Negotiating identity: experiences of 'visiting home' among Chinese Americans

Maruyama, Naho U. and Weber, Ian and Stronza, Amanda L. (2010) Negotiating identity: experiences of 'visiting home' among Chinese Americans. Tourism, Culture and Communication, 10 (1). pp. 1-14. ISSN 1098-304X

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'Roots tourism' is loosely defined as a type of tourism in which ethnic minorities visit their ancestral lands to discover ethnic roots and culture. Despite the recent popularity of this type of tourism, many gaps remain in the study of roots tourism, particularly about its influence on the tourists’ identity. This exploratory study investigates the ways in which second and subsequent generations of Chinese Americans discuss their identity and feelings of belonging after visiting China. Face-to-face, in-depth interviews with Chinese Americans revealed that, contrary to the idea that roots tourism experiences provide individuals with strong feelings of belonging to one’s ancestral land, interviewees did not return from their visit with a feeling of connection to China. Rather, they reported a need to negotiate and redefine who they were and where they belonged. This study highlights how physical markers of Chinese identity added complexity to the negotiation of one’s identity. Because the interviewees “looked” Chinese, in a variety of situations they were automatically assumed to be Chinese while their American identity was ignored. Although Chinese Americans occasionally took advantage of such ascribed identity as Chinese, they often felt frustration, anger, and ambiguity about how they defined themselves and how others defined
them. As a result of visiting China, although Chinese American tourists developed a certain sense of affinity to their ancestral land, they also affirmed that their true home was in the US. This study suggests a complexity and limitation to fostering a sense of belonging to their ancestral land through roots tourism.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Published version deposited in accordance with copyright conditions of publisher (Cognizant).
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Learning and Teaching Support Unit
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Learning and Teaching Support Unit
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2010 06:07
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2012 03:10
Uncontrolled Keywords: roots tourism; Chinese American; diaspora; globalism; identity negotiation
Fields of Research (2008): 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200208 Migrant Cultural Studies
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200202 Asian Cultural Studies
16 Studies in Human Society > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169903 Studies of Asian Society
21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210312 North American History
14 Economics > 1402 Applied Economics > 140216 Tourism Economics
16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160805 Social Change
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): B Economic Development > 90 Commercial Services and Tourism > 9003 Tourism > 900302 Socio-Cultural Issues in Tourism
C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9502 Communication > 950201 Communication Across Languages and Culture
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society
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