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Co-construction of categorical power relations in kin interaction

Hsin-fu Chiu
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  • Department of Modern Languages and Literature, California State University, Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA
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Published Online: 2018-09-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glochi-2018-0015


Drawing upon ethnographic video-recordings of kin interactions in Chinese diaspora communities, I provide qualitative accounts of the parenting style by mothers of Chinese descent, and discuss the effect of their parenting on Chinese-American children’s development. My 72-hour digital data corpus yields evidence that a child, born to an authoritarian mother, assembles actions-in-interaction that not only position the mother high in esteem but also self-position his/her-self keenly alert to the mother’s effective power. In particular, prior to the enjoyment of, or privileged access to, leisure activities, the child will demonstrate his/her deference by initiating interactional rituals to secure parental approval; in responding to the mother’s moves of control, the child will display moral accountability by swift alignment with social impositions embedded in the mother’s control. By way of illustration, I argue that ways in which categorical power relations are orchestrated in kin interactions not only mirror mothers’ senses of themselves but also shape children’s construal of their own selves, the ones that are interdependent on other members in the family.

Keywords: language and power; ethnography of communication; language socialization; actions in social interaction


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-09-27

Published in Print: 2018-09-25

Citation Information: Global Chinese, Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 315–336, ISSN (Online) 2199-4382, ISSN (Print) 2199-4374, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glochi-2018-0015.

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