Examining ethnic identity and stereotypes of American-raised Chinese undergraduates in Texas
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Although there have been many studies focusing on Asian Americans’ ethnic identity and the stereotypes associated with them, little is known about how Asian Americans negotiate their multiple layers of ethnic identity and respond to the stereotypes imposed on them. The main goals of the current study were to examine American-Raised Chinese’ (i.e., Chinese who were born and/or raised in America) multiple layers of ethnic identity and their negotiation process of these multiple layers of ethnic identity, the relationship between their ethnic identity and stereotypes, and the creative ways American-Raised Chinese interpreted and responded to stereotypes. Another goal of this study was to examine the role of an ethnic student organization on campus and American-Raised Chinese’s participation in the organization. Through Chinese Cultural Association, I interviewed eighteen informants and observed their daily practices in public and private settings. The findings indicated that American-Raised Chinese undergraduates choosing to participate in an ethnic student organization over other organizations reflected their active negotiation of the multilayered ethnic identity. In addition, by meeting Chinese of different nationalities on campus and abroad, these undergraduates came to realize the diverse background of Chinese individuals, leading them to reexamine and reconstruct their ethnic identity. In particular, these undergraduates developed diasporic Chinese identity that not only acknowledged the diversity of Chinese community in America in terms of nationality, but also transformed their American identity into “ethnic” identity among Chinese of different nationalities. The findings also showed that American-Raised Chinese’ negotiation of their ethnic identity was closely related to their perception of the stereotypes. The informants came to recognize the changing nature of stereotypes and this realization led them to reconstrue their understanding of ethnic identity. Furthermore, using anecdotes of American-Raised Chinese undergraduates’ self impersonation, I argued that these undergraduates proactively responded to the stereotypes by making parody about themselves. Through self impersonation, these undergraduates achieved the double intents of performing themselves as Asian American and simultaneously challenged what the dominant American society expected them to be.