Negotiating Multi-layered Cultural Identities: A Study of Pan-Chinese Immigrant Descendants in Belgium


  • Hsien-Ming Lin PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology, KU Leuven
  • Yu-Hsien Sung Ghent University; National Sun-Yat Sen University



Belgium, Hybridity identity, In-betweenness, Identity negotiation, Pan-Chinese immigration


This study makes use of hybridity identity theory and the dynamic perspective of identity negotiation as a framework for exploring how pan-Chinese immigrant descendants in Belgium culturally and ethno-nationally identify themselves, how they negotiate with various ethno-national identity labels, and how they perceive differences between their immigrant parents’ heritage culture and the culture of Belgian host society. Ethnographic and qualitative research methods were employed to collect data from 2017 to 2019 at Sun Yat-sen heritage school in Brussels. Based on 200 hours of participant observation and 30 interviews conducted with immigrant descendants, the results indicate that cultural differences could be observed in participants’ familial and social life, including education, parenting, and lifestyle. Moreover, three vital dimensions whereby pan-Chinese immigrant descendants negotiate, perform, and situate their cultural and ethnic identity are food practices, popular cultural consumptions, and friendships. Notably, few participants identify themselves as either Chinese or Belgian; the majority espouses a dual identity and tends to place their identity “in-between” the pan-Chinese and Belgian ethnic affiliations. This study further finds that the descendants of Taiwanese immigrants find it difficult to settle their cultural and ethnic identity as they frequently struggle to establish a sense of belonging. 


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How to Cite

Lin, H.-M., & Sung, Y.-H. (2020). Negotiating Multi-layered Cultural Identities: A Study of Pan-Chinese Immigrant Descendants in Belgium. Migration Letters, 17(6), 765–780.