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2021 UAlbany Confucius Institute Virtual Speaker Series

Co-sponsored with the UAlbany Department of Sociology


Remittances and Cross-Space Consumption: Social Status Compensation among Underprivileged Chinese Immigrants in the U.S.


Speaker: Prof. Min Zhou
Department of Sociology, UCLA

Friday, February 19, 2021, 12:00 pm via Zoom
Events are free and open to the public.
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Abstract: The study looks at a unique form of immigrant transnational practice—cross-space consumption. We consider monetary remittances and 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. Existing studies find that remittances and cross-space consumption enables international migrants of low socioeconomic status to take advantage of different rates of currency exchange between home and host countries to achieve social status. Drawing on a multi-sited ethnographic study of remittance and consumption patterns in migrant hometowns in Fuzhou, China, and in-depth interviews with immigrants in New York, and their left-behind family members, we show 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 middle-class counterparts to make monetary remittances to and/or consume extravagantly in their hometowns even without being physically present. However, whether they can achieve the intended social status compensation depends largely on how local institutions (informal and formal) in their hometown receive them and their monetary remittances. We identify key mechanisms that enable these compatriots to express and perform social status effectively. We discuss the consequences and implications for emigration and development.

Dr. Min ZHOU received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Albany. She 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 19 books and numerous articles in academic journals or edited books. Her 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 (ASA) Section on International Migration and the 2020 Contribution to the Field Award of the ASA Section on Asia and Asian America.

Remittances and Cross-Space Consumption poster

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