“Because I am a Foreigner”: White Migrants’ Navigations of the Chinese State


“Because I am a Foreigner”: White Migrants’ Navigations of the Chinese State

Prof. Pauline Leonard (University of Southampton)


Date and Time: 18 May, 6 pm

Venue: Zoom


You can view the talk on youtube



While numbers of international migrants in China have risen dramatically since the 1970s due to changes in immigration policies, the experiences of migrants remain a complex mix of welcome, misunderstandings and hostility. Many migrants, not least those from the West, come to China with little cultural awareness of China’s distinctive political and social history and society. The settlement process involves attempts to navigate and understand the dynamics of both the state’s and Chinese citizens’ attitudes towards ‘foreigners’ and establish a ‘viable’ subjectivity for both themselves and others. Based on research conducted with English language teachers in Xiamen, this presentation explores the various ways by which white Western migrants articulate the Chinese state and their subjective positions in relation to it and its peoples. It deploys the concept of ‘double voicing’: by which speakers bring together their own voices with that of an imagined ‘other’, to reveal a heightened awareness of the contested and contradictory discourses of ‘foreignness’ and ‘whiteness’ by which they are governed. While the diversity and instability of all white migrants’ relationships to power and security in this context is demonstrated, social structural factors endure to mitigate risks of precarity.

Pauline Leonard is Professor of Sociology, Director of the Web Science Institute and Director of the Work Futures Research Centre at the University of Southampton. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and of the Royal Society of Arts.  Pauline’s principle research interests are in diversity and the changing nature of work. She has published widely on gender and organizations, race and professional migration, age, employability, technology and careers. Some recent examples are: Conway, D., & Leonard, P. (2014). Migration, space and transnational identities: The British in South Africa. (Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship). Palgrave Macmillan; Leonard, P. (Ed.), & Lehmann, A. (2019). Destination China: Immigration to China in the post reform era. Palgrave Macmillan.

This event is sponsored by the ERC-funded ChinaWhite research project (www.china-white.org). It is free and open to the public, but registration is required.