In Pursuit of Flexibility: U.S. Higher Education and Young Overseas Chinese Elites
Haverford College. Department of Sociology
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This paper investigates the pursuit of "flexible citizenship" (FC) through U.S higher education system among young overseas Chinese elites and describes its relationship with Berry's (1997) model of acculturation strategies (AS). Drawing upon in-depth interviews with 30 undergraduate Chinese students from eight elite colleges and universities in the U.S., this paper outlines the structural forces and psychological processes that are involved in the pursuit of FC. I argue that not all the young overseas Chinese elites have the motives to pursue or attain FC, and FC can only be pursued through the adoption of a certain AS. More specifically, findings from my research suggest that: 1) Two motives for the young overseas Chinese elites to pursue FC through U.S higher education system are: a. He/she/they is interested in acquiring a permanent residency in the United States. b. He/she/they is interested in working/living in a place where the cultural/social/symbolic capital one accumulates through U.S higher education could boost or facilitate his life orcareer there. 2) "FC" can be pursued in the education system if and only if one adopts an "integration" strategy, as defined in Berry's model, in the acculturation process. In other words, adopting any one of the other three ASs in the same model (assimilation, separation, and marginalization) does not lead to the pursuit, or the attainment of FC.