Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Sari K. Biklen


Chinese American, Education, Identity, Racialization, Segmented Assimilation

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This qualitative study explores how Chinese American women, as American-born children of new Chinese immigrants, have perceived and interpreted who they are, and how they become who they are while adapting to American society and negotiating with the interplay of race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Drawing on in-depth interviews with twenty-seven Chinese American women from two universities located on the East Coast, I argue that their segmented assimilation processes involving ongoing negotiations between maintaining ties with their ethnic and cultural backgrounds and selective integration into the mainstream of the society, which, to some extent, are subject to and predetermined by their parents` pre- and post-migration conditions. At the same time, my participants also struggled with how their self-defined ethnic identity intertwined with a socially constructed racial identity.

My data show multiple settlement patterns among new Chinese immigrants, including traditional ethnic enclaves, and suburban white areas as well as a diverse class composition of college-educated professionals, small business owners, and working-class laborers. Those professionals from middle-class backgrounds had higher upward mobility and less residential restrictions. Participants who grew up in white neighborhoods and inner-city ethnic enclaves had different ways of understanding what it means to be Chinese American. Their identification is also subject to how they incorporated educational values and resources from their family and formal schooling into their own understandings of the social world they live in, how they negotiated their situatedness between their ethnic culture and the mainstream, and how they were recognized by others while dealing with stereotypes and discrimination. As a consequence, their identities changed over time when they were positioned in different social contexts and locations.


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