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Title: Transnational identities, multiculturalism or assimilation? China’s ‘refugee-returnees’ and generational transitions
Keywords: Return migration
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Citation: HO LYNN EE,ELAINE (2014). Transnational identities, multiculturalism or assimilation? China’s ‘refugee-returnees’ and generational transitions. Modern Asian Studies. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: This paper investigates the tensions brought forth when transnational identities are juxtaposed against claims of multiculturalism and de facto assimilation processes. The paper focuses on the resettlement of co-ethnics who arrived in China under forced migration circumstances during 1949-1979 and the generational transitions of their progeny. The Chinese state resettled these forced migrants from Southeast Asia in state-owned farms known as the overseas Chinese farms and gave them preferential treatment as ‘returnees’ rather than ‘refugees’. They retained transnational cultural identities that set them apart from the China-born Chinese and suffered further stigmatisation during the Cultural Revolution. The paper signals the limitations of using ethnicity as a lens for understanding how ‘difference’ is negotiated in China. In contemporary times the (multi)cultural identities of the refugee-returnees are promoted as tourism features to help reinvent the farms for economic sustainability. Yet the identity transitions experienced by the progeny of the refugee-returnees suggests they are assimilating into a national identity that subsumes their overseas Chinese cultures, serving to normalize a Chinese identity associated with the locally born Chinese instead. The paper argues that the objectification of overseas Chinese heritage and an assimilation ideology work together to highlight China’s historical connections to its co-ethnics abroad selectively while simultaneously projecting a new national narrative of contemporary Chinese identity that is distinct from the overseas Chinese. This paper on Chinese forced migration and resettlement provides useful insights concerning transnational identity negotiations with respect to multiculturalism and assimilation, and further suggests new directions for overseas Chinese studies today.
Source Title: Modern Asian Studies
ISSN: 0026749x
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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