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Cross-Space Consumption and Social Status Compensation: Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Chinese Immigrants in the United States

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January 29, 2019 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Min Zhou

About the talk:

The presentation looks at a unique form of immigrant transnational practice—cross-space consumption. We consider the act of consumption to have not only functional value that satisfies material needs, but also social value that confers symbolic meaning and social status. We argue that cross-space consumption enables international migrants of low socioeconomic backgrounds to take advantage of the differences in currency exchange rates, levels of economic development, and local social structures between home and host countries to achieve social status or social status compensation. Drawing on a multisited ethnographic study of consumption patterns in migrant hometowns in Fuzhou, China, and in-depth interviews with immigrants in New York, and their left-behind family members, we find that, despite the vulnerabilities and precarious circumstances in the host society, socioeconomically disadvantaged immigrants from rural China, the undocumented included, are more likely than their urban middleclass counterparts to consume extravagantly in their hometowns even without being physically present there. We identify key mechanisms that enable them to express and perform social status effectively and discuss the consequences and implications for emigration and development.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Min ZHOU is currently Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies, Walter & Shirley Wang Endowed Chair in US-China Relations & Communications, and Director of the Asia Pacific Center at UCLA. She was Tan Lark Sye Chair Professor of Sociology and Director of the Chinese Heritage Centre, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (2013-16). Dr. Zhou’s main areas of research are in: migration and development, the new second generation, ethnic entrepreneurship, ethnic/racial relations, Asia and Asian America, and Chinese diasporas. She has published widely in these areas, including 17 books and numerous journal articles and book chapters. Her most recent publications include Contemporary Chinese Diasporas (ed. 2017), The Rise of the New Second Generation (with Bankston, 2016), and The Asian American Achievement Paradox (with Lee, 2015), which won five major book awards. She is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Career Award of the American Sociological Association Section on International Migration.

Free and open to the public. Please RSVP here.

Event Sponsor: 
Sociology Department, Center for East Asian Studies
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