Ben Chia-hung Lu

Research Area 1

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Stay at EEGA: two and a half weeks in August 2017

Project: Rethinking “Chinese” Migrants in Postsocialist Germany

How do Chinese migrants negotiate their Chinese identity in postsocialist Germany?

This is a rarely discussed issue in scholarly writings. Is “diaspora” as a strong mainstream discourse of Chinese-ness deployed by Chinese immigrants to East Germany to frame their identity? Why, though the numbers of Chinese immigrants are significant, East German cities have no “Chinatown(s)” – a landmark of any Chinese diaspora community around the world? Does this reflect the characteristics of Chinese migration groups to East Germany? Between the global competition between Germany and China today, how do Chinese migrants interpret and practice their national identity?

Carrying these questions, I aim to use Sinophone as a core critical theory with which to frame the rarely-studied Chinese in East Germany. My research question is: How is Chinese-ness represented and identified, remembered and forgotten in East Germany, if it exists at all? (see also Chan 2017). Does a socialist background shape the Chinese identity in East Germany and, if so, in what ways? How does the current institutional setting influence the ways in which immigrant Chinese think and practice their “Chinese” sense of belonging? The “diaspora Chinese” discourse is set to be questioned. I therefore intend to answer my questions by conducting interviews in Leipzig and East Berlin, investigating East German Chinese literature, writings and art. This will help me raise theoretical and methodological questions: How should we conceptualize and distinguish “essential” Chinese-ness from Sinophone theory ( Shih 2010) ? Which “Chinese” characteristics all apart from Chinese regional languages and ethnicities should be taken into consideration and in which ways? To summarise: I explore the chances of closure future cooperation and to find out whether I could do research on the Chinese migration/migrants to Eastern Europe, starting with Eastern Germany. I hope to contribute to the debates taking place in Leipzig by drawing on my own and the research conducted at the Gender Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Sociology Department at Hong Kong University.


Ben Chia-hung Lu is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Sociology department, The University of Hong Kong ( September 2017-). Before this post he was the Postdoctoral Fellow at the Gender Studies Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and adjunct assistant professor at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. Ben holds a Phd in Sociology from Goldsmiths, University of London. His research interests include global migration, gender, media and class, especially focus on China and East Asia.

My stay at EEGA Campus and my scientific question – a field report