Louie focuses on “In Search of Roots,” a program that takes young Chinese American adults of Cantonese descent to visit their ancestral villages in China’s Guangdong province. Through ethnographic interviews and observation, Louie examines the experiences of Chinese Americans both during village visits in China and following their participation in the program, which she herself took part in as an intern and researcher. She presents a vivid portrait of two populations who, though connected through family ties generations back, are meeting for the first time in the context of a rapidly changing contemporary China. Louie situates the participants’ and hosts’ shifting understandings of China and Chineseness within the context of transnational flows of people, media, goods, and money; China’s political and economic policies; and the racial and cultural politics of the United States.
Andrea Louie is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State University.
Based on a comparative ethnographic study of white and Asian American adoptive parents over an eight year period, How Chinese Are You? explores how white adoptive parents, adoption professionals, Chinese American adoptive parents, and teens adopted from China as children negotiate meanings of Chinese identity in the context of race, culture, and family. Viewing Chineseness as something produced, rather than inherited, Andrea Louie examines how the idea of “ethnic options” differs for Asian American versus white adoptive parents as they produce Chinese adoptee identities, while re-working their own ethnic, racial, and parental identities. Considering the broader context of Asian American cultural production, Louie analyzes how both white and Asian American adoptive parents engage in changing understandings of and relationships with “Chineseness” as a form of ethnic identity, racial identity, or cultural capital over the life course. Louie also demonstrates how constructions of Chinese culture and racial identity dynamically play out between parents and their children, and for Chinese adoptee teenagers themselves as they “come of age.” How Chinese Are You? is an engaging and original study of the fluidity of race, ethnicity, and cultural identity in modern America.