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‘Who are You and Where are You from?’: An Inquiry into Negotiation of Identities amongst Multilingual Expatriates Living in Thailand

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posted on 17.10.2013, 11:16 by Chika Kumashiro Wilms
The present thesis set out to inquire and gain an understanding of how multilingual individuals with long-term sojourns abroad negotiate and construct their identities, particularly in terms of their language expertise and national or ethnic subject positions. Globalisation prompted more people to go abroad to work, study or search for a better way of life. Each move to a new country entails linguistic and socio-cultural adjustments and over a period of time, it becomes difficult for some people, known as expatriates in this context, to answer the question of ‘Where are you from?’ and who they are. Their multifaceted and complex identities require a narrative form to be answered. Poststructuralist and social constructionist approaches to identity were adopted in the research design for their theoretical and methodological capacity to facilitate the analysis of the complexity and multiplicity of individuals’ identity negotiation and construction process in discourse, social relations and positioning. Nine participants living in different regions and socio-economic sectors in Thailand for different reasons representative of personal agency and globalisation were recruited. Two semi-structured interviews were individually conducted and the recordings were transcribed and analysed using discourse analysis and narrative framework in three chapters, focusing on indexicality issues in their national subject positions, the significance of family and friends, and critical experiences abroad. The participants’ identity negotiation was seen in different types of positioning in ideologically-imbued discourses and their identity construction mechanisms utilised linguistic tools of exclusion and belonging such as accent and code-mixing. Different languages were also used as discursive and cognitive resources of identity negotiation and construction. The participants were aware of their subject position shifts and viewed their identity as a ‘mixture’ or product of different cultures and heritage. The teller-audience co-construction of identity narratives was important due to the present researcher’s position of being an insider.



Gieve, Simon

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University of Leicester

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