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Reunion or disconnection? Emotional labor among individual roots tourists who are second-generation Chinese Americans

Naho U. Maruyama (Takasaki City University of Economics, Takasaki, Gunma Japan)

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN: 1750-6182

Article publication date: 7 August 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to illustrate the process of emotional work undertaken by Chinese Americans who independently visit their ancestral land without joining organized tours to define who they are and where they belong.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative approach was chosen, as few studies have investigated the experiences of individual roots tourists. Face-to-face, in-depth individual interviews were conducted with 25 Chinese American roots tourists. To analyze the data, a cross-case approach was used.

Findings

The interview narratives revealed that the interviewees have mixed feelings about being identified as Americans while they also made negative remarks about being identified as local Chinese. The close interaction with the locals emphasized, rather than blurred, the differences in language, political loyalty and economic status between the diaspora and local residents. The results show that Chinese Americans draw a clear boundary between themselves as “we” and locals as “they”.

Originality/value

This study explores the experiences of roots tourists who visit their ancestral land without joining an organized tour. This is a focus that has been lacking in the literature because past studies of roots tourism, particularly among second- and later-generation of immigrants, have predominantly focused on the experiences of those who join group tours to visit their ancestral country. The findings showed that similar to organized roots tourists, independent roots tourists experienced intense “emotional labor” in negotiating and making sense of competing identities, indicating that the social boundaries between the diaspora and local residents are enmeshed in their daily lives. This finding adds important knowledge to the literature on the tourism experiences of the diaspora, a growing segment of visiting friends and relatives market.

Keywords

Citation

U. Maruyama, N. (2017), "Reunion or disconnection? Emotional labor among individual roots tourists who are second-generation Chinese Americans", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 309-320. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCTHR-05-2016-0041

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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