Author

Hui Qian

Date of Award

8-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Kristin M. Langellier

Second Committee Member

Eric E. Peterson

Third Committee Member

Laura Lindenfeld

Abstract

Focusing on previous research on the de/reconstruction of identity in terms of personal, group, and cultural contexts through food performance, this study approaches food as performance and food in performance. Specifically it considers hot pot as a symbolic Chinese dish and a unique embodiment of Chinese ritual culture practice, through which a small group of Chinese sojourning students in Maine use their Chinese bodies and Chinese language to create a “home-like” liminal time and space in the physical time and space of the United States. Moreover, as a site where the relationship between the self and the other is contested, food—in this case, hot pot—serves as a border and enables culturally dislocated people like Chinese sojourners in Maine mark “the self’ from “the other”, as well as incorporating “the other” into “the self’ based on their hot pot practice and performance. It is through this process of doing, behaving, and showing hot pot that those Chinese sojourners’ Chinese bodies and identities are lived and performed. To explore those issues, this study relies on the phenomenological and ethnographic roots of performance studies as its methods, namely semiotic phenomenology, performance ethnography, and narrative performance. The researcher participated in and observed a hot pot ritual event and interviewed seven participants. Along with analysis of these Chinese sojourning students’ embodied narrative performance, the researcher presented 26 themes related to their performance of personal, group, and cultural identities that emerged through the translated and transcribed audiotaped event and interviews. The researcher used Victor Turner’s (1967) three-step flow of ritual process to analyze these themes and interpreted their meanings as movements through separation, liminality, and reaggregation of performing hot pot. All these together represented this small group of Chinese sojourning students’ lived experience of cooking and eating hot pot together in Maine, as well as their embodied performance of Chinese bodies and personal/group/cultural identities. Overall my study provided a way of rethinking Chinese sojourners’ identities, their culture, and their lived experience in Maine.

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