Passing Through Shanghai: Ethnographic Insights into the Mobile Lives of Expatriate Youths

Passing Through Shanghai: Ethnographic Insights into the Mobile Lives of Expatriate Youths

By Marie Sander
Book Description

Passing Through Shanghai examines how children experience international mobility. Focusing on a specific yet diverse group of expatriate youths in contemporary Shanghai, the book investigates how children negotiate cultural identity when they are subject to the highly mobile and often privileged lifestyle associated with their parent’s international careers. The ethnographic fieldwork that informs the book was carried out in Shanghai from 2010 to 2012 and focused on expatriate teenagers’ everyday practices, their lives at international schools, their engagement with the city, their dreams and aspirations, as well as their questions of belonging. The book’s ethnographic approach captures the “in-between” state of moving while growing up and explores teenage practices and positionings in this transitory situation. The teenagers’ own perspectives and experiences of living in expatriate communities contribute to a larger view of the interdependence and contradictions between the aspired flexibility of twenty-first century identities and the rigidity of cultural divisions based on nationality, ethnicity, gender, and class.

Print editions available via Heidelberg University Publishing

Table of Contents
  • Frontmatter
  • Dedication
  • Motto
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
    • Paul’s Experience Growing up on the Move
      • Is Paul a “Third Culture Kid?”
      • How does being young shape the expatriation experience?
      • How can we understand the cultural entanglements of Paul’s world?
      • Why are spatial practices insightful?
    • The structure of this book
  • Part I. Getting Acquainted
    • Chapter 1. Expatriates in Shanghai
    • Chapter 2. Going to School
    • Chapter 3. Joining Two Peer Groups
      • 3.1 Fieldwork with “the girls:” real ambitions and fake Louboutins
      • 3.2 Fieldwork with “the boys:” repulsive moments and aesthetic jellyfish
    • Chapter 4. Meeting Individuals: Four Students’ Narratives of the Self
      • 4.1 Antonia: I consider myself Shanghainese, but others see me as a foreigner
      • 4.2 Bjorn: Shanghai is the best thing that can happen to you, if you’re a villager
      • 4.3 Arnaud: When you are in-between, you can’t be the best at anything
      • 4.4 Xia: I’d like to be like Einstein, a citizen of the world
    • Chapter 5. The Common Ground: Capturing the Heterogeneous Experiences of Expatriate Youths
  • Part II. Leaving
    • Chapter 1. Retrospectives on the Decision to Move
      • 1.1 To move or not to move: the decision-making process
      • 1.2 Family relations and the idea of “best interest”
      • 1.3 Caught in limbo: fearing the next move
    • Chapter 2. The Emotional Challenges of Moving
  • Part III. Arriving
    • Chapter 1. Making Sense of the City
      • 1.1 Navigating the city
      • 1.2 Sensing the city
      • 1.3 Concluding thoughts on managing life in the city
    • Chapter 2. Making Home(s): Houses, Belongings, and Belonging
      • 2.1 Gated community living
      • 2.2 Material practices: belongings, food, and family
        • Personal objects
        • Food
        • Family life and settling in
      • 2.3 (Trans)local ties: theorizing students’ negotiations of home and belonging
        • Talking about home and belonging
        • Students’ positions on home and belonging
      • 2.4 Concluding thoughts on home
    • Chapter 3. Building Community: The Role of International Schools
      • 3.1 Shanghai’s landscape of international schools
      • 3.2 Image and community
      • 3.3 Learning and living “expatriateness”
        • Example 1: Everyday Comforts
        • Example 2: Cultivating Concern
        • Example 3: Convenient Cosmopolitanism
      • 3.4 Privilege and pressure: youths’ experiences at school
      • 3.5 Concluding thoughts on “expatriateness” and the role of schools
  • Part IV. Living
    • Chapter 1. "My Time is Now:” The Role of Age
      • 1.1 Wrong time to move, right time to be there
      • 1.2 Future benefits and the art project “My time is now”
      • 1.3 Rejecting “old people”—claiming spaces
    • Chapter 2. Nightlife: Going Out
      • 2.1 Shanghai’s nightlife spaces
      • 2.2 Open doors and open bars: negotiating access and parental concern
      • 2.3 Practices and transformations: the Friday night routine
      • 2.4 Staging youth culture: concluding thoughts on nightlife practices
    • Chapter 3. The Shop: Hanging Out
      • 3.1 “The shop is our place to chill”
      • 3.2 “The shop is not expat:” The shop as an in-between space
      • 3.3 “The shop is somewhat like a park:” The shop as an open space and street
      • 3.4 Concluding thoughts on the shop
    • Chapter 4. “Guests Stay Guests:” The Lack of “Local” Friends
      • 4.1 Autonomous and special? The demarcation of the expatriate community
      • 4.2 “We don’t fit in:” The gaze of the “other”
      • 4.3 Barriers to “integration,” or, the difficulties of making “Chinese” friends
      • 4.4 Youths’ perceptions of local attitudes towards foreigners
      • 4.5 Concluding thoughts on the local-expat youth divide in Shanghai
  • Part V. Moving On
    • Chapter 1. Goodbyes and Graduation
      • 1.1 Leaving Shanghai
      • 1.2 Celebrating twice: graduation and goodbyes
      • 1.3 Moving on: anticipation and anxieties
      • 1.4 Reflections on leaving Shanghai and what lies ahead
    • Chapter 2. New Beginnings and Concluding Thoughts
  • Appendix
    • Appendix A: Transcription Key
    • Appendix B: Student Directory: Who’s Who?
  • Bibliography
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