Cultural capital and consumption practices for embodied acculturation: The case of educated and affluent Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong

Mak, Connie and Xu, Bill (2022) Cultural capital and consumption practices for embodied acculturation: The case of educated and affluent Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong. In: The Migration Conference 2022, 7-10 September 2022, Rabat, Morocco.

Cultural Capital and Consumption practices for acculturation - Chinese migrants to Hong Kong
Abstract - Cultural Capital and Consumption practices for acculturation .pdf - Abstract

Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


While acculturation research on migration tends to adopt a psychological orientation and focuses on migrants’ adaptation challenges in distinct host cultures, our study draws on the practice theories (e.g. works of P. Bourdieu, E. Shove and A. Warde) to explore the ‘process’ of how educated and affluent immigrants from the Mainland China and Taiwan adapt to their new life in the city of Hong Kong. We explore how this particular group of migrants mobilize cultural resources and embodied consumption practices to negotiate for existence and new identity in the new social setting. Do migrants with similar ethnic background and relatively good economic capital find the need of acculturation and integration at all? How do they mobilize their cultural competence and practices to achieve acculturation by embodying desirable habitus? From where do migrants acquire those cultural skills and knowing? Are they pre-exist before migration or acquired and accrued over time (Skeggs, 2004)? Unlike most existing research which take a cross-sectional view, we adopt a processual perspective to unveil the dynamics of how embodied practices and sources of acquiring them change over the trajectory of migration.

While acculturation studies for Asia regions are comparatively scarce, the three places of Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan present a unique bordering case study to understand the malleable structure-agency relationship. Though sharing common historical roots and ethnic Chinese background, the three places have been undergoing dissimilar political regimes and value socialization, yet increasingly converging in terms of economic mutuality. The educated and affluent group is chosen in this study since the government has launched policies to attract such group of ‘talents’ and aims to see successful assimilation. Further, this group of migrants tends to have higher economic capital and lower financial concerns, and thus enable the study to focus on the role of cultural capital in acculturation.

The biographic narratives generated from 15 migrants suggest that nuanced cultural competence constitutes their proficiency in accommodating migration hysteresis. Their embodied practices and performative knowing determine their perceived well-being in the new destination. Cultural barriers or borders are found to be better traversed and acculturation efficacy are better attained through prior familiarity with the host culture, readiness for integration, language similarity, appreciation of host virtues and prudent fusion of consumption practices. While these cultural resources and practices are crucial, their relative salience evolve over time and induce a process of using, not using and adjusting. Migrants also shift between impalpable cultural borders to broaden their resource scope to optimize their consumption competence in daily life. Sources of socialization are also found changing over stages of migration. For instance, the influence of workplace counterparts and immediate family members or relatives gradually subsides with the emergence of other social acquaintances and quotidian observations, including social media, neighbourhood, market communications and even referent others on the streets. Our data show the mutability of habitus in cross-border cultural assimilation. The evolution of nuanced competence found in the study also provides practical implications to policy makers and migration authorities.

Keywords:Acculturation, migration, cultural capital, cultural practices, habitus, Chinese, Hong Kong
Subjects:L Social studies > L300 Sociology
N Business and Administrative studies > N200 Management studies
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
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ID Code:49687
Deposited On:07 Jun 2022 12:28

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