Chinese Overseas

Comparative Cultural Issues


Tan Chee-beng

ISBN : 978-962-209-662-2

Cultural Studies, Gender Studies

March 2004

272 pages, 6″ x 9″

  • HK$170.00

Also available in Hardback HK$0.00

This book examines issues of cultural change and identity construction of Chinese overseas, as well as other important issues such as Chinese and non-Chinese relations, and cultural and economic performance. It offers a perspective of understanding Chinese overseas in nation-states and beyond, in a global context which the author describes as the Chinese ethnological field.

The author’s many years of research on cultural change and Chinese ethnicity in Southeast Asia enables him to describe vividly the effects of localization — the process of becoming local and identifying with the locals — on Chinese ethnicity and cultural identities. This informative and theoretically interesting book enables readers to have a deeper understanding of the issue of Chinese and Chinese-ness in the diaspora.

Tan Chee-Beng is Chairperson of the Department of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“Professor Tan Chee-Beng’s major contribution is his study on Chinese acculturation (which he calls ‘localization’) in Malaysia and beyond, arguing that ‘acculturation’ does not make the ethnic Chinese lose their ethnic identity. He also maintains that one has to study Chinese overseas beyond national boundaries, and ‘Chinese Ethnological Field,’ which includes the Chinese in China, should be studied in order to have a proper perspective. This is an interesting book and is theoretically important.” —Professor Dr Leo Suryadinata, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

Chinese Overseas: Comparative Cultural Issues uses the concept of a Chinese ethnological field to examine variation in the experience of Chinese in diaspora. The author brings together a set of well-documented essays that address variation in such areas as cultural continuity and change, local culture production, cultural and ethnic identity development, and culture and economic activities. Each essay is written to stand alone as well as contribute to the whole. Each reflects the breadth and depth of perspective of a senior scholar with long-term research and teaching experience in the subject matter. The result is reading of interest and value for a diverse audience.” —Jocelyn Armstrong, Associate Professor and Anthropologist, Department of Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“In Chinese Overseas, Tan Chee-Beng compares the experiences of the Chinese in Malaysia to other Chinese societies in Southeast Asia, China, the West, and beyond. Comparison within what he terms the ‘Chinese ethnological field’ allows Tan to observe the similarities and the differences, continuities of the common ancestral culture but also its transformation over time, resulting in a variety of localized cultures within that Chinese ethnological field. Significantly, Chinese Overseas distinguishes clearly the processes of assimilation, acculturation and integration and highlights the differences between ethnic, cultural and national identities. The book challenges cultural essentialist approaches with regard to overseas Chinese economic success, as well as post-modernist notions about flexible citizenship and unbounded identities among those in the Chinese diaspora. An important contribution to the literature.” —Francis K. W. Loh, Professor of Politics, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang