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Marcela Omans McKeeby Dissertation Proposal Defense
March 26 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Transpacific Discourses: Chineseness in Tijuana, Mexico
Abstract: Although the United States has long considered Latin America to be its sphere of influence, China’s growing political and economic power is reconfiguring longstanding geopolitical alignments and economic ties of the western hemisphere. China has become the number one trade partner and a critical source of investment for most Latin American countries, contesting the U.S. as the regional hegemon. Chinese diplomats seek to frame this new regional influence as a win-win economic and diplomatic situation for Latin American countries. However, Latin American politicians use more mixed narratives on these relations with fears of “the voracious dragon” emerging in political speeches, academic analyses, and the news. This discourse echoes past racist tropes of the “yellow peril” but also illuminates current anxieties about China’s emerging role as an economic power. We know that the Latin American publics have been critical of the United States’ role as a regional hegemon; how are the Latin American publics interpreting the expansion of a new power in the region?
Understanding public opinions on China’s role in the region is important because it influences political and economic decisions of governments and potential public support or backlash. While political pundits and institutional spokespersons can broadcast their views on these changes, gauging public opinions on these matters is challenging. At times public opinions are visible due to protests, but these cases are rare. During previous fieldwork, in Tijuana, Mexico, passing conversations about my research interests elicited many opinions associated with China. These narratives included racist stereotypes that the Chinese were unable to assimilate to Mexican society, glowing reviews of the affordable Chinese tech goods, hope that Chinese investors may promote economic growth in the region, and concerns that they may not hire enough local Mexicans. These narratives refer to vastly different economic and social changes along with positive and negative opinions on these changes all associated with China. Therefore, I will leverage these interactions along with other ethnographic data collection methods to interrogate how public opinion on China’s influence in Tijuana is informed by personal experiences, Chinese corporate and government activities, the history of Chinese diaspora in Mexico, and the media.
I will collect data through observations at public events held by government and corporate entities in relation to China, insights from the ethnic Chinese community in Tijuana who may be affected by these narratives in their daily lives, and in informal conversations I have with Tijuana residents on their opinions on shifting Chinese engagement with Mexico. By using the open-ended formats of semi-structured and informal interviews, I can ask participants why and how they came to hold certain opinions based on their own experience along with the source of their information. Thus, this project will investigate how public opinions on China are not confined to judgements about the country of China, but also are impacted both by the material changes associated with the shift of political and economic relations between China and Mexico, and by the discursive tools used by state and institutional powers to frame these relations.
This dissertation proposal defense will be held through video conferencing. If you would like to participate in the defense, please email Marcela Omans McKeeby (email@example.com) for video meeting details.