“You Speak Good English”: Stereotyping of the Perpetual Foreigner

“You Speak Good English”: Stereotyping of the Perpetual Foreigner

Rong Chang (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA) and Sarah L. Morris (Georgia Gwinnett College, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7467-7.ch005
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Abstract

This chapter describes how the first author, Rong, has experienced stereotyping as a Chinese female immigrant and doctoral student in America, as her experiences typify the experiences of the model minority. Drawing from Rong's personal journal reflections, the authors use autoethnography as the methodology to present her lived experiences as research. Through reflections on Rong's own understandings, this writing seeks to connect individual experiences to larger social, cultural, and political conditions of the United States (Ellis, 2004). The authors recount four different personal encounters with stereotyping in Rong's local community and in the process of pursuing higher education, and discuss the psychosocial impacts resulting from this type of discrimination. Through this work, the authors seek to contribute to the discourse of the social problem of stereotyping for the so-called “model minority.”
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Introduction And Method

In this chapter, the authors examine and analyze Rong’s life experiences in order to interpret collective stereotyping behaviors. Through Rong’s unique perspectives on stereotyping as a Chinese immigrant, the authors explore her life experiences in her local community and in the process of pursuing higher education. They also discuss the psychosocial impact of being stereotyped and the limitations Rong has experienced from this type of discrimination.

Using data from Rong’s personal journals and reflections, the authors employ autoethnography as methodology for looking deeply at her lived experiences. According to Bochner (2013), autoethnography is a research methodology that allows the writer (as a researcher) to investigate his or her own life experiences through writing as meaning making and reflection, allowing a conversation to grow between and among voices with others. As the researcher writes and examines his or her lived experiences, one person's feelings will connect to another’s by “inviting readers into the lived experiences of a presumed ‘other’ and to experience it viscerally” (Boylorn & Orbe, 2013, p. 15). In this piece, autoethnography becomes a conversation between stories of one author’s, Rong’s, lived experiences and both authors’ (Rong’s and Sarah’s) reflective analyses of those lived-experience stories within the framework of the literature on model minority and perpetual foreigner stereotypes. Together, the authors strive for a cohesive voice that reveals the ways these stereotypes manifest in the lives of everyday Asian Americans as illuminated in Rong’s lived stories.

As members of a marginalized, and sometimes misunderstood, community, Asian Americans need their lived experiences to be told, heard, and understood. Therefore, using autoethnography as a methodology serves the purpose of presenting “research, writing, story, and method that connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political” (Ellis, 2004, xix). In this way, the researchers’ descriptive, evocative, and emotional writing becomes a social inquiry, which then intertwines many people's life experiences through the autoethnographic work (Anderson & Glass-Coffin, 2013). Toward this end, this work hopes to answer Pong’s (2012) call for autoethnography as a way to give scholarly voice where there is a dearth of it even amidst a wealth of other types of literature, bringing forward the lived experiences of Asian Americans in particular.

Within the scholarly frame of autoethnography, then, the authors illustrate and discuss the stereotype of model minority/perpetual foreigner and its meaning to and impact upon Asian Americans. In doing so, they hope to bring awareness to the harmfulness of this type of discrimination, as well as to make suggestions for the use of autoethnographic story as a tool for teaching.

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