Shaping selves in the diaspora: contemporary professional Chinese instrumental musicians and transnational/intercultural music-making in North America

Xia, Jing (2022) Shaping selves in the diaspora: contemporary professional Chinese instrumental musicians and transnational/intercultural music-making in North America. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (4MB)


This dissertation examines the diasporic experiences of twenty-six professional Chinese musicians who play traditional Chinese instruments. They navigate across music scenes in Canada and the United States by employing intercultural musicianship, the special musicianship they began to develop when learning modernized Chinese music and continue to expand through diverse intercultural musical encounters in multicultural North America. China’s national modernization movements in the late 19th and 20th centuries resulted in significant reforms to music education, particularly the embrace of Western musical instruments, theory, and compositional techniques. These reforms also had profound impacts on Chinese traditional music—from instruments and performance practice to notation and repertoire. Most Chinese musicians in this study were educated in China between the 1960s and the early 2000s. I argue that, despite their individual differences, these musicians’ music-making has been heavily influenced by China’s modernization. Chinese music students who learn traditional instruments involuntarily embark on an intercultural journey through their Westernized music education. The result is that diasporic Chinese musicians in this study strategically manage the distinct features of their instruments and flexibly utilize their fusion musical knowledge to adapt to multicultural contexts in which both ethnicity and nation are highlighted. In addition to dealing with issues such as perceptions of authenticity and cultural appropriation, they must also manage cultural stereotypes and the expectations of North American music markets. In the process from deterritorialization to reterritorialization, these musicians develop heterogenous subjectivities and interpretations of their cultural identities, especially the concept of “Chineseness” that automatically marks their public personas in Western society. Through personal networks, participation in music organizations, and access to public funding and sponsorship, they have built individual musical pathways through convoluted transnational routes. I trace these pathways in several locations: a university centre for Chinese music in Tennessee (until recently funded by the Confucius Institute), the vibrant urban Chinese and intercultural music scenes in Vancouver, a Chinese music education conference in New York City, and the small city of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, where I study and work as a professional musician. To better understand the complexities of my diasporic consciousness, I also include autoethnographic and practice-based research to trace my own pathway as a Chinese zheng player in North America.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 15493
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 292-315).
Keywords: Chinese music, diaspora intercultural music-making, transnational music-making
Department(s): Music, School of
Date: May 2022
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Chinese--Music; Music and transnationalism—North America; Musicians--China; Cultural relations; Chinese--North America--Music; Chinese diaspora; Chines--North America.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics