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Permanent Outsiders in China

American Migrants’ Otherness in the Chinese Gaze


Yang Liu

This book situates migrating individuals’ sense of Otherness in receiving countries front and center and systematically illustrates the configuration of Western migrants’ Other-identity during their reverse migration from the West to China, which has become a new destination of international migration due to its rise to prominence in the global labor market. Consequently, international migrants from Western countries, especially those with skills desired in China, have become this country’s main target in the global race for talent. In this context, this book attends to American migrants on the Chinese mainland, who are perceived as the prototypical waiguoren in this region, as an illuminating case, and illustrates the configuration of their Other-identity, rising from their intercultural adaptation as the privileged but marginalized Other in an asymmetric power structure. This book also attempts to reveal the condition and process of Chinese Othering of American migrants that exists but is far less openly discussed in China.

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Chapter Two: Research Design Guided by Grounded Theory


As discussed in previous chapters, international migrants’ Other-identity is insufficiently examined in intercultural communication studies, let alone from their perspectives. These migrating individuals’ muteness is attributable to their marginalized and powerless position during intercultural encounters, which mainly represent the worldviews of the dominant group (Nakayama & Martin, 2017; Orbe, 1998). However, the scholarly attention to and inclusion of marginalized groups’ perspectives are significant because these individuals can see “dominant societal structures from the positioning of an ‘outside-within’” (Collins, 1986, as cited in Orbe, 1998, p. 5). Therefore, this study adopts an emic angle to explore how American migrants perceived their intercultural experiences and explained the formulation of their Otherness in the Chinese context from their eyes. There can be no wrong answer for participants in emic studies. Even if they may expose blind spots and be deluded on some issues, what the actors think is more important than what really happened because their actions are based on what they believe is salient and important for them (Berry, Poortinga, Segall, & Dasen, 2002). To put it differently, it is what we believe is true rather than what is in some objective or absolute way “true” that dictates action in our daily lives.

This research primarily relies on the qualitative approach for two reasons. First, research on culture should take contexts into consideration. As Rabinow (1986) argued, “conversation, between individuals or cultures, is only possible within ←35 | 36→contexts shaped and constrained by historical, cultural, and political relations and the...

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