Chineseness as a moving target. Language and identity transformations in the Chinese diaspora in Eindhoven, the Netherlands

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The Chinese are one of the earliest established immigrant communities in the Netherlands and they are part of the new ‘superdiversity’ of metropolitan societies around the world, where the relative clarity of previous migration patterns is overlaid by vastly more complex, multilayered and less stable trajectories of movement. Understanding globalization as superdiversity (i.e. as a diversification of diversity instead of a homogenization of global culture in local language and culture practices), this paper aims to disentangle the complexities of being and knowing Chinese in the Netherlands, with respect to internal diversities within Chineseness and its relation to changing Chinese language ideologies. The empirical starting point for this contribution is an ethnographic project among young people of Chinese heritage living in the Netherlands in and around the setting of a complementary Chinese language school in the city of Eindhoven. The paper focuses on the polycentricity of Chinese, the transformations that occur in the linguistic culinary landscape and the discursive identity construction of Chinese-Dutch youth. Using a multi-site ethnographic methodology data are collected through structured observations, interviews with Chinese community members, linguistic landscaping and online ethnography. Overall, the paper argues that an ongoing shift along with demographic, economic and political changes in China has altered migration patterns, language ideologies and linguistic landscapes in the Chinese diaspora in the Netherlands. Young people of Chinese heritage articulate a whole repertoire of inhabited and ascribed identities, and they do so by means of a complex display and deployment of the ensemble of linguistic and communicative resources at their disposal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-158
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Asian and Pacific Communication
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2021


  • Chinese diaspora
  • polycentricity
  • identity
  • linguistic landscaping
  • multi-site ethnography


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