What happens when Chinese American youths travel to mainland China in search of their ancestral roots, only to realize that in many ways they still feel out of place, or when mainland Chinese realize that the lives of the Chinese abroad may not be as good as they had imagined? By considering programs designed to facilitate interactions between overseas Chinese and their ancestral homelands, Andrea Louie highlights how these programs not only create opportunities for new connections but also reveal the disjunctures that now separate Chinese Americans from China and mainland Chinese from the Chinese abroad.

Louie focuses on “In Search of Roots,” a program that takes young Chinese American adults of Cantonese descent to visit their ancestral villages in China’s Guangdong province. Through ethnographic interviews and observation, Louie examines the experiences of Chinese Americans both during village visits in China and following their participation in the program, which she herself took part in as an intern and researcher. She presents a vivid portrait of two populations who, though connected through family ties generations back, are meeting for the first time in the context of a rapidly changing contemporary China. Louie situates the participants’ and hosts’ shifting understandings of China and Chineseness within the context of transnational flows of people, media, goods, and money; China’s political and economic policies; and the racial and cultural politics of the United States.


"Chineseness Across Borders is at heart a study of how Chinese-Americans feel about their origins. . . . [F]ascinating. . . . This is a sane and responsible study. It's blessedly lacking in academic jargon." — Bradley Winterton, Taipei Times

"[A] lively, timely book on a topic of global interest." — Philippe Couton, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

"[T]he book throws useful light on the scope of complexity of multicultural life." — Hugh D.R. Baker , Social Anthropology

"Louie writes sensitively about her group’s encounter with their Chinese hosts and skilfully explores its complex interactions. She conducted her fieldwork on many sites and in diverse settings. She developed an innovative methodology for her ethnography of genealogical tourism and the ethnic rally that she calls ‘mobile anthropology’. Thus, her methods match her thesis, that the identity of young Chinese Americans is protean and transilient rather than tied to a single place or viewpoint." — Gregor Benton , Ethnic and Racial Studies

"This book provides great insights of the multiple ways to craft relationships with China and the multiple formations of cultural identities. [Louie's] transnational perspectives can be great use to scholars, educators, and teachers seeking culturally relevant ways of teaching as well as to sociologists and ethnographers." — Chiharu H. Uchida , Anthropology & Education Quarterly

"While the tidbits of personal narratives are the most interesting, Louie's extensively researched treatise explores the ever-changing Chinese American identity." — Terry Hong , Asian Week

“Andrea Louie provides an engaging ethnography of the dual investment of mainland Chinese and Chinese American youth in defining what it is to be Chinese in diaspora. Louie’s attention to the role of the Chinese state in fostering ‘geneological tourism’ helps to break new ground in Asian American and diaspora studies.” — Kamala Visweswaran, author of Fictions of Feminist Ethnography

“Andrea Louie seamlessly guides a discussion of China and Chinese America from the difficult topography of race and nation to the heartfelt search for the understanding of ancestry and home.” — Shawn Wong, author of the novel American Knees

“Andrea Louie’s work heralds a new and important phase in the anthropology of transnationalism and globalization. She has produced a very convincing and elegantly nuanced ethnographic exploration of Chinese and Chinese American negotiations of ‘Chineseness.’” — Martin F. Manalansan IV, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Andrea Louie is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: On Boundary Crossings 1

1 Identities Fixed in Place: Ancestral Villages and Chinese/Chinese American Roots 39

2 Welcome Home!(?): Crafting a Sense of Place in the United States through the In Search of Roots Homeland Tour 69

3 Crafting Chinese American Identities: Roots Narratives in the Context of U.S. Multiculturalism 95

4 The Feng Shui Has Taken a Turn (feng shui lun liu zhuan): Changing Views of the Guangdong Chinese toward Life Abroad Following the Open Policy 127

5 The Descendants of the Dragon Gather: The Youth Festival as Encounter between the Chinese and the Chinese American Other 161

6 Remaking Places and Renegotiating Chineseness 189

Epilogue 205

Notes 211

Bibliography 229

Index 239
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3263-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3236-7
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