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Title: Making Chineseness in transdiasporic space : it's a matter of ethnic taste
Author: Heng, Terence
ISNI:       0000 0004 2714 0855
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis addresses shortfalls in the sociological literature on diaspora, ethnicity and ethnicity-making amongst diasporic individuals. My original contribution is an improved and more nuanced take on diasporic individuals’ ethnicities and the mechanisms through which these ethnicities are made. I will do this by reconfiguring collectivist versions of diaspora into an individualised transdiasporic space, and redefining ethnicity as transdiasporic ethnicity. Transdiasporic ethnicities are made in the social intimacies and distances between individuals and between their ethnic lifestyles (sets of aesthetic markers). Such distances are affected by individuals’ ethnic tastes – preferences for or against different lifestyles. My arguments are based on a study of Chinese Singaporeans and their wedding rituals. Weddings are microcosms of transdiasporic space – multiple crossroads for intersecting diasporic journeys and everyday lives. I will employ a visually-focussed form of participant observation, arguing that the use of photographs with text creates a richer space to do sociological work. I will also develop a methodological framework of photography as visual poetry, creating an emotional texture that text alone struggles to achieve. Chinese Singaporeans engage in outward-facing taste performances which reveal their ethnic lifestyles to others. Juxtaposed taste performances often lead to aesthetic dissonance, which encourages individuals to make decisions affecting their ethnic tastes. This tends to result in social distancing between two socially prominent ethnic lifestyles which were politically defined and are now part of popular discourse – “heartlander” and “cosmopolitan”. These lifestyles are often held in tension and tend to be connected to different levels of economic wealth. Commercial activities in weddings perpetuate such linkages, such that socioeconomic aspirations often texture ethnic tastes. I will conclude by considering what aesthetic dissonance says about concepts of ethnic hybridity and syncretism, and propose that a Chinese Singaporean’s economic life-path continues to be affected by the ethnic lifestyles she is socially intimate with.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available