Community-based education and the formation of ethnic identity: Case study in a Chinese American community
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Using qualitative research methods, the dissertation closely examines the daily living experiences in a suburban Chinese American community and explores how the community-based ethnic education, including the heritage language educational programs and other community-based cultural activities, affect the ethnic identity formation of the youth in the community. My investigation draws on three theoretic approaches, namely, theory of Diaspora identity, theory of class ethos and habitus, and method of compositional analysis. Based on the data, I analyze the rationale, mechanism, and limitation of the community-based ethnic education and ethnic identity production in the community. I argue that there exists a unique ethos in the community as a result of the combined influences of a range of local, national, and transnational social and economic factors. This community ethos leads to the active participation of the local Chinese Americans in community-based ethnic education and the maintenance of a strong ethnic identity in the community. The ways in which the local Chinese Americans produce their ethnic identity in relation to the community-based education are multifold and highly delicate, which involve strategies of exclusion and inclusion and intensive use of imagined common history and cultural symbols. Meanwhile, this production process is characterized by the constant negotiation and resistance of the youth. As a part of Chinese ethnic networks, the community life including the ethnic education is greatly impacted by the circulation of people, materials, and mass media products within the networks. Finally, I stress the limitation of the ethnic identity production within the community. Notwithstanding the active role of the local social agents, the local Chinese American community and ethnic educational institution are highly structured production sites. The power struggles over these contesting sites are constant while multiple national and global forces and their institutional agents try to dominate the local ideological production process. In conclusion, I point out the need to contextualize ethnic community forces in concrete social conditions, and call for further investigations on how various groups both within and outside the United States are positioned and how they are positioning themselves in light of such positioning in the changing global settings.